The Indianapolis Colts entered Week 16 with another must-win situation staring them in the face. They were taking on a New York Giants team that had just been shut out by the Tennessee Titans, but had also been pretty hot of late themselves before that.
The Colts came out flat in the first half going down two scores early on, but were able to bring themselves back into striking distance early on in the second half, and again late in the third quarter and were forced to do it without Ryan Kelly and Eric Ebron as well.
In the end the Colts were able to fight through some bad early play, far too many penalties, bad third-down defense for much of the game and a host of injuries to pull out a 28-27 win in the final minute of the game to improve to 9-6, and remain in the hunt for the final playoff spot.
Here are a few takeaways from today’s big Colts victory.
Colts secondary gets diced up by Eli Manning
The Colts have taken a lot of pride this season in not allowing a high number of big plays through the passing game. They’ve been pretty consistent in that category too, but today was not a day that they should look back on in a positive light.
Eli Manning began his chunk-yardage passing by hitting Sterling Shepard for 17 yards on their first drive of the game, and added another deep ball to Shepard for 55 yards after he got behind Pierre Desir without safety help over the top. On the Giants’ third possession Manning found tight end Bennie Fowler across the middle for a 26-yard gain as well as Shepard again a few plays later for another 20-yard pickup.
Manning also hit Evan Engram down the middle of the field for a 32-yard pass-and-catch that put the Giants inside the 5-yard line that set up another Giants’ score.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, the Colts gave up several more gains of 15-plus yards and that simply cannot continue if the Colts want to make the playoffs, or actually do something in the postseason if they do. It hadn’t been their M.O. so to speak, but teams are watching very closely this time of year for teams who are giving up those big gains.
Also of note, that when it came down to the final drive of the game, the Colts defense took advantage of Manning trying to get downfield and picked him off to seal the game. They were much better in the second half defensively, but this still must get sewn up in practice this week for the Colts’ defense.
Colts lose several to injury
This week we, again, noticed that the Colts’ injury report was quite lengthy. There have been several weeks with 10-plus players being dinged up heading into the week, but it seemed today that even though the Colts put a lot of those players on the field, they seemingly continued to drop like flies throughout the game.
Eric Ebron left the game with a concussion after getting squeezed by three defenders just before halftime and didn’t return. Kenny Moore needed help to get to the sideline after a leg injury, and Ryan Kelly left with a neck injury as well before halftime. The Colts’ secondary took an additional hit when Quincy Wilson went into the observation tent soon after Moore left the field.
The Colts were already without Anthony Walker and Clayton Geathers to begin with, and the defense was picked apart through large portions of the game as the Colts had to heavily rotate defenders on the back end throughout the game.
At this point in the season, every team is pretty banged up, but the Colts have a larger amount of players in the training room than others again this season it appears.
Colts have continued great run defense
Last week the Colts had to take on Ezekiel Elliott, and were able to make him a non-factor in the second half as the Cowboys were forced to go to the air in attempt to get into the game. Elliott was effective in terms of yards per attempt, but a good amount of his success came on just a few plays, including a 24-yard burst.
Otherwise the Colts held the Cowboys’ rusher to a very mediocre stat line. This week the Colts had to take on another impressive running back in Saquon Barkley and this time, they never let him gain any momentum at all.
The Colts were able to limit Barkley to an average of only 2 yards per attempt throughout the game and didn’t really let him break one as a receiver out of the backfield either. The Colts have continued to hold opposing running backs to under the 100-yard mark all season and that will be critical going forward, especially if the Colts can find a way into the playoffs.