There is nothing quite as sweet as getting a win in your road opener against a tough opponent. That’s exactly what the Indianapolis Colts did when they walked into FedEx Field and upset the Washington Redskins 21-9.
It was a solid performance from both sides of the ball, and one that never really felt like it was out of the Colts’ hands. The defense in particular managed to really limit the potent rushing attack of the Redskins, which enabled the offense to put up points and play with the lead. So let’s take a look at the winners and losers from this week two matchup.
18 tackles. Clearly this guy’s parents didn’t teach him to share, as he just basically went out there and hoarded all the tackles for himself. 1 sack, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 pass defended, and 1 forced fumble. If the Colts would have lined him up out wide on offense, he probably could have caught a touchdown pass too.
In all seriousness, this is how you put yourself into serious consideration as Defensive Rookie of the Year. Darius Leonard was all over the place making plays, and you can bet people will know his name going forward. This guy is going to be a fun player to watch for a long time, and of the type the Colts haven’t had in a long while.
Hilton made his presence known early, and proved to be a major factor all game. 7 of 11 for 83 yards and a touchdown, Hilton worked perfectly as a security blanket for Luck, playing a major role in the offense’s success on 3rd down in the first half.
Given the tendency for this offense to spread the ball around and get everyone involved, we likely won’t see insane numbers to Hilton this season. However, his involvement and ability to make plays after the catch has already been on display, and was even more significant today. If the Colts can get their offensive line healthy, they can likely work the deep ball more and that’ll further help Hilton’s effectiveness.
Wilkins looked like the best running back on the field in yesterday’s game and was the Colts’ most effective back in the Colts’ running back by committee approach. With Marlon Mack still looking to me like a guy who is playing at less than 100%, Wilkins stepped right up. He seemed patient, balanced, and willing to take what the defense gave him and then some. He finished the day with 10 carries for 61 yards.
Wilkins doesn’t need to be a dominant player, and I expect his year to look less impressive on the stat sheet than it does on film. This game showed what a patient runner he is and how good his vision is as well. If not for quick thinking and a nice play by him, a terrible screen pass call would’ve resulted in a safety. This guy looks like a very solid addition to the running backs room.
This was a strong effort from both Sheard and Margus Hunt. Sheard was in on 3 tackles, 2 for a loss, a sack, 2 QB hits, and a batted ball. This is exactly the kind of performance the Colts hope to see against a very good offensive line. Sheard certainly wasn’t doing this alone, and much of their success was as a result of stunts and twists, but it was a good showing, and the kind they need to keep seeing this or better from him if they want to have any chance to get wins against some of their tougher opponents.
After not seeing a single defensive snap last week, Desir made the most of his time on the field yesterday. He had 4 tackles, 1 for a loss, had a critical pass breakup in the end zone that prevented a touchdown, very nearly intercepted another that he broke up, and recovered a fumble that was forced by Darius Leonard. Not a bad showing for a guy who last week played second fiddle to a guy with a broken hand. He certainly made a case for keeping himself in the lineup going forward.
Honorable Mentions: Jihad Ward, Eric Ebron, Nyheim Hines, Offensive Line
3rd Quarter Offensive Play Calling
The biggest and most concerning loser of this game is definitely the 3rd quarter offense, and the play calling that is leading to it. It seems as though the team has a very good game plan in place for the offense throughout much of the early first half. At some point, however, there has been a clear drop-off through two games in terms of the offensive effectiveness.
I don’t know what the cure is here, but they’ve got to come out of half time with some scripted plays for the second half, so that the offense can find some momentum. This coaching staff is going to have to figure out a way to adjust and deal with all those defensive changes from the other team. Maybe that means coming out of the half running no-huddle to wrong-foot the defense, or maybe it means scripting some situational plays so that they know they can get a couple quick wins to get started. Whatever they land on, they have got to figure something out, because better teams are going to beat them if they go flat for a whole quarter every game.
The biggest danger to the Colts getting a win today was due to Andrew Luck’s play. His two picks both led to points by the Redskins, and the Colts’ defense bailed him out by holding them to field goals rather than touchdowns.
Luck’s first pick of the game is hard to pin on him, because it was a good play by the Redskins’ defense to get a hand on the ball, and a heads up play by Swearinger to get under the ball for the pick. Defenses get paid to make plays, and this was an example of a very good one.
However, the second one was just another example of Luck getting antsy and trying to force the ball in to Hilton when the pass isn’t there. He has Jordan Wilkins open on a dump pass to the left side, Chester Rogers crossing the middle of the field, and Jack Doyle on a drag route from left to right. All these guys are better options than Hilton given the coverage, but that’s where Luck goes.
If they cannot eliminate these kinds of silly turnovers, they’ll put themselves in bad spots and give up games they should win. This young defense cannot hold out every time, and it would be foolish to put pressure on them to do more than hold on to a lead. Hopefully Andrew will settle down and begin getting more comfortable with his many receiving options and learn to throw the ball away when the good options simply aren’t there. For now though, we can simply bask in the glow of a win on the road and look forward to a meeting on the road against the defending Super Bowl Champion Eagles.