This is exactly what the Colts franchise needed. After back-to-back disappointments, they beat up a division opponent to push their way to a 6-4 overall record, to 3-0 in the division, and into a tie for first place in the AFC South.
Two of the most important keys to the game heading into this one were the offensive line returning to form and playing a big roll in the “run the damn” ball mantra. Check and check. Look, there are still some issues forming in pass protection but you can bet that life will get easier in that area if Indianapolis continues to run the ball like they did today.
For the third time in franchise history, the Colts had two 100 yard rushers in the same game. Marlon Mack left early with a hand injury, later announced as a fracture, and Jonathan Williams had the chance to take advantage of the injury to Jordan Wilkins. In extended action for the first time in Indianapolis, Williams rushed 13 times for 116 yards and added 1 reception for 31 yards.
Massive kudos goes out to Chris Ballard and Frank Reich for getting the team in a position to dominate on the ground in this way. The offensive line was an unmitigated disaster before Ballard had a chance to address it and is now discussed as one of the most dominant and feared units in the league. The backfield is comprised of a group of players who were brought into the fold by Ballard as well.
If Mack is able to return to the field quickly and Wilkins gets healthy, Williams will join Hines as one of the most talented and well-rounded backfields I can remember in Colts history — at least in Indianapolis. The last group that comes to mind is Edgerrin James, Dominic Rhodes and James Mungro. This unit is four players deep and none of those former players bring the dynamic as a receiver that Hines does.
It is also absolutely clear at this point that the most important characteristics that Jacoby Brissett brings to the team are his leadership and mental toughness. His effort to extend the play on 4th and goal from the 1 is one of the most impressive individual efforts I’ve seen out of a Colts quarterback in awhile. It is the second time this season that he has kept a play alive and delivered a strike to a teammate for a big play in a big moment.
While the outcome of the game was different, it carried similar meaning to the heroics showed by Andrew Luck when he recovered a fumble for a touchdown on the goal line against the Kansas City Chiefs in the playoffs early in his career. The weight of the game was more important then but it’s the type of play that makes fans and teammates rally around you to win games.
Kudos to the offense for putting up 31 points without a significant chunk of their weapons.
In terms of the defense, this is one of those games where Chris Ballard looks amazing. Just remember the names that are contributing on this defense. Not only are most of them new to the team, most are new to the NFL. They are playing solid football and if there’s any doubt that Matt Eberflus continues to earn respect around the league for getting production in difficult circumstances, it should be gone after today.
The defensive rookies Ballard brought to this defense who look like they could end up being strong contributors include: Marvell Tell, Rock Ya-Sin, Bobby Okereke, and Khari Willis. Players who are still on their rookie contracts who look like long-term leaders of the unit include: Anthony Walker, Darius Leonard, and Malik Hooker. This is an incomplete list of Colts defenders who have shown the ability to make big plays (Kenny Moore and Pierre Desir for example).
A game like today gives fans as reason to believe in the depth. This group of players is still very special. They play for one another. Egos are held in check. Big names or draft status are irrelevant to who gets a chance to play week-in and week-out.
Fans shouldn’t let a win against the Jaguars at home go to their head. However, it’s fun to think about how much better this team could be when T.Y. Hilton, Pierre Desir, Devin Funchess, Parris Campbell and Jordan Wilkins are all available.
Side note: Adam Vinatieri looked strong today. We hope that the whole special teams unit exorcises its demons moving forward. It has been a rough year for a unit that was very strong a season ago.
For the time being, it feels good to be a Colts fan. We all needed this.