The Colts ended a 3-game slump Sunday afternoon by putting a 33-13 stamp on the Jacksonville Jaguars at home to mark their first win by more than a score in 2019. Paired with a devastating loss by the Houston Texans to the Baltimore Ravens, the Colts now hold the top spot in the AFC South with a chance to travel to Houston Thursday and notch a definitive lead for the South.
This game featured the Colts as we’ve seen them play in the bigger wins they’ve managed this season. The run game was dominant, the defense played tough, smothering football, and they were efficient and careful with the football. If they keep up play like this, they might just be a playoff team after all.
Let’s take a look at the winners and losers from Sunday’s game.
Perhaps no one won bigger than did running back Jonathan Williams. Williams has been the Colts fourth string running back throughout the season, finding himself a healthy scratch for much of it. The loss of Jordan Wilkins with an ankle injury meant an opportunity for Williams to shine, and shine he did.
With Marlon Mack suffering a fractured hand in this game, Williams hit the ground running as his replacement. He ran the ball 13 times for 116 yards for a whopping 8.9 yards per carry. He also took a screen pass 31 yards, and left many wondering where this guy has been hiding all season and why he hasn’t been getting touches.
It is true that Jacksonville is not a good run defense, but all the same, Williams has given himself a shot to get more time on the field, and with Mack hurt, that seems inevitable.
Speaking of guys making the most of opportunity, wide receiver Marcus Johnson capitalized on the Colts’ lack of receiving weapons to earn himself some spotlight. He led the team with 4 catches on 4 targets for 38 yards and a score. Johnson will have more opportunity to highlight his solid route running in the coming weeks as the Colts continue to work to get their receivers healthy.
Even though he went out midway through the game with a broken hand, Mack had an absolutely excellent performance. He was carving up the Jaguars defense, alternating between waiting patiently for lanes to develop, and hitting the hole with authority and making guys miss for big gains. His touchdown run might be his most impressive run in a list of quite a few of those over his career. Mack has absolutely proven himself to be a unique talent in 2019, and the Colts will need him to get healthy quickly if they want to find success deep into this season.
When Marlon Mack went out midway through the game, it could have spelled big trouble for the Colts. Instead, Reich dialed up some creative looks to get the ball in the hands of playmakers and found his team doing what they haven’t been able to all year: Winning by more than one score. If Reich can keep it going, this team might be able to tread water long enough to get T.Y. Hilton and Devin Funchess back. If they can, this team could be pretty frisky down the stretch.
If you had any questions about whether Moore deserved the extension the Colts gave him, he has more than answered them across the whole of this season. This was perhaps his best game, and Moore was a legitimate beast in his time on the field. Despite suffering a shin injury that saw him sit out a series, Moore got back in the game and led the team with 8 solo tackles, a sack, and a pass defended. What is crazy is that the stat line doesn’t nearly do Moore justice. He was consistently a force on third down, and has proven what a critical part of the defense he is.
The rookie cornerback has had his struggles over the course of 2019. He is nearly always in great position on his man, but so often he has struggled to make plays on the ball. For a guy who routinely did that in camp, it had to be frustrating. Ya-Sin is a player who wants takeaways, and the Colts wanted him to be that guy. It simply hadn’t happened until today. Nick Foles threw an ill-advised pass, Ya-Sin was in good position, and this time he was able to go up and make a play for the ball. In addition to his pick, he had a tackle for a loss, 6 total tackles, and a pass defended. It was definitely a good day for him, and hopefully he’ll build on it and gain confidence.
The Colts star defensive end had 9 sacks on the season in 2018. He had 9.5 in 2017. After Sunday’s game, Houston has 8 on the season. If he continues his run, he’ll be on track to finish with his second highest sack total of his career. That impact has certainly been felt, and while he had just 1 sack in this game, his pressures and hits of Foles were felt as well. He has been a gem of a signing by Chris Ballard.
The Colts have skewed young in their back seven on defense, and Marvell Tell has really come on in recent weeks as a part of that young group. The rookie corner had another solid performance today, notching 5 solo tackles and breaking up 3 passes. The first of those was very nearly an interception that would have made a highlight reel, as Tell settled into D.J. Chark’s route better than he did, and went up for the ball, only to have it knocked free at the last minute. If Tell and Ya-Sin continue to grow, this could be a very talented young cornerback room in 2020 and beyond.
Another rookie trying to make the most of his time on the field, Okereke looks every game like a solid tackler and smart player. He gets to his assignments quickly, and closes the gap to the ball or ball carrier with great quickness. Despite being a fast player, he isn’t afraid to lay the wood on a tight end or running back, and did so a couple times in this game. He had the misfortune of having a punt bounce off him and that resulted in giving up the ball to the Jags, but that mistake falls as much on Chester Rogers as the return man as Okereke. Fortunately, he redeemed himself later in the game when the Jaguars attempted to go for two late, and Okereke jumped a pass by Foles and took it to the house for 2 points.
It was a great play and demonstrates what the Colts saw in him and what the future might be for Okereke on the field. All in all a good day for Colts rookies on defense.
Anthony Castonzo and Braden Smith
The Colts really struggled in pass protection, getting Brissett sacked 3 times despite only throwing it 24 times. The guys that struggled the most were the tackles, who consistently were beaten by the Jaguars’ unique blend of speed and power on the outside. There were 7 total QB hits, and more than a few hurries to add on, and were it not for such a successful running game, this could have been a much bigger factor. Hopefully this was more a blip than anything, as they were facing a strong defensive line. However, it has been a struggle all year for this team to keep Brissett clean.
Colts Medical Staff
Facing a short week, the Colts medical and training staff will be under the gun to get guys healthy. Kenny Moore dealt with a shin injury. Rock Ya-Sin left the game and was seen in a boot after it was over. Marlon Mack reportedly fractured his hand. And all that is in addition to having T.Y. Hilton, Devin Funchess, and Pierre Desir still fighting to get back and healthy. On a short week, this group has their work cut out for them.