The Indianapolis Colts narrowly beat the Atlanta Falcons 27-24 in their home opener, as the Colts had a 20-3 halftime lead—only to see the Dirty Birds make a spirited late comeback attempt that came up short.
While the Colts second half performance wasn’t pretty, their first half performance and late 4th quarter surge were enough to hold on for the victory.
With that being said, here are a few game balls for the Colts top performers on Sunday:
The Colts young quarterback was simply fantastic in the first half, as he was 21 for 27 (77.8%) for 218 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, and a passer rating of 125.0 after 30 minutes of regulation.
While the Colts offense seemed to stall in the second half (largely because of the loss of star wide receiver T.Y. Hilton), Jacoby Brissett still had a few late game heroics that allowed the Colts to fend off the Falcons for good.
This included his 3rd and 5 first down run in the 4th quarter where Brissett avoided pressure and dragged a Falcons defender for 6 yards for the first down (extending the scoring drive which allowed the Colts to ultimately score a touchdown).
This same 4th quarter scoring drive also included his 3rd and 1, 35-yard pass to Zach Pascal, which immediately set up a 4-yard Marlon Mack outside touchdown run.
Brissett also had a late 11-yard pass to tight end Jack Doyle on a play-action fake to Mack with 1:56 left in the 4th quarter on 3rd and 4, which allowed the Colts to effectively move the sticks and ice the game—eating clock.
Brissett is quickly proving to be a winning, solid starting quarterback in this league and is showing a lot of poise running Frank Reich’s offense—rarely making mistakes and simply choosing the right reads.
He’s far from simply being a ‘game manager’ though, as he’s shown the ability to make the big plays when the Colts need them—so far exceeding expectations.
Mack once again showed that he’s the Colts workhorse, running for 74 rushing yards on 16 carries (4.6 ypc avg.) and a big touchdown run late—with a devastating stiff arm that would make even the Heisman Trophy blush.
It wasn’t Mack’s best game in horseshoe blue, but he was very effective for the majority of the game by providing the Colts offense a stabilizing complement to Brissett on the ground.
Perhaps no one on the Colts had a worse last week than Adam Vinatieri, who potentially flirted with retirement—only to have have the Colts try out a few free agent kickers as an insurance policy should he falter again.
Still, Vinatieri did not want to end his future Hall of Fame career on such a sour note, and it was great to see him kicking at a high level once again.
Sure, his 49-yard field goal in the first quarter doinked off the left upright and over the crossbar, but a made kick is a made kick, and the GOAT finished his day perfect: 2 for 2 from field goal range and 3 for 3 from extra point land.
It was a positive step in the right direction for the 24-year legendary veteran, whose future Colts career may have very well been on the line.
The Colts Pro Bowl wide receiver was brilliant in the first half, with 8 receptions for 65 receiving yards and a touchdown reception. It hasn’t mattered who’s throwing the football for the Colts, as even without Andrew Luck, Hilton still looks like T.Y. Hilton.
Unfortunately, Hilton appeared to re-aggravate a quad injury on his late first half touchdown reception and sat out the second half. The Colts offense largely suffered in his absence.
With All-Pro Darius Leonard out, the 3rd-year linebacker stepped up with 14 tackles (11 solo) which included 2 tackles for loss.
Walker seemed to be constantly around the football and making plays.
Colts Offensive Line
The Colts offensive line only surrendered one sack, and while there was some pass pressure at times, the unit gave Brissett enough time to throw more often than not and Mack some running lanes to work with.
Plus, who can forget this crushing pull block by Quenton Nelson?