The Indianapolis Colts improved to 2-1 for the first time since 2013, behind a stellar performance from its new and budding quarterback, strong performances from its young linebackers and a sound showing on special teams. Let’s delve further into the three major takeaways from today’s narrow victory.
No. 1: Jacoby Brissett taking strides as starting QB
It was all the way back in 2010 the last time a Colts quarterback opened up the game completing 14 straight passes, and new Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett opened up play in Lucas Oil Stadium completing 16 straight passes in what was a great overall performance by No. 7.
Brissett went 21-27 for 218 yards and two touchdowns in the first 30 minutes, and hit eight different receivers for nine yards or more. Wideout TY Hilton — who left the game right after his touchdown grab with a quad injury — was his favorite option in the first half with 10 targets, eight catches for 65 yards and the score.
He also frequented his tight ends and running backs, a staple in this offensive scheme, and connected on nine of his 10 targets to a back or tight end. Heading into the break the Colts had a then-comfortable 20-3 lead, and Brissett had himself a quarterback rating of 125.0.
His second-half numbers weren’t as astounding, mostly in part to the Falcons heavily out-possessing the Colts in the third quarter, but he still completed 70 percent of his second-half passes and had zero turnovers to help Indy hold onto the lead.
Many were uneasy with how smoothly this quarterback transition would go, but Brissett has shown he’s more than capable of quarterbacking a playoff-contending football team. It was a game at home and it was against a defense that made several mistakes, but Colts nation should feel more comfortable after the 26-year-old’s play.
Even without Leonard, Colts’ young linebackers produce
The reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year was sidelined Sunday thanks to a concussion suffered last week, but the injury gave us a nice chance to check out the quality depth that Indy has at the position.
The Colt’s 2019 third-round pick Bobby Okereke got the start as the weakside linebacker in Leonard’s place, with 24-year-old Anthony Walker and 23-year-old Matthew Adams starting at middle linebacker and strong side linebacker, respectively, and all three had strong showings. Walker and Okereke were the two leading tacklers for Indy on defense, combining for 22 of Indy’s 53 total tackles (41.5 percent).
Walker was the man with the plan on defense — flying around for 11 solo tackles, 14 combined and two tackles for loss. Okereke was the part of some defensive miscues, but held his own in his first career start against a star-powered Atlanta offense. Whether or not Leonard’s injury will carry on for multiple weeks, the Colts should feel comfortable enough with the young men they’ve got at the second level of their defense.
“You’re not you when you’re (playing outside of Lucas Oil)”
Perhaps the biggest sigh of relief Sunday came from the play of its starting kicker and captain Adam Vinatieri — although it didn’t start out that way. The 46-year-old did connect on his first field goal, but it was off a lucky bounce from one goal post that scooted past the other.
That was, however, all he needed to get going. The all-time leading scorer in the NFL was perfect on the field this afternoon, hitting three extra points along with two field goals from 21 and 49 yards out.
After two weeks of horrendous performances, rumor had it the greatest kicker of all time was contemplating hanging up his golden cleats. Thanks to a great environment inside the Colts franchise, he felt comfortable giving things another go. Hopefully his performance today is the start of a strong finish to his 24th season.