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Three takeaways from the Colts’ 30-24 OT loss to the Chargers

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Los Angeles Chargers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Indianapolis Colts dropped their sixth-straight season opener earlier today, this time on the road to the Los Angeles Chargers in overtime.

This game was full of ups and downs, including a 18-7 Indy scoring advantage in the second half to push the game into the extra period. The score didn’t favor the Colts in the end, but there were several intriguing storylines to keep a close eye on as the season moves forward. Let’s dive in to the key takeaways from the game.

No. 1: The Mack Attack is Alive and Well

No Colt player looked better than the third-year rusher out of South Florida, who ran the ball for a career-high 176 yards — including a 63-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

Mack is the NFL’s number-one rusher through the early two slates of football, with an extra 46 yards between him and No. 2 Christian McCaffrey.

What was an even better showing was the variety of success Mack found in the trenches. He showed both power running up the middle and between the tackles, and flashed elusiveness and speed on his outside rushes.

No. 25 was one of the best rushers in the NFL the latter half of the 2018 season. Seeing him pick up right where he left off is a huge advantage for an Andrew Luck-less offense as this season progresses.

No. 2: The defense giveth, and the defense taketh away

It was a mixed bag on the defensive end for Matt Eberflus and his Colts’ unit.

At times they applied sufficient pressure on Philip Rivers and stuffed both of Los Angeles’ two leading rushers, but there were too many missed tackles and gashing plays (like this video below) that ended up putting too many points on the board for the Chargers.

Indy’s linebackers were all over the field today, with Darius Leonard and Anthony Walker both racking seven tackles apiece. Newcomer Justin Houston also had a nice game — aside from his offsides penalty that negated a strip sack — in his debut in the blue and white, accounting for four tackles, a tackle for loss and a sack.

Another area to watch out for in the coming week’s is whether or not the Colts’ defense can get opponents off the field on third down. They were among the league leaders in 2018 in terms of third-down defense (39.21%), but gave up seven third-down conversions on 11 Los Angeles attempts.

It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t great. Next week should be an interesting matchup to watch given a physical, ground-and-pound Tennessee offense.

No. 3: Maybe age isn’t just a number

The big elephant in the room following today’s game is the play of kicker Adam Vinatieri, arguably the greatest kicker of all time. He was anything but that on Sunday, missing the opening PAT as well as two field goals.

While it was Vinatieri’s first game in Dignity Health Sports Park, he’s been trending downward since the closing week of the 2018 regular season. He missed an extra point in the regular-season finale against the Titans on the road, and also missed a field goal and extra point in the Colts’ 31-13 defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs in their season-ending playoff defeat.

The game today would’ve gone completely different had Vinatieri converted on even one of his missed opportunities, which makes the overtime loss taste even more sour on the lips of Colts fans and players.

Vinatieri is in no worry of losing his starting spot on the roster, but it’ll be interesting to monitor the future of the kicker position should his poor play continue. The last thing Indy would do is cut/trade their hall-of-fame kicker, but maybe Vinatieri would choose to step away from the game is he continues to leave points off the board.