The Colts started in a hole and managed to drag themselves to a too-close win against the Cincinnati Bengals to send them into their bye week sitting at 4-2. It wasn’t the prettiest game they’ve had this season, but a win is a win. Now they’ll get a week to recover before facing the back stretch of their schedule, which gets quite a bit tougher. Here are the winners and losers from week six.
I’m just going to start listing him here every week. The guy is a revelation for the Colts on the defensive line. He had a sack today and was a menace to deal with, as usual.
Kenny Moore II
Kenny Moore started the season as one of the Colts best defensive players, and he hasn’t disappointed. In this game he was a big factor, registering 8 tackles, of which 7 were solos. Shrug that off if you want, but the guy is 5’9” and 190lbs, and all he does is rack up tackles in critical situations. His best of the night was for a 6-yard loss after sidestepping an offensive lineman. He also had two pass breakups, and was in on a sack of Joe Burrow. With Darius Leonard sidelined, Kenny definitely stepped up to do his part.
I said this last week and I’ll say it again: Bobby Okereke is a star. As a run defender, Okereke is consistently filling his gaps and making good tackles. He had 7 on the day as well as 2 pass breakups, one of which was almost certainly an interception if he was playing with a fully healed thumb. Okereke has been really great to start this season.
Quiet for most of the game, the play that stood out for him in the first half was one where he took a bad angle in pursuit of a crossing route and the Bengals gouged the Colts for a big gain as a result. Fortunately for Blackmon and for the Colts, he came up big in a key moment, in a way we are starting to expect from him. With Joe Burrow driving the Bengals down the field in their 4-minute offense to take the lead and the win, Blackmon stepped in front of a ball intended for Tee Higgins that would have put them inside the red zone with less than a minute to go. That pick sealed the game. The Colts really got a bigtime impact player in Blackmon.
A week after having his worst game as a Colt, Rivers had his best. He bounced back in a big way, throwing the ball all over the field and putting together a 371 yard day with 3 touchdowns and 1 pick. He had four receivers with completions of 20 yards or longer, and had four who cracked 50+ yards on the day. Perhaps one impressive note that will go overlooked was in Rivers’ evading a serious turnover by inexplicably keeping possession of a ball that a defender got their whole hand on. 99.9% of the time that is a fumble, but Rivers held on and evaded the rush to throw it away and save a big play. He still had a completely befuddling pick on a forced ball to Zach Pascal, but he got right back in it and led the team to a comeback win. It was a good day for Rivers.
With Mo Alie-Cox out and Jack Doyle moving like Philip Rivers’ only slightly younger brother, the Colts didn’t have much juice at the tight end position. Burton rose to the challenge, with 4 catches for 58 yards on the day, as well as a nice RPO touchdown with him under center. Quite frankly, I’d rather see Burton as the “gadget QB” than ever see Jacoby Brissett on the field again as a Colt.
Marcus Johnson had quite a week. He was promoted to the active roster on Saturday, and by Sunday afternoon, he was the team’s leading receiver. His five catches for 108 yards were impressive, and the best of the bunch was on an excellent 55-yard connection with Rivers. Johnson provided a connection and spark that hasn’t been there with some of the other receivers, and he certainly showed he deserves to be on the roster.
It was also a really solid showing for another practice squad player who was promoted to the active roster on game day. DeMichael Harris gave the Colts the kind of speed and burst out of the slot that they haven’t really had since Parris Campbell went down. He didn’t have a huge game, but his presence on the field as well as grabbing all 3 targets that came his way for 29 yards on the day was more than you can say for a guy like Daurice Fountain or Ashton Dulin, who’ve been pretty quiet when they got on the field for the offense.
Honorable Mentions: Tyquan Lewis, Khari Willis, Grover Stewart
First Half Defense
The Colts are starting to make a trend out of starting cold on defense, and that’s a big problem for this team. With an offense that has struggled at times to be a factor, they need their defense to start strong, but that hasn’t been happening. The Colts found themselves down big early in this game. While that is in part due to Jack Doyle’s fumble putting the defense in a bad spot early, they still gave up 24 points in the first half to a pretty mediocre Bengals team.
The defense hasn’t consistently gotten good pressure early in games, and that needs to change. Teams know that the Colts prefer to rush four and blitz minimally. That may need to change early in games. Eberflus may need to help out his defense by sending some blitzes early on to get wins and wrong-foot offensive protection plans early, because as the game goes on, guys like Buckner and Houston inevitably begin to win their matchups. However, they can’t count on their offense being capable of pulling them out of a 21-point deficit against better teams.
On the whole, Rock Ya-Sin gets way more criticism than he deserves from Colts fans. They’ve maligned him primarily for one bad game against the Broncos and can’t let that go. This game, however, was not a good one for Ya-Sin. He got beat by rookie wide receiver Tee Higgins down the sideline for a 67-yard pass in the first quarter, committing the cardinal sin of the Colts offense by giving up a big play. He then decided it was a good idea to use a German Suplex to tackle Bernard, and was obviously penalized. I would almost guarantee there will be a fine waiting for him this week for that one. Ultimately, Ya-Sin struggled on the day. He did have a couple pass breakups, and wasn’t a total liability, but he was a far cry from the number one cornerback the Colts need him to be. He needs to play better.
With every passing week, Hilton looks less and less likely to re-sign with the Colts. Through six weeks where he has been active for 75% of the total offensive snaps, Hilton has 242 yards and no touchdowns. At that pace, he finishes the season with 645 yards. He had an end zone grab taken away by a penalty today, but ultimately he was a nonfactor. 1 catch for 11 yards on the day, and he was thoroughly outshone by a couple of practice squad receivers and a tight end in his first year with the team. The offensive staff needs to be making very deliberate efforts to get Hilton involved in an offense that has struggled, and if they can’t, there is not a lot of hope for much in the way of impact in the postseason.
Yes, Doyle caught a very nice touchdown from Philip Rivers. I won’t take that away from him. However, the biggest thing Jack Doyle has always had going for him is that he is reliable. He is a very well-balanced blocker, a solid 3rd down target in the middle, and a guy who has great work ethic and does his job day in and day out.
2020 Jack Doyle is not the same guy. He’s been making mistakes. Doyle doesn’t stretch the field, he doesn’t offer a real offensive weapon, and now, he fumbles and draws penalties. A player with his limited athleticism can’t do that. Over a season, we have seen a major downturn in Doyle’s overall effectiveness. He is still a good blocking tight end, but when Mo Alie-Cox is healthy, I would much rather see him taking the bulk of those snaps. The fumble early on put the defense in terrible position and resulted in an early deficit for the Colts. It just can’t happen.
Per usual, Colts fans had to suffer through another completely awful broadcast crew. At least it was Spero Dedes and Adam Archuleta, I guess.