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The Lowdown: Philip Rivers Red Hot in Colts’ Spirited Comeback Victory Against Bengals

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Indianapolis Colts showed the early signs of having a potentially disastrous loss to the rebuilding Cincinnati Bengals (then 1-3-1) at home, quickly falling behind 21-0 before outscoring #1 pick Joe Burrow’s squad 31-6 the rest of the way to win 31-27.

Here are some of the top takeaways:

Cincinnati Bengals v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

A Win’s A Win: This was the type of loss that if the Colts had lost against a lowly Bengals squad that is clearly bound for another Top 5 pick, at home—that would’ve put some serious heat on the Colts coaching staff and maybe even management the rest of 2020.

While the Colts coming out flat was very reminiscent of the ‘Chuck Pagano Days’—and needs to be addressed going forward to ensure the boys in speed blue are coming out with the right preparedness, intensity, toughness, and execution, Frank Reich’s team didn’t show any quit. Rather, the Colts demonstrated a lot of heart, fight, and persevered all the way to overcoming a 21 point deficit into a shocking and potentially even season-saving victory.

No, Colts fans shouldn’t celebrate this win like they just won the Super Bowl, but overcoming a 21 point deficit against anyone from the Bengals, Buccaneers, to ‘The Bad News Bears’ is an impressive feat—especially at the NFL level.

Cincinnati Bengals v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Philip Rivers: After an abysmal Week 5 performance, the much maligned veteran quarterback was highly scrutinized by the media (and rightfully so) and faced questions of whether he’s competent enough to continue to be the Colts starting quarterback.

The wily gunslinger was brilliant from the second quarter onward for the Colts, completing 29 of 44 passes (65.9%) for 371 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, an interception, and a passer rating of 105.4.

No, Rivers wasn’t exactly going up against an elite defense, he showed that he can still make the critical and big-time intermediate to deep throws when necessary. With the Colts down early, head coach Frank Reich allowed Rivers to run up tempo, no huddle, and opened up the playbook with calculated deep shots—which allowed the veteran to really find his rhythm passing—catching fire for the Colts. (Hopefully, this can be a point of emphasis from the Colts’ coaching staff going forward offensively as they continue to open up the playbook and trust Rivers more on deep throws).

It was vintage Rivers—as he looked every bit like the former perennial Pro Bowler he once was, and while he did have the forced ‘heat check’ deep interception late in the game, there was an awful lot more good—even great, than bad from the longtime Chargers’ quarterback on Sunday. This is exactly the type of performance the Colts envisioned when the team signed Rivers this past offseason to a 1-year, $25 million deal.

Cincinnati Bengals v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images

Running Game: Being behind early and by a lot of points clearly dictated the game script for the Colts into more passing plays, but’s it’s been the second week in as many weeks that rookie running back Jonathan Taylor has rushed for over 4.5+ yards per carry, yet has only had 12 total carries in each game respectively.

The Colts shouldn’t run it for the sake of purely running it, but the offense still needs to maintain balance (and hopefully isn’t consistently playing from behind) because you’d at least ideally like to see Taylor in that ‘happy range’ of 15-20 total carries per game.

Cincinnati Bengals v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Tight Ends: The Colts offense had to get more dynamic play from its receivers, and its tight ends stepped up in significant fashion. Despite veteran Jack Doyle’s early fumble, he had an acrobatic touchdown grab early in the 4th quarter. Meanwhile, his counterpart, Trey Burton, really flashed on the field with 4 receptions for 58 receiving yards (14.5 ypr. avg.) and a touchdown reception—as well as a 1-yard wildcat rush for a touchdown.

Carolina Panthers v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Marcus Johnson: A young wide receiver who was largely an afterthought to start the season, as he was injured during training camp and never really got his footing to actually make a strong push to make the active roster. Johnson was eventually signed to the Colts practice squad before being promoted to their 53-man squad, and boy, has he impressed.

It always seems like the 6’1”, 204 pound wideout makes big catches, and he’s arguably been the Colts most consistent impact wideout during 2020—as he caught a team-high 5 receptions for 108 receiving yards (21.6 ypr. avg.) on Sunday—including a long reception of 55 receiving yards. With speedy wide receiver Parris Campbell still out, Johnson has given the Colts an impactful deep threat, who can really stretch the field.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Colts Defense: It was a consecutive week that the Colts got outplayed in the first half—particularly in the first quarter during this one. Not sure why this sometimes stingy Colts defense oftentimes starts asleep at the wheel, but it’s what’s separating this unit from going from a very good to elite defense this season.

Still, the Colts defense rebounded, holding the Bengals to only 6 points after allowing 21 points early on. DeForest Buckner, in particular, anchored the Colts with 5 tackles, a sack, 4 QB hits, and 2 tackles for loss—as an interior All-Pro force once again.

Starting safety Khari Willis led the Indy defense with 10 tackles.

The Colts defense faces more difficult challenges at quarterback coming up as they’ll face another #1 pick Matthew Stafford, the reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson, a torrid Ryan Tannehill, and a 2x NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers over the next four weeks respectively.

Cincinnati Bengals v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Julian Blackmon: Currently PFF’s highest graded rookie safety may have had the play of the game, as he had the game-clinching interception to effectively seal the deal for the Colts’ win. Blackmon is a bonafide ballhawk and has the makings of a future star at safety.

It’s time for some rest and relaxation (and staying healthy) as Week 7 is a bye for the Colts.