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Highlights from week 8: Colts vs. Lions

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports


There were times in this game the Colts looked like a real playoff contender. There were other times were the play calling left fans scratching their heads. Points came in bunches for the Colts, going scoreless in the first and third quarters, somehow scoring all 41 points in the second and fourth. Ultimately, anytime you win a NFL football game with a score of 41-21, you had a really good day.

Let’s take a look at some of the plays that got them there.

First Quarter

His big day started early

Jordan Wilkins had 113 all purpose yards today, mostly finding success on the ground late in the game but this 24 yard catch was foreshadowing for what we would see for the rest of the day.

Colts fans are getting used to this defense

While the offense couldn’t get anything going after Wilkins’ big gainer, the defense stepped in and forced the Lions to punt.

Special Teams has been good

But they had a rough day today. Here the Colts let a Lions defender bust through the line and block Sanchez’s punt, which set them up with amazing field position.

The Lions made some plays

Matthew Stafford had pressure in his face all day. He was getting hit on almost every drop back. Here he stands in and gets the ball off before taking a hit. It was a great ball that got the Lions on the board first.

Kill calls have been killing the Colts offense

I don’t have any idea what the numbers are but it seems like 99% of the time Philip Rivers kills the play at the line, the Colts are going to run the ball.

A “kill call” usually means that they radioed in two plays to Rivers. The first play is the one they want to run, the second play is one they’ll change to if the defense gives them a specific look. It’s meant to give the offense an advantage but the Colts have been unable to successfully use kill calls this season. Most of the second and long handoffs in the first half came after Rivers “killed” the first play.

This play was the exception. After Rivers killed the play, they threw it out on this little bubble screen and while it only went for 8 yards, it’s one of the most successful “kill calls” they’ve had this season. The Colts once again, punted on this series.

Second Quarter

MoJo keeps coming up big

Marcus Johnson had two catches for 39 yards. Johnson didn’t have a ton of catches but his second catch came later in the game, picking up a big first down. This play set up the next clip.

Now we’re having fun

This was a really cool play design. Nyheim Hines comes in motion before doubling back on the wheel route after the snap. This was designed with the idea that the defense would lose track of the 5’9” Hines behind the carnage of the offensive and defensive lines. It worked to perfection. The corner (number 21) covering Hines ended up a yard past the opposite hash marks as Rivers began to throw the ball. By the time he gets going to right direction, the writing was on the wall. The rest of the play was just Hines using his athleticism to get in for his first receiving touchdown of the day.

Under pressure

Rarely did Matt Stafford have time to get comfortable in the pocket. He was getting pressure from the edges and up the middle. Here the outside rush made Stafford step up and Tyquan Lewis cleaned up the sack, his first on the day.

Wilkins production continued

I know people are going to overreact and call Jonathan Taylor a bust, and while I understand where those kinds of comments are coming from, I think it’s too early to say that. On the other side of that is the fact that you can’t discount just how good Jordan Wilkins was for most of the day today. If nothing else he should have a much larger role going forward until Taylor shows that he can be consistently productive.

Too easy

Zach Pascal had two catches for 44 yards including this crossing route designed to create traffic for the defense. It led to an easy first down completion.

The Invisible Man returns

Jack Doyle got back in the mix on another play designed to get him open using a well designed “pick”. It wasn’t really a pick, as Pascal was just running his route but he created traffic and limited the defenses ability to cover Doyle.

Sack City

Everybody was getting in on the sack-action today as Denico Autry gets his first sack of the day, on a big third down no less.

This throw and catch are just beautiful

Hines comes up with another touchdown reception and Philip Rivers threw an absolutely perfect pass for six points. Hines beat the cornerback with a double move. Rivers started his throwing motion before Hines had gotten even with his man. Granted the corner bit inside but, there was no guarantee he wouldn’t recover and stay in phase with Hines. Rivers obviously believed in his guy’s speed, delivering a perfect pass over Hines’ left shoulder. It doesn’t get any better than this.

Third Quarter

Lions started hot in the second half

The entire first defensive series was rough but Anthony Walker was beaten badly on back to back plays, on this one he gave up the score.

Rare breakdown in fundamentals from the Colts defense

Here Al-Quadin Muhammad fails to get adequate depth to stop the end around run to his side of the field. The pulling tight end did a good job getting in his way to prevent Muhammad from getting more depth but Muhammad should have been in position to make the ball carrier cut back inside, where he had help.

Big time players make big time plays

Defensively the Colts have been great all season long. Last season they forced fumble after fumble but oddly had not recovered a fumble yet in 2020. Oddly enough the Lions had yet to lose a fumble in 2020. Darius Leonard and Justin Houston ended that streak today.

MoJo again

On third and nine Marcus Johnson finds a hole in the Lions zone and Rivers finds him for the big first down.

Fourth Quarter

The officials got this one right

On third and 14, Philip Rivers didn’t have much to lose. His team was up just six points, despite it feeling like the Colts had been in control for most of the game. Third and 14 is rarely converted so Rivers played his odds and threw the ball up to Ashton Dulin who had one on one coverage deep down field. The Lions defender panicked and made contact with Dulin before the ball got there, resulting in a 41 yard pass interference penalty.

A couple plays later

Jordan Wilkins was able to get in the endzone on this stretch run around the left side of the line. Running behind Quenton Nelson and Anthony Castonzo is almost always a good idea and it worked out here. So the real question became, if the Colts go for two to help make up for the missed extra point earlier in the game, what would they call?

Another run to the left

Naturally the Colts decide to run to the left side of the line, again. Wilkins had to swing this one a little wide but he was able to get in for two.

Zach Hicks asked for a turnover before Darius Leonard’s strip sack. Then he goes out and says this:

Like clockwork

Right on time Kenny Moore II comes up with an interception he went on to return for six.

The Lions weren’t giving up

There’s not really a lot to be upset about here. Matt Stafford is a good player who made a good play and defensive backs can’t cover forever. If this would have been a one score game, I’d probably have a different tone but all things considered this wasn’t great but it also just wasn’t that big of a deal.

Not his best

Xaiver Rhodes came out of the locker room late after halftime. After one play where he took contact, he seemed to be holding his right elbow. I’m not sure if it impacted his performance on this play, either way, it doesn’t take anything away from what has been an excellent season for the former Vikings corner.

Colts not done yet

Here Rivers connects with Zach Pascal for a big gain as the Colts marched down the field halfway through the fourth quarter.

Just a great individual effort

Jordan Wilkins balance is on another level.

This is becoming a trend

Here Trey Burton lines up as the quarterback after Philip Rivers motions out to the left. The CBS announcers seemed to think that because Rivers was uncovered that they would throw the ball to him. Every Colts fan who has seen a single Colts game this year knew Rivers was never an option on this play.

Burton instead took the snap and found his way in for six. I love that they’re doing this because it’s setting up Burton to throw a TD later in the year. Obviously everyone knows Burton can throw but the Colts have put two Burton TD runs on film recently and teams are going to start to key on that which means eventually someone will be open for a pass and Burton is capable of throwing a good pass. We’ll see what happens in the future but Reich seems to be playing the long game with Burton running the ball near the goal line.

This was a testament to the Colts defense and the pressure they were able to get all day long. Stafford is forced off his spot once again before throwing an inaccurate ball into the dirt on fourth down.

Garbage time

Garbage time rushing yards all look the same on the stat sheet at the end of the season and Jordan Wilkins helped to close out the game with the long run on second down.

The end


Final Thoughts For The Week

The Colts won this game and now enter the toughest part of their schedule facing the Ravens, Titans and Packers in the next three weeks. The Titans game is a Thursday night game that the NFL so graciously sandwiched between possibly the two toughest home games the Colts will have all year. The NFL then thought it best to follow up the Packers game with another game against the Titans. So it’s a real murders row.

The biggest question over the next month isn’t schematic, it’s not the play calling, it’s not the decision making, it’s going to largely be about health.

Today the Colts lost T.Y. Hilton to a groin injury and even though T.Y. is in the middle of the worst year of his career, he’s still a talented player and the Colts are better with him than without him. As previously mentioned Xavier Rhodes missed snaps with what appears to be a right arm/elbow injury and Rock Ya-Sin, who was solid all day, got his world absolutely rocked by Bobby Okereke. Ya-Sin hopped up shortly after and the trainers made him go to the locker room. It seems that they were probably thinking what everyone else was thinking, that Rock might have a concussion.

So as the Colts got healthy during their bye week, they went out and got two starting cornerbacks injured and lost a starting receiver on an offense that has been wildly inconsistent all season long.

These next four games will tell us everything we need to know about this year’s version of the Indianapolis Colts. If they’re real contenders, they should do no worse than split the next four. They could obviously win more than that, but winning two out of four against four good playoff teams would be great. If they’re not contenders there’s a chance I’m writing a highlights article for a 5-6 Colts team that would need to win its last five games in a row to have a shot at the playoffs.

Time will tell us exactly what this team is.