The Colts got a big win on Thursday Night Football, putting together their most complete performance to date, and taking the lead at the top of the AFC South. They did it with a balanced performance, getting great value from special teams, seeing their defense really clamp down on a very good Titans offense, and most importantly, with a solid showing from what has been an underwhelming offense.
This is exactly the kind of football the Colts need to play down the stretch if they want to be relevant in the postseason, and doing so against a division opponent on a short week was a great start. Here are the winners and losers from the week 10 performance.
Say it with me now:
This was the sentiment of those of us who have been wondering most of the season why we haven’t seen Nyheim Hines being used as a much greater factor in the offense. In a game with Derrick Henry, you don’t expect to say that it was 5’9” 196lb Nyheim Hines who was the unstoppable force at running back, but here we are. Hines had 12 carries for 70 yards and a touchdown, as well as 5 catches for 45 yards and another touchdown. For an offense that is dying to get production from an electric playmaker, his involvement in this game was critical. If the Colts continue using him in this way, it will mean good things for the offense.
Michael Pittman Jr.
It was a big day for the rookie wide receiver Pittman Jr. showed up in a big way, and it is clear based on his usage in the past two games that he’s going to be a big factor going forward. In those two games, Pittman Jr. has been targeted more than any other Colts pass catcher, and in this game, he made those targets count. Finishing the day with 101 yards on 7 catches with a 21-yard end around to go with it, he was the offensive weapon the Colts have hoped he could be. With Pittman Jr. back in the mix, the passing game certainly has an element they’ve missed, and with any luck the rapport between he and Rivers will only get better with time.
Another day, another big game for Denico Autry. In the last 3 games, he’s had 4 sacks, and is on pace to hit 11 on the season, which would be a career high. What’s more, Autry’s big sack in this game came on 3rd and 1 with the Titans trailing, and forced the first of two truly awful punts, both of which led to Colts touchdowns. It has been a huge season for Autry, and it is pretty clear that few players have benefitted from the presence of DeForest Buckner more.
Xavier Rhodes and T.J Carrie
If you don’t watch carefully, you could be forgiven for not having an opinion of Xavier Rhodes’ 2020 season so far. He had a couple interceptions early on, but it hasn’t always been clear the level of his impact from watching an average broadcast game. However, it should be noted what a force he’s been as the Colts’ top cornerback, and that was on display last night. Rhodes has played the run well, been a reliable tackler, and has limited very talented receivers in A.J. Brown and Kenny Golladay to pedestrian performances.
Likewise, T.J. Carrie has been a really great value add as a rotational cornerback. With Kenny Moore II going down with a rib injury, Carrie stepped in and picked up right where Moore left off. He had two passes defended, and recovered E.J. Speed’s blocked punt for a game-changing touchdown. Pretty great work for a backup.
It was a big day for special teams. They began the year on a tear, and had seen a lull over the past few weeks. While they may not have been poor exactly, they weren’t playing at the level they had early on. This week was a return to form. On the first awful punt for the Titans’ resident FedEx employee given the ultimate fan experience, they got great pressure that may have contributed to the poor kick. On the next punt, they got home. E.J. Speed blocked the kick as I mentioned above, and T.J. Carrie put up the points. Add to that the fact that Rodrigo Blankenship made the kicks he needed to make, and it was a good performance for special teams.
Another guy benefitting from DeForest Buckner, Chris Ballard may be regretting not extending Stewart before the season began. This guy is a total animal, and he’s doing some great stuff. He blew up the line on one rep to stonewall Derrick Henry in the backfield. On another play when Henry got loose in the second level and it looked like he might be primed to break a big run, it was Stewart who chased him down from behind and limited that gain to 5. Stewart also had a great sack that was negated by a pretty soft defensive holding call in T.J. Carrie early in the 2nd quarter. The stat sheet might not show it, but this was another big game for Stewart.
I’ve given Reich a pretty hard time this season. He has been stubborn and downright stupid at times in his play calling. However, this game showed that Reich is willing to grow and change as a play caller. Even if it was slower than we’d like, we saw Nyheim Hines take a prominent role in the offense. More importantly, we saw the Colts go to their more effective no huddle attack for much of the game. This helped the offense run more smoothly, and let Rivers use his biggest advantage over opponents, his brain. He also went for it on five different fourth downs, and converted 3 of them. While his play calling on the one goal line stand was somewhat questionable, he made the right call to try to get a touchdown. The offense needed a good game, and this week, Frank delivered one.
Honorable Mention: T.Y. Hilton
Unfortunately, the majority of what the Titans were able to do in the passing game went through Corey Davis, and came at the expense of Rock Ya-Sin. Ya-Sin has struggled to make an impact in his sophomore season, and got pretty handily beat both at the line and downfield by Davis. Worst of all, his tendency to jersey-grab is now well established, and it is being called. Ya-Sin is by no means a bust, but he needs to step it up. Xavier Rhodes has done more than enough to hold down his side of the field, and the Colts need Ya-Sin to do his part.