The Indianapolis Colts defeated the Detroit Lions handedly 41-21 on the road on Sunday in the Motor City, moving to 5-2 on the season with the toughest part of their scheduling come up over the next month.
The Colts fell behind early, 7-0, near midway through the first quarter, and the offense looked like a dinosaur. Not the ferocious, awesome Jurassic Park type T-Rexes or velociraptors, but one that was slow, plodding, and predictable—and couldn’t outrun a glacier. The Colts seemingly tried to be a ‘smashmouth’ team but couldn’t actually run the ball with any sort of consistency to get consecutive first downs and move the sticks.
Scat-back Nyheim Hines seemed to spark the Colts offense with two acrobatic touchdown plays (and celebrations) in the second quarter, and the Colts defense generated two turnovers in the second half (one of which slot corner Kenny Moore returned for a touchdown)—at least partly because of a geared up Indy pass rush.
Here’s some takeaways from Sunday’s decisive blowout win:
Philip Rivers: Following the disappointing Cleveland Browns road loss on October 11th, some fans were calling for the veteran quarterback to be benched in favor of Jacoby Brissett because of his underwhelming play behind center.
Since then Rivers has completed 52 of 77 passes (67.5%) for 633 passing yards, 6 passing touchdowns, and an interception over the Colts past two games.
He’s been in ‘vintage form’, and it’s a big reason why the Colts have scored a lot more points over the past two contests. Still, Rivers will be tested next Sunday against a notoriously stingy and tough Baltimore Ravens defense. Hopefully, he can keep up his torrid play.
Jordan Wilkins: Too much will be made this week about ‘Jonathan Taylor being benched’ and ‘whether Wilkins should start’. However, to me, Wilkins is really good as an ‘elite reliever’ off the bench for the Colts backfield, and it doesn’t matter who starts, as how the overall workload is distributed between all of the backs is what really matters going forward.
Wilkins was very effective on Sunday, rushing for 89 rushing yards on 20 carries (4.5 ypc. avg.) and a rushing touchdown—while the rookie Taylor struggled out of the gates to the tune of 22 rushing yards on 11 carries (2.2 ypc. avg.).
Wilkins’ style—featuring vision, patience, and hitting the hole with authority seemed to jive with the Colts offensive line’s run blocking for better cohesion.
Meanwhile, Taylor’s lack of vision is mildly concerning at this time, but keep in mind, he’s still a rookie—and one that wasn’t expected to fully carry the workload during his debut season regardless (with last year’s 1,000 yard rusher Marlon Mack entering the season as the starter in what was expected to be a “1-2 punch” between Mack and Taylor).
Better days should be ahead for Taylor, but the Colts clearly had no problem riding the hot hand on Sunday with Wilkins—who’s also earned the right to have additional carries going forward in an Indy backfield that may very well shape up more like a platoon in the future.
Nyheim Hines: The elusive scat-back was the ‘Energizer Bunny’ for the Indy offense, sparking the Colts comeback offensively. In the second quarter, his two acrobatic touchdown receptions were the big plays the Colts offense so desperately needed.
With the Colts getting less production from some of their ‘dynamic rookies’, Michael Pittman Jr. and Jonathan Taylor on Sunday than expected, the Indy offense needs players who are playmakers, and Hines delivered in convincing fashion against the Lions (plus who else can do Olympic style backflips after scoring touchdowns?).
His speed, explosion, and elusiveness in the open field can be game-changers for the Colts.
Darius Leonard: The Colts’ 2x All-Pro linebacker returned for the Indy defense, and much to the pleasure of fans, ‘The Maniac’ appeared to be his old crazy self, recording 9 tackles and a strip-sack.
That strip of Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford was a big play that the Colts defense had to have late in the 3rd quarter—as Detroit had started picking up late game momentum and had cut the Colts lead to 20-14—and thus, were within a one score striking distance from taking the overall lead. Leonard said, “Not today!” for what was a clutch defensive play.
Kenny Moore: The Colts slot cornerback picked off Stafford early in the 4th quarter, returning the pass 29 yards and returning it for the game-clinching touchdown—putting the Lions safely away with a three touchdown, 35-14 Indy lead.
Moore may not be a household name outside of Colts country, but he should be. He does a lot things very well for the Colts secondary, has tremendous defensive versatility as a defensive back, and remains one of the best coverage nickelbacks in the game.
Colts Pass Rush: The Colts pass rush had tailed off in recent weeks, but the unit caught fire during Sunday’s game. The Colts finished with 5.0 sacks and made Stafford’s life miserable passing in the pocket—especially in the second half.
However, it wasn’t the usual suspects that you’d think carried the sack total for the Colts, as both Denico Autry and Tyquan Lewis each finished with 2.0 sacks a piece during the game respectively.
If the Colts can continue to get their supporting cast such as Autry and Lewis to continue to contribute surrounding All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and veteran pass rusher Justin Houston, that should be a big lift for the unit’s overall pass pressure—which should also get speed rusher Kemoko Turay back hopefully soon too.
Colts Run Defense: Lions running backs rushed for just 19 total rushing yards on 12 carries (1.58 ypc. avg.).
While it’s a little surprising that the Lions didn’t try to deploy rookie back D’Andre Swift more in the short passing game, the Colts front seven simply shut down the Detroit rushing attack—as they consistently won one-on-one battles and physically in the trenches.
It was a dominant performance up front (with a special shoutout to starting nose tackle Grover Stewart for anchoring the interior).