In a roller coaster game against the best offense in the NFL, the Colts managed to scrape their way out of overtime with a win, despite doing their best not to late in regulation. It was a tough, gritty, messy, team victory that should give them both areas to greatly improve on as well as some remaining concerns. Here are this week’s winners and losers.
The rookie safety from Utah who has no business even being on the field yet after tearing his ACL nearly a year ago has made a habit of coming up in big spots, much the same way that Darius Leonard did in his rookie season. Some players just have that intrinsic ability to rise to the moment, and Blackmon is cut from that cloth. When the Colts absolutely needed a big play in overtime with the Packers driving and threatening to enter field goal range to take a lead, Blackmon came up big. On a tackle of Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Blackmon swiped the ball loose and it was recovered by DeForest Buckner. The play let the Colts run three plays and then kick a field goal to win the game.
Michael Pittman Jr.
The Colts got production from another rookie that paid off, as Michael Pittman Jr. led the team in receiving for the third week in a row. He caught all three of his targets for 66 yards and his first NFL touchdown on the day. The touchdown itself was a thing of beauty for Pittman, who did exactly what many saw him do in his time with USC when he was hit on a drag route and avoided a would-be tackler as he burned his way 45 yards to the end zone. It was not great coverage for the Green Bay defense, to be sure, but Pittman capitalized and leveled the score 7-7 after a shaky start for the Colts offense. One puzzling question that needs to be addressed is why Pittman is being utilized so sparingly. He wasn’t targeted at all in the second half, which seems like a mistake.
In a game against the potential MVP quarterback in Aaron Rodgers, you need your secondary at their best. Kenny Moore certainly was in this game. He was a tackling machine, leading the team with 10 and consistently blowing up tight ends despite being dwarfed by them in stature. Some players show up big on critical plays that lead to turnovers. Some players are reliable and just get the job done on every down. Kenny Moore is the guy that does both.
The Colts fan base has kicked Jonathan Taylor around quite a bit this season, and for the most part, he’s deserved the criticism, if not the vitriol. However, he seemed to turn a corner in this game, and hopefully that lesson is a permanent one. In the first half, we saw the same kind of performance we’ve come to expect. Fair criticism can be leveled at the types of runs they attempted in the first half, but Taylor was getting nothing, and he looked yet again like the least effective runner in the group. He ran for 18 yards on 7 carries. Something changed in the second half. He came out looking more decisive, hitting lanes, and getting positive yards. He finished the second half with 12 carries for 64 yards and averaged 5.3 yards per carry. If he has figured something out, this team could be in a very good place at just the right time.
Despite having been picked on throughout his career by Rodgers and without much to speak of in terms of pass rush or pressure from the Colts’ front seven, the secondary came to play Sunday. While a game where Rodgers threw for 311 yards 3 touchdowns and 1 interception can hardly be considered great, when you factor in that they limited the running game significantly and that Rhodes was virtually unchallenged on the day, it is pretty impressive. He is on his way to a Pro Bowl season, and easily one of Ballard’s best free agent acquisitions.
Yet again the undrafted free agent rookie makes himself a factor. He had two nice carries for 19 yards and even had a nice play on special teams to drop a return man. Given his small stature there are limitations to his use, but he’s shown he’s a baller and deserves to be in the game plan on a weekly basis.
Once again Rivers proved himself able to make the plays the Colts needed to get a win against a tough opponent. For the most part, he took what the defense gave him and let his playmakers make plays. A ball tipped at the line resulted in a pick, but otherwise he was remarkably secure with the football. His hand strength remains impressive, as we saw him get hit for what is almost always a fumble on a play, yet it was very clearly a forward pass. Biggest of all, he gutted through some pretty clear pain to finish the game. This is exactly what the Colts hoped to get when they signed Philip Rivers, and he has continued to deliver through their toughest stretch of the schedule.
The rookie kicker plunked one off the crossbar in the 2nd quarter that might have doomed the team, but in the end he got a chance to redeem himself, and came up in the clutch to get the Colts a win in overtime. It hasn’t always been a smooth season, but Blankenship has been more good than bad.
It is tough to label exactly one group as being to blame on perhaps the worst closing drive of a game ever, so we’ll go with the whole offensive unit. With the ball and a field goal lead and 3:06 to go in regulation, the Colts had an opportunity to put the game away. They got off to a great start, with a first down throw to Marcus Johnson and two penalties on Green Bay. With 2:17 left in the game, it looked as though the Colts were about to walk to a win. Then the wheels fell off for the Colts. Their next 3 plays were: holding-holding-illegal motion. Rivers then hit Jordan Wilkins for a 15-yard pass that put them at 4th and 4, and because Frank Reich has ice in his veins, they went for it and got a first down after the 2-minute warning.
So, with a first down and Green Bay only holding 2 timeouts, their next 3 plays were: holding-incomplete-holding. All told, the Colts managed to run 13 plays and burn less than 2 minutes off the clock because of a complete lack of team discipline. They then gave the ball back to the last person in the world you want with the ball and a chance to win in the final minute of play. If the Colts had lost this game, they would have absolutely deserved it because of this awful drive.
Offensive Line Depth
Braden Smith might have gotten himself paid tonight without setting foot on the field at all. The right side of the line was clearly struggling right from the outset. Their very first snap saw Le’Raven Clark get absolutely bullied into the backfield and get called for a hold. He got no real push on runs and was repeatedly bullied on pass sets. The result was a relatively quick change to Chaz Green. Green didn’t fare much better, regularly getting beaten to spots, losing hand fights, and making it clear why he is a backup. All of this understandably impacted Glowinski’s play, and really stunted the offense against a solid Packers pass rush.
The Jacoby Brissett Package
Using Brissett on quarterback sneak plays is a pretty great idea. He is good at it, and he is far stronger than Rivers. It has been effective and makes a ton of sense. However, the use of him for any read option plays is just asinine. Jacoby might not be as slow as Rivers, but he certainly isn’t a real threat on the ground in any situation that isn’t a quarterback sneak, as evidenced by his snail-like scampers to the outside in this game. If the Colts are going for trickery, they’d be far better off utilizing Trey Burton back there than Brissett.