A week ago, the Colts made mistakes in every phase of the game to drop an early AFC South match-up on the road to the Jacksonville Jaguars. This week, the team desperately needed to defend their home field to get in the win column and not fall into an early two-game hole.
Of course, there were some challenges coming into this game that put this in doubt.
On offense, Marlon Mack suffered a season-ending Achilles injury last week, which thrust rookie running back Jonathan Taylor into a starting role today. Veteran tight end Jack Doyle was inactive for the game after missing practice this week and that thrust Mo Alie-Cox, who has never been more than a third-string tight end to this point in his career, into a starting role.
On defense, second-year cornerback Rock Ya-Sin was a surprise addition to the inactive list and visited an Indianapolis area hospital to seek treatment for a stomach illness. This left a secondary who struggled considerably last week even more short-handed and forced Kenny Moore to play outside.
If that wasn’t enough, second-year receiver Parris Campbell came into the game after a promising start to his season. He was never able to get things going as a rookie with numerous injuries and ailments stealing his opportunities. He took a carry early in this game on a jet sweep and suffered a knee injury that may cost him the season.
Starting safety Malik Hooker also left the game early after suffering an Achilles injury, thrusting rookie safety Julian Blackmon into a role with the starting defense — which is incredible given that Blackmon suffered an ACL injury in the Pac-12 Championship game last December.
Down to a third-string tight end, a rookie running back, losing one of the top two receivers on the team early, and two members of a secondary that got picked apart a week ago?
No way someone would confidently say that the Colts would win this game — let alone dominate it.
How’d it happen?
There are numerous answers but the big theme is that every player who needed to step in for a fallen teammate did an incredible job of doing so.
Rookie running back Jonathan Taylor carried the ball 26 times for 101 yards and a touchdown, and added two receptions for 9 yards on 2 targets. He is the first 100-yard rookie rusher since Vick Ballard in 2012.
Third-string tight end Mo Alie-Cox led the team in targets, receptions and receiving yards with — 5 receptions on 6 targets for 111 receiving yards.
Rookie receiver Michael Pittman Jr. was asked to play a more prominent role with Campbell down and brought in 4 receptions on 6 targets for 37 yards. He will have to learn to not block in the back in film sessions this week but his impact in the passing game has grown over the last two weeks.
Rookie safety Julian Blackmon entered the game for Hooker and made a quick impact by upending a hurdling Alexander Mattison to force a punt. He also was responsible for 2 pass breakups, one that was tipped and intercepted by Khari Willis.
Rookie kicker Rodrigo Blankenship was a perfect 4-for-4 with a long of 44 yards. With his two extra points he was responsible for half of the team’s scoring for the day.
Rigoberto Sanchez kicked a punt that landed inside of the five yard line and bounced into the air, while long snapper Luke Rhodes was first to the ball and tipped it back into the field of play to be downed at the one-yard line.
On the ensuing series, new defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and defensive end Denico Autry combined to coral Kirk Cousins in the end zone for a safety.
Again, while last week’s lost fell at the feet of the team and coaching staff as a whole. This week’s victory should be shared by the entire team. It’s an encouraging sight for fans and needs to set the stage in the locker room for what they should expect of each other moving forward.