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The Lowdown: Rookies, Defense Step Up in Complete Colts Victory Against Vikings

Minnesota Vikings v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Indianapolis Colts beat the Minnesota Vikings 28-11 in convincing fashion during the team’s home opener on Sunday to get their first victory of the 2020 season.

The Colts controlled the game on all sides of the football.

Offense, defense, special teams, you name it, the Colts had players that simply made plays.

With that being said, here’s ‘the lowdown’ of Sunday’s big win:

Minnesota Vikings v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images
  • Philip Rivers: Don’t let the basic box score fool you. Rivers completed 19 of 25 passes (76%) of his passes for 214 passing yards, a touchdown, an interception, and a passer rating of 97.8—which screams ‘good, but not great’ outing. However, Rivers was better than his line indicates. He was highly efficient and threw to all levels of the field. His sole interception was a bobbled pass that should’ve been caught by tight end Mo Alie-Cox early in the second quarter near the goal line. He should’ve had another touchdown—a deep one that was dropped by T.Y. Hilton in the end zone around midway during the second quarter.

Minnesota Vikings v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images
  • Jonathan Taylor: The rookie is already a bonafide bellcow for the Colts, as Indy fed him early and often with 26 total carries. Taylor amassed 101 rushing yards and a touchdown on the afternoon, and his rushing yards made him the first Colts rookie to eclipse 100 rushing yards since Vick Ballard accomplished the feat on December 16, 2012. The 5’10”, 226 pound rookie back flashed a combination of speed, power, patience, and vision and already looks like he has the makings of the Colts’ next great franchise rusher. His heavy workload reminded me of the one Jonathan Williams had last season against the Houston Texans, when the Colts gave their former running back 26 total carries in Week 12 of last season. The Colts may want to mix in both Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins (4.4 ypc. avg. in this one on 9 carries) a little earlier/more to keep Taylor fresher during the 4th quarter of games and down the stretch of the regular season (or just for the occasional breather), but the impressive rookie should be a workhorse from here on out in Indianapolis.

Minnesota Vikings v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images
  • Mo Alie-Cox: ‘Mo Alie-Cox, Mo Problems.’ The big bodied tight end in Jack Doyle and Trey Burton’s absence led the Colts in receptions and receiving yards with 5 receptions for 111 receiving yards (22.2 ypr. avg.)—including a spectacular catch where he went up and got it. Alie-Cox has the most potential of any Colts’ tight end and could be on the verge of breaking out with a veteran quarterback, Philip Rivers, who used to love throwing to another former converted college basketball standout: Antonio Gates.

Minnesota Vikings v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images
  • Colts Rookies: We’ve already hit on Taylor, but rookie wideout Michael Pittman Jr., who was unlikely to even play at one point, had some critical third down catches and just some impressive catches overall to help move the sticks (I mean that batted pass snag!). With Parris Campbell forced to leave the game with a knee injury, Pittman Jr. was thrusted into critical action and delivered. Joining him in an impact performance was rookie 3rd round safety Julian Blackmon, who had some big plays in his debut (including upending Vikings running back Alexander Mattison on an attempted hurdle, deflecting a pass that led to a Khari Willis interception, and another bone-jarring hit). With safety Malik Hooker expected to miss the season with an Achilles injury, Blackmon should be the new starter in the backend of the Colts secondary. One game doesn’t define a career, but Blackmon looks like a physical, playmaking safety already. Rookie 6th round pick Isaiah Rodgers deserves some credit too, playing nickel for the Colts at cornerback and holding his own. Lastly, rookie kicker Rodrigo ‘Hot Rod’ Blankenship went a perfect 4 for 4 in field goals and was 2/2 in PAT’s.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Indianapolis Colts Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
  • Colts Defensive Line: The Colts defensive line had 3 sacks on the afternoon and in particular, Denico Autry and DeForest Buckner really flashed on the field. After a fairly quiet debut in Week 1, Buckner finished with 3 tackles, 1.5 sacks, a tackle for loss, and 4 QB hits on Sunday—including this ‘Reggie White-esque play’ where he destroyed a Vikings lineman to get to quarterback Kirk Cousins. The big man simply made his presence felt.

Minnesota Vikings v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images
  • Colts Defense: With Rock-Ya Sin a late scratch because of an illness and having lost Hooker during the course of the game—and even veteran corner Xavier Rhodes for a stretch, the Colts were very shorthanded in their secondary—with only 3 healthy cornerbacks at one point. Still, the team’s banged up secondary had 3 interceptions on the afternoon. The Colts defense held the Vikings to 3 points for the majority of the game despite a late garbage time touchdown, and simply were flying around, making plays all over the field. Darius “The Maniac” Leonard didn’t have his weekly signature play in this one, but he was very active on Sunday for the Colts at linebacker. It was a complete, dominant defensive performance for the entire unit, and defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus called a great defensive game plan—after he had been under some scrutiny following Week 1’s loss.

Minnesota Vikings v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images
  • Colts Special Teams: We’ve mentioned ‘Hot Rod’, but punter Rigoberto Sanchez deserves a lot of credit for pinning a punt at the Minnesota 2-yard line with 5:59 left in the second quarter that put the Vikings in incredibly poor field position and set up a Colts safety. Of course, helping Sanchez was longsnapper Luke Rhodes, who made an incredibly athletic play for his unheralded position to deflect the ricocheted football from entering the end zone and otherwise drawing the touchback. Great execution by the Colts special teams duo there.