For a second consecutive week, the Colts dominated an opponent at Lucas Oil Stadium. Neither opponent was a big threat coming in but it’s certainly better than the alternative, dropping two or three games again teams that are likely to finish near the bottom of the league. Over the last two weeks, the Colts have started to establish an identity, but the team will have to wait for a big-time test
Their first game against a team that is projected to make the playoffs? Week 9 against the Baltimore Ravens. That is the second game in November, and after the team’s Week 7 Bye. Perhaps this is an opportunity to build confidence and establish a winning culture. Alternatively, it could create a false confidence and build press clippings that shouldn’t be taken seriously.
Either way, Indianapolis will have to play the next four games with the same kind of passion and effort as it will against the Ravens. There is an opportunity to enter Week 9 with a record of 6-1 and some room for error in the AFC South. Failure to do that with the Ravens, Titans twice, and the Packers on deck is a recipe for disaster.
In this game, the first half felt a bit like a mirage. Veteran corner Xavier Rhodes had two interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown on the first possession of the game. The second interception? It was a blown assignment by Rhodes that led to Darnold correctly seeing an open receiver in the end zone. Rhodes was lucky enough to realize his mistake and to recover just in time to pick off the pass.
The offense didn’t do a lot to create excitement. The running game did average over 4 yards per carry but never really seemed to gain a lot of traction. There was a very balanced split for carries which didn’t allow any one back to get things going. The offensive line wasn’t dominant. The offense left a lot to be desired.
Consider that the Colts offense included the following stat lines: Rivers went 17/21 for 217 yards and a touchdown (no INTs); the team’s leading receiver was T.Y. Hilton who caught 3 passes on 3 targets for 52 yards and no touchdowns; Mo Alie-Cox was still the most dominant target in the Colts passing game, catching all three of his targets for 50 yards and a touchdown.
For those keeping track, this means the Colts offense accounted for 14 points by way of touchdown. Rodrigo Blankenship was 2 of 3 in his field goal attempts, including a miss that he must avoid at the end of the first half. Including field goals, the offense was responsible for 20 of 36 points.
This means the defense abused an undermanned Jets offense with a young and inexperience quarterback for 16 points. Two interceptions returned for touchdowns, including the aforementioned touchdown to start the game for Rhodes and a second half pick-six for T.J. Carrie. Veteran defensive end Justin Houston added a sack for a safety — the second week in a row the defense has added a safety to the scoreboard.
Even without the defensive scoring, the offense would have won the game easily 20-7 but Philip Rivers and Frank Reich will face far more challenging defenses this season. If the offense isn’t able to get traction against the Jets, they will have no business taking the field against the Ravens.
On the bright side, the Colts do have a deep and dynamic backfield. The team also has a tight end tandem that could be dominant for much of the season, and that is without Trey Burton, who will make the grouping even stronger. The defense has put up back-to-back dominant performances that showed up through numerous turnovers and points on the scoreboard.
If the defense can remain this strong and the offense can find its way over the coming weeks, the Colts could salvage a rough start and end up with something special. However, Colts fans and the locker room should be aware that the opposite can also be true. Beating up on the Jets and Vikings may be cause for short-term celebration but this team is expected to do much more.
The players need to stay grounded and remember that just a couple of weeks ago they failed to capitalize on an early opportunity to gain an advantage in the AFC South. Nothing is a given in the NFL, and while fans should be pleased with some of the progress, there is much work yet to be done for any of this to matter.