Indianapolis earned its third win on the season after a 30-18 victory over the 49ers Sunday night. Slowly, over the last four weeks, this team has started to find its footing.
Here are three things we learned after the Colts’ convincing win against San Francisco.
- Michael Pittman Jr. emerges as WR1:
One of the biggest questions for the Colts entering the 2021 season was whether or not second-year wideout Michael Pittman Jr. could take that next step and become the teams’ true No. 1 wide receiver.
On Sunday, Pittman Jr. had four catches for 104 total yards and caught the game-sealing touchdown late in the 4th quarter as well. The former second-round pick is quickly becoming a star for Indy’s offense and is now up to 508 receiving yards, averaging 14.5 yards per catch and has 2 touchdowns through the first seven weeks.
With injuries to both Parris Campbell and T.Y. Hilton, the Colts were in need of their wideouts to step up against San Francisco, and Pittman Jr. lived up to the task. Expect a lot more involvement from the star wideout moving forward.
- Consistent pass rush leads to turnovers:
After a sluggish first couple of drives from Indy’s defense, their pass rush stepped up big time throughout the remainder of the game. While the pressure from the Colts’ front four didn’t always result in a sack, it did force 49ers’ quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo into making some errant throws, which helped lead to turnovers.
The Colts added to their league-leading turnover total with a forced fumble from linebacker Darius Leonard, a strip sack from Al Quadin-Muhammad and two key interceptions from both cornerback Xavier Rhodes and safety Khari Willis. Currently, Indy has forced a total of 16 turnovers through seven weeks, which is tied for first with the Buffalo Bills.
Indy’s lack of a consistent pass rush has been heavily criticized — rightfully so — through seven games. But let’s give credit where it’s due. The teams’ front four in particular played a crucial role in Sunday night’s win. Muhammad forced a timely turnover with a strip sack, and Rhodes’ late-game interception was due in large part to the pass rush that got Garoppolo off platform and forced a bad throw.
- Caron Wentz, Jonathan Taylor continue to dominate:
Both quarterback Carson Wentz and running back Jonathan Taylor continue to play exceptionally well as the season progresses. Sunday night wasn’t any different, as both Wentz and Taylor made several key plays which helped extend Indy’s drives and eventually led to touchdowns.
The numbers may not stand out like they have throughout the previous weeks, but Wentz made several really nice throws — including the last touchdown to Pittman Jr. — which ultimately helped the Colts secure the win. Taylor had a bit of a slow start after fumbling on the offense’s opening possession, but quickly turned things around and rushed for over 100 yards for the third time in the last four weeks.
Wentz is now up to 12 total touchdowns (11 passing and 1 rushing) and just 1 interception on the season. Taylor, meanwhile, is second in the NFL in rushing to only Tennessee's Derrick Henry. Both players showed on Sunday night they can make key plays when it matters for the Colts.
That’ll be vital going in next Sunday’s must-win matchup against the Titans as Indy tries to keep pace with their division rival going forward.