In a three-game hole, the Colts already have their backs against the wall to salvage the 2021 season. The condition of their roster doesn’t inspire confidence due to a ridiculous number of injuries to starters. No matter, history will only record which teams won and lost and each player on the roster has a limited period of time to compete at the highest levels.
No one will feel sorry for management, coaches, players, or fans. Either the group finds a way to come together and overcome adversity, or they look out eleven months for a chance to try again.
If only for that reason, it was good to see the team come together and get a win. Granted, it was against the weakest opponent they’ve faced to this point in the season, a team without an offensive identity, no ground game to lean on, and a backup quarterback familiar to fans in Indianapolis. Still, getting a win in the NFL isn’t easy and they absolutely had to take this one to start a push to get the season moving in a better direction.
REICH USED HIS BEST WEAPONS
No offensive player was featured more than running back Jonathan Taylor. There is no doubt, that is as it should be. He carried the ball 16 times for 103 yards and a rushing touchdown and added three receptions on three targets for 11 yards.
Taylor was often joined on the field, at times in the backfield, by Nyheim Hines. Hines is the Colts’ most dynamic weapon as he can line up all over the field, is comfortable running routes as a receiver, and can create mismatches. This is a good combo to have on the field together more often.
Marlon Mack played a bigger role on offense in this one and it felt like he was getting featured to drive up his trade value. He and the Colts have agreed to a future trade and Mack at full strength could be a lead rusher for a number of teams — including the Dolphins (remember he played at USF in college). It will be interesting to monitor his status in the coming weeks and see if Ballard continues to get him involved.
Michael Pittman Jr. has established himself as the top receiver in the offense and has shown the type of strength and swagger to earn a bigger role. Unfortunately, he has little reliable help around him in the receiver room until T.Y. Hilton returns from injury — assuming that he does so and can return to something resembling his old form.
Fans have been asking to see Mo Alie-Cox take on a bigger offensive role for some time. While there is no indication his usage in Miami will continue, he brought in two touchdowns and used his size to outmuscle Dolphins defenders. It’s hard to imagine many defensive backs who will fare much better.
DEFENSE STEPPED UP
Okay, before we get ahead of ourselves, we just mentioned that the Dolphins have some pretty serious issues offensively. They’re using their backup quarterback and they don't have an established running back. Their top receiver is Will Fuller and he left the game early — continuing a career-long theme for Fuller.
The biggest accomplishments for the defense were to hold the Dolphins to 35 total yards rushing and keeping Jaylen Waddle in check for a total of 33 yards receiving. Kemoko Turay was credited with two sacks, Grover Stewart was credited with another, and Tyquan Lewis flashed with an impressive tackle for loss at different points during the game. Leonard and Okereke led the team in tackles, as they always should, and the secondary held up relatively well — although Mike Gisecki had a good day.
To be fair, if Gisecki had been drafted to most other NFL teams, he may have had big games on a more regular basis.
SPEAKING OF INJURIES
If the health of this roster wasn’t so sad, it’d be comical. Consider the anticipated Week 1 depth chart from training camp:
Carson Wentz is the starter and playing on two sprained ankles. It clearly impacted his play a week ago. There is no doubt he was still affected today but one has to give the man credit — he may be one of the toughest dudes I’ve ever seen.
LT Eric Fisher returned from an Achilles injury much earlier than anyone would have reasonably expected and has shown some signs of improvement as he has received more reps. All-Pro LG Quenton Nelson is arguably the best in the game but entered the season after recovering from foot surgery, still ailing from a back issue, and then suffered a high ankle sprain that landed him on injured reserve. Starting center Ryan Kelly left the game early with an injury. Starting right tackle Braden Smith has missed two straight with an injury.
Jack Doyle has been dealing with his own injuries and didn’t play for much of the Miami game. Of course, when he did, he recovered an onside kick and battled through pass interference to make a 24-yard grab.
The most proven receiver on the team, T.Y. Hilton, has missed every game this season recovering from a neck injury.
Rookie defensive end Kwity Paye was the Colts’ first-round selection but has missed nearly all of the last two games with a hamstring injury.
Darius Leonard has been dealing with an ankle issue that has lingered through training camp and post-surgery. He has yet to take a snap at 100 percent and was noticeably hobbled even when he made big plays against the Dolphins.
Top corner Xavier Rhodes missed the first two games and should have missed the third, given that he was clearly slowed by injury. Rock Ya-Sin missed the game today with an injury of his own. T.J. Carrie has been placed on injured reserve with an injury. Starting strong safety Khari Willis missed today’s game with an injury.
By my count, the is half of the team’s projected starters who have missed games or who will continue to miss games, or who have played injured, or who will continue to play injured. The Colts will get their Bye in Week 14. This is Week 4.
Next man up, indeed.