It was the kind of game and performance the Indianapolis Colts needed for various reasons. Indianapolis earned their first divisional win, defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars 34-27 Sunday.
Here are my biggest takeaways from the Colts’ massive win over the Jaguars.
Offensive line play improved considerably
One of the biggest reasons the Colts came away victorious over the Jaguars Sunday was the improvement of their offensive line play, especially in pass protection, which had been a massive issue through the first five weeks with 21 sacks surrendered.
Sunday’s offensive line performance was easily Indianapolis’ best of the season. Just as they did last week against the Denver Broncos, the Colts shuffled the line heading into the Jaguars game. The two biggest changes were veteran Bernhard Raimann starting at left tackle and Matt Pryor sliding in at right guard. They worked with traditional starters at the other three positions for a series or two, and then veteran Dennis Kelly stepped in for Raimann at left tackle.
These changes, along with more of an up-tempo, no-huddle offense, drastically improved the play of the Colts’ offensive line. The unit didn’t surrender a single sack for the first time this season and gave quarterback Matt Ryan plenty of time to throw all game.
Throwing it 58 times a game is far from sustainable long-term, and the Colts know they’ll have to find more of a balance between the running and passing game. Perhaps this new starting five can provide the kind of consistency Indy’s offensive line has been searching for.
Colts’ pass-catchers have big-time performance
Down their top two running backs, Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines, the Colts would need a big performance from their young wide receivers. Their young and talented group of pass-catchers more than delivered Sunday.
Michael Pittman Jr. caught a career-high 13 receptions for 134 yards and helped convert several critical third downs late in the game. Rookie Alec Pierce, who’s quickly become acclimated to the NFL, had 49 receiving yards and caught his first-ever touchdown pass, which also happened to be the game-winner. Parris Campbell also made key contributions with seven receptions for 57 yards and a touchdown. Rookie tight end Jelani Woods caught his third touchdown of the season, and Kylen Granson had four receptions for 38 yards as well.
The Colts’ young pass-catchers have shown up for their offense over the last several weeks, and they deserve an enormous amount of credit for stepping up Sunday against Jacksonville.
Colts’ defense makes plays in crucial moments
The Colts’ defense struggled Sunday, a change from the last three weeks, which has seen the unit limit opponents on the scoreboard and the ground.
Jacksonville rushed for 243 yards and scored 27 points, which are the highest totals Indianapolis’ defense has given up this season in both categories. Despite the defense's struggles, the Colts managed to sack quarterback Trevor Lawrence four times.
A defense rarely surrenders more than 200 rushing yards and nearly 30 points and comes away victorious. Still, Indy’s defense deserves credit for making crucial plays against Jacksonville’s offense when it mattered most Sunday, especially in short-yardage situations.