INDIANAPOLIS — Evident issues in the Indianapolis Colts secondary led to a third consecutive defeat in Sunday’s 38-27 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
Against perhaps the most inexperienced unit in the NFL, Saints receiver Rashid Shaheed had a monstrous breakout game with 152 receiving yards on three catches and scored the Saints’ longest play from scrimmage this season. All of Shaheed’s receptions were the Saints three-longest plays from scrimmage, including a Randy Moss-like 44-yard snag, which was initially ruled an interception by Colts safety Rodney Thomas II, but later ruled a completed catch and down by contact.
Colts seventh-round pick Jaylon Jones moved up the depth chart and started at cornerback opposite Tony Brown Jr., who made the fifth start of his six-year career. As the nearest defender, Brown allowed seven catches on seven targets for 187 receiving yards and a touchdown.
The volatile carousel in the Colts thin secondary has changed drastically since Dallis Flowers and Darrell Baker Jr. were named the starting cornerback duo before the preseason opener. Flowers tore his Achilles tendon in the Week 4 home loss against the Los Angeles Rams. Baker lost playing time as a healthy scratch for a month after a porous performance in the season opener and did not play a single defensive snap in Sunday’s loss.
The Colts fed feature back Jonathan Taylor on four consecutive carries to begin the second drive and pound inside the red zone. Zack Moss and Taylor produced a rush for 40-plus yards, which are the two-longest run plays allowed by the Saints all season.
The Saints covered over Colts long snapper Luke Rhodes, which allowed Shane Steichen to send the offense back on the field to attempt fourth down. Minshew choreographed the run-pass-option, and found Michael Pittman Jr. open in the flat for a 10-yard touchdown to give the Colts a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
Went for 3 points, got 7 instead.— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) October 29, 2023
Saints quarterback Derek Carr delivered a third down strike to the midfield horseshoe to Thomas for a 31-yard gain to drive inside Colts territory. Carr had a bounce-back performance, completing 19-of-27 attempts for 310 passing yards. The ten-year veteran attacked Brown at will, scoring a perfect 158.3 passer rating when targeting any receiver defended by Brown.
New Orleans’ power run package became an explosive weapon to break through the barricade inside the red zone as Taysom Hill dashed left for a 13-yard gain for a first down. On the first play inside the red zone, Carr hit Alvin Kamara on an angle route, who sped away from Colts linebacker Zaire Franklin and pin-balled his way through the goal line for an 18-yard TD to tie the game 7-7.
Colts kicker Matt Gay made a 20-yard field goal to regain a 10-7 lead for the Colts after a pair of holding and pass interference penalties against Marshon Lattimore placed the Colts inside Saints territory. Colts head coach Shane Steichen opened the playbook on third down and Minshew faked the jet sweep and tossed left to Taylor for a 13-yard gain.
DeForest Buckner corralled Carr and knocked the ball loose for his league leading second strip-sack and Dayo Odeyingbo emerged from the dogpile with the football to give the Colts possession inside Saints territory. The Colts front line leads the NFL with six strip-sacks.
Colts third-round draft pick Josh Downs continues to showcase a spectacular rookie campaign, leading the offense with a team-high 72 receiving yards on seven catches. On 3rd-&-9, Downs dove near the sideline and dragged ten toes in the turf to secure a first down inside the red zone. Indianapolis scored after four consecutive carries to Moss, who reach back across the goal line to stick the leather behind his head for a one-yard TD run to extend the lead to 17-7.
New Orleans retaliated as Chris Olave and Michael Thomas worked the Colts young corners for a pair of 15-yard receptions. The Saints continued to pummel the Colts inside the red zone as Hill ran in a 20-yard TD to cut the deficit to 17-14 midway through the second quarter. Hill led the Saints with a season-high 63 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
After the Colts went three-&-out to take just one minute off the game clock, Carr attacked Brown to retake the lead and stun the crowd in just two plays. Shaeed burnt Brown on a go-route for a 58-yard TD to give the Saints a 21-17 lead with 5:42 left before halftime.
With five minutes left in the second quarter, Minshew found Downs stationed in open space to convert another third and long to keep the drive alive. On the next set of downs, Minshew scrambled out of the pocket and used his legs to convert another manageable third down and set up a 42-yard field goal for Matt Gay to cut the deficit to 21-20 before halftime.
Carr’s misconnection struggles continued to show midway through the third quarter, but the Saints still managed to flip field position and pin Indianapolis back inside its own 3-yard line. After Moss burst upfield for a 41-yard gain to drive inside Saints territory, the Colts drive ended abruptly in field goal range as Minshew lofted an errant pop fly into the end zone and Saints cornerback Paulson Adebo hauled in the interception.
Hill took consecutive carries to barrel his way to the one-yard line, then scored two plays later to extend the Saints lead to 35-20 early in the fourth quarter. Indianapolis responded with magic as Minshew orchestrated a six-play, 60-yard scoring drive finished with a 33-yard touchdown by Drew Ogletree to cut the deficit to within a touchdown with 8:29 left in the fourth. With three minutes left, Shaheed burnt Brown on another go-route and hauled in a 51-yard catch to seal the road victory.
The Colts are 1-9 in the last 10 home games and have lost 12 consecutive games when allowing one giveaway. Indianapolis reunites with former head coach Frank Reich in a Week 9 road game against the Carolina Panthers (1-6).