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Knee-jerk reactions: Colts win third straight game behind big days from defense and rushing attack

The Indianapolis Colts defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-20 in Week 12.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Indianapolis Colts Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

The Indianapolis Colts improved to 6-5 after defeating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-20. Indy currently holds the final wild card spot and will turn their attention to the Tennessee Titans (4-7), who are coming off a victory of their own against the Carolina Panthers.


On a day where veteran quarterback Gardner Minshew struggled at times, the Colts leaned on the running back duo of Jonathan Taylor and Zack Moss. Both backs were instrumental in Indianapolis’ victory on Sunday, as Taylor rushed for 91 yards on 15 attempts and scored two rushing touchdowns, while Moss had 55 yards on eight attempts. In total, the Colts rushed for 155 yards and three touchdowns, including a scramble from Minshew early in the first half.

Minshew had a pedestrian day through the air, as he went 24-of-41 for 251 yards and an interception, but he also had a key rushing touchdown that gave the Colts a ten-point lead early on. While Minshew was only sacked twice, the veteran signal-caller does have a tendency to create pressure when it hasn’t really been there this season. It’s important to give credit where it’s due, but those types of plays from Minshew, including some that have turned into disastrous turnovers, cannot be ignored and could possibly come back to bite Indy’s offense moving forward.

Wideouts Michael Pittman Jr. and Josh Downs continue to be key playmakers for the Colts’ offense this season. Pittman Jr. hauled in ten receptions for 107 yards, while Downs had 43 receiving yards on five catches. Let’s also be sure to credit tight ends Mo Alie-Cox and rookie Will Mallory, as both players came up with crucial catches in key spots.


There have been moments this season where the Colts’ defense has been inconsistent and downright bad in certain situations. But again, just as we’ve given credit to their offense and head coach/play caller Shane Steichen, we should be sure to give equal credit to their defensive coordinator, Gus Bradley. Bucs’ quarterback Baker Mayfield was kept in check for much of Sunday’s game, as he only managed to throw for 199 yards on 20-of-30 pass attempts. Mayfield also committed two costly turnovers, including fumbling on Tampa’s final offensive possession that sealed the victory for the Colts.

In total, the Colts’ pass rush garnered six sacks of Mayfield and applied pressure for much of Sunday’s game, while holding Tampa’s offense to just two offensive touchdowns in the red zone. Indianapolis’ pass rush has come alive in each of the last three games, which is a massive reason for their three-game winning streak. Additionally, for as young and inexperienced as Indy’s secondary is, they deserve a massive amount of credit for holding the Bucs’ pass catchers to respectable numbers on the afternoon. Aside from Mike Evans’ 70-yard, two-touchdown day, not a single one of Tampa’s pass catchers surpassed the 50-yard receiving mark.

Defensive tackle Grover Stewart has been missed by the Colts’ front in previous weeks. While, yes, there was certainly some moments Sunday where that remained true, Indy’s defense did a fine job in holding Tampa’s 32nd-ranked ground game to just 87 combined yards minus Rachaad White’s 38-yard rush, which sort of inflated Tampa’s rushing total to 125 yards on the afternoon. Overall, Indy’s defense held Tampa’s offense to just 298 total yards on offense. It wasn’t a perfect day, but you continue to see the small improvements week-to-week for the Colts’ defense.