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Knee-jerk reactions: Colts snap 3-game losing streak behind bounce-back defensive performance

The Colts improve to 4-5 on the 2023 season after a 27-13 win over the Carolina Panthers.

Indianapolis Colts v Carolina Panthers Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Indianapolis Colts took care of business on the road, defeating the Carolina Panthers 27-13 on Sunday afternoon. Indianapolis, now 4-5 on the season, will turn their attention to the 2-7 New England Patriots in Germany in Week 10.


Entering Sunday’s game against Carolina, the Colts had given up 37 points in three straight games, and they struggled to stop opposing offenses on a consistent basis. Sunday was a completely different story, as Indianapolis’ defense forced three turnovers, including two pick-sixes from cornerback Kenny Moore II. Moore became the first Colts player in the franchise's history to record multiple pick-sixes in a single game and also recorded eight total tackles (seven solo) and two pass deflections to go along with his two pick-sixes. On a day where Indianapolis was desperately in need of some answers at the cornerback spot, Moore stepped up in a massive way for their defense. Overall, the Colts’ secondary played perhaps their best game of the season and ultimately helped hold the Panthers’ offense to just 311 total yards on offense and 13 points.

The Colts’ defensive front also played a crucial role in limiting Carolina’s offense, with four sacks and a first career interception from linebacker Segun Olubi, who had primarily been filling in for the inactive Zaire Franklin. Olubi also recorded six total tackles (four solo) and a pass deflection to go along with his key interception. Not a single Carolina receiver surpassed the 100-yard mark either, which only adds to the kind of day Indianapolis’ defense had as a whole. Tight end Hayden Hurst, who had just two receptions for 54 yards, was the most productive receiver Carolina had all game long.

Gus Bradley’s unit was exceptional in every area Sunday against Carolina’s Bryce Young, who very much looked like a rookie all game long. Young threw for only 173 yards and one touchdown to three interceptions while averaging just 4.4 yards per pass attempt. The Colts certainly still have some needs to address at some point on the defensive side of the ball, but they deserve a ton of credit for their efforts in a 14-point victory.


Offensively, it wasn’t the most productive day from quarterback Gardner Minshew and Co. Indianapolis managed just 198 total yards of offense and accounted for only 13 of the team’s 27 points on the afternoon. Minshew, in particular, wasn’t all that great through the air, completing 17-of-26 passes for 127 yards and one passing touchdown. Sunday marks a second straight game where the veteran signal-caller has averaged less than six yards per pass attempt, as Minshew managed just 4.4 yards per attempt Sunday. Let’s be sure to give credit where it’s due, though. Entering Sunday’s game, Minshew had turned it over nine times since taking over for rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson but did not commit a single turnover in Sunday’s win for Indianapolis.

Similarly, the ground game for the Colts wasn’t nearly as effective as it had been over the previous two games. In total, Indianapolis managed to rush for only 78 yards, with a majority of those yards coming from running back Jonathan Taylor in the first half (41). Taylor averaged only 2.6 yards per rush attempt, and Moss averaged only 3.7 and had 26 yards on seven attempts. Taylor, however, was effective as a pass-catcher, with five receptions for 22 yards and the Colts’ lone offensive touchdown of the game.

Two things can be true at once. The Colts’ offense as a whole might’ve not been nearly as effective as they had been in previous weeks, but they also played well enough to keep themselves in the game. Indianapolis also remains the only team in the NFL to score 20 or more in every game this season, an impressive stat for a rookie head coach that’s dealt with a fair share of injuries on offense, including to his rookie quarterback. Going forward, Colts’ head coach Shane Steichen, who’s been nothing short of tremendous in getting the best out of his players on offense, is certainly going to expect more consistency, especially with a veteran quarterback at the helm.