Indianapolis Colts cornerback Kenny Moore II accomplished something quite rare on Sunday. Not only did the veteran defender become the first Colts player to return two interceptions for touchdowns in a single game, he also nearly single-handedly won his team a football game as a defensive player.
The Colts defeated the Panthers by two touchdowns, 27-13, at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. If we give Moore credit for the two extra points following his touchdowns, he outscored Carolina 14-13 with 115 return yards. The Colts offense, on the other hand, generated 13 points and 198 total net yards, including just 27 yards in the second half.
It doesn’t take a math wiz to see that Kenny Moore was the reason the Colts won the game.
Moore, who also tallied 8 tackles on Sunday, has received a number of well-deserved accolades this week. He earned PFF’s highest grade of any defender for his Week 9 with a 93.2 rating and was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week.
It’s safe to say that Moore’s performance at Carolina was objectively one of the best by a defensive back in Colts history. This, of course, begs the question: what are the other top DB outputs in franchise history?
So glad you asked. I’m here to help.
Before we start, there are two major caveats to note. First, the following rankings include only regular season performances. To be totally honest, this is a cop out on my part. Two of the biggest, most important plays (maybe the two biggest, most important plays) in franchise history were made by defensive backs - the Marlin Jackson interception to clinch the 2006 AFC Championship Game and the Kelvin Hayden pick-six in Super Bowl XLI. But these were single plays, individual moments of brilliance… Does one massively important play constitute an all-time great performance? It might when it comes to DBs… I’ve dodged that debate by keeping this to regular season games. Secondly, this list only considers players from the franchise’s time in Indianapolis (1984-2023). Enough preamble. On to the rankings!
Top 5 Regular Season Performances by a Defensive Back in Indianapolis Colts History:
5. CB Kelvin Hayden vs. Cincinnati, Week 14 of 2008
Colts 35, Bengals 3
Hayden Stat Line: 2 INTs, 1 INT returned for TD (85 yards), 107 total INT return yards, 4 tackles, 4 PDs
Hayden will forever be immortalized in Colts history thanks to his 56-yard pick-six in Super Bowl XLI which turned a 22-17 Colts lead over the Bears into a 29-17 final score with 11:44 to play. He played six seasons for the Colts (2005-2010), tallying 302 tackles, nine interceptions and three TDs. One of those touchdowns came in a dominant performance against the Bengals late in the 2008 season.
Cincinnati struggled in 2008, limping to a 4-12 record with starting quarterback Carson Palmer missing most of the season with an elbow injury. Hayden made life very difficult for backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick at Lucas Oil Stadium in Week 14.
Hayden notched his first interception of the game in the second quarter, picking off a short Fitzpatrick pass and returning it 22 yards down to the Cincy 15-yard line. The turnover set up a 5-yard Marvin Harrison touchdown reception that gave the Colts a 14-3 lead at halftime.
With Indy leading 28-3 late in the fourth quarter, Hayden added insult to injury as he nabbed his second pick on a pass intended for WR Chris Henry and took it 85 yards back for a score. This pick-six stands as the sixth-longest in franchise history, and Hayden’s 107 total return yards are the fifth-most in a game by a Colt.
“We were flying and making plays,” Hayden said after the Colts defense forced four turnovers and gave up only one field goal. “We wanted to make today fun.”
4. Ray Buchanan at New England, Week 15 of 1994
Patriots 28, Colts 13
Buchanan Stat Line: 2 INTs, 1 INT returned for TD (90 yards), 113 total INT return yards, 7 tackles, 3 PDs
Ray Buchanan spent four seasons in Indianapolis, splitting time between safety and corner and contributing as an electric return man. The Louisville product totaled 310 tackles and 16 interceptions, returning three for touchdowns, for the Colts before signing with the Falcons as a free agent in 1997.
Big Play Ray gets knocked down a little bit in the rankings here as this performance came in a losing effort, but he certainly lived up to his nickname in Foxboro late in the 1994 season.
Buchanan feasted on New England quarterback Drew Bledsoe with two interceptions, returning the first pick for a touchdown. Late in the second quarter, Ray stepped in front of WR Michael Timpson and then bolted untouched 90 yards for a score, finishing with his signature high step for the final 10 yards.
“Bledsoe couldn’t read if I was in zone or man-to-man coverage,” Buchanan said after the game. “I faked zone. I was hoping he’d throw it my way.”
His 90-yard return is tied for fourth-longest in franchise history and tied for second in Indianapolis history, trailing only Eugene Daniel’s 97-yard TD that came one season later. Big Play Ray’s 113 total INT return yards were the most by an Indianapolis Colt until a man named Kenny Moore surpassed the mark just a few days ago.
Buchanan’s career day at New England also marked the end of the most productive stretch of games by a Colts DB ever. Ray recorded at least one pick in five consecutive games, a Colts record, totaling an incredible seven interceptions and three pick-sixes during the span.
“When are they going to start noticing I’m out there on the field?” asked Buchanan. “I make big plays. I know what I can do, and I’m proving it again and again.”
3. Mike Prior vs. Phoenix, Week 16 of 1992
Colts 16, Cardinals 13
Prior Stat Line: 3 INTs, 12 total INT return yards, 3 tackles, 2 PDs
Mike Prior spent six years (1987-1992) of his 13-year NFL career in Indianapolis, totaling 513 tackles, 27 interceptions, one TD and nine fumble recoveries. Prior is a current Colts employee, having served as the team’s football development commissioner since 2005.
Prior saved his best career game for his last as a Colt in the RCA Dome. The veteran DB - who turned down multiple offers to play Major League Baseball - tied a franchise record with three interceptions against the Cardinals in 1992 and almost had a fourth. Eugene Daniel and Leonard Coleman are the only other Indianapolis Colts to nab three picks in a single game.
Prior and the rest of the Colts secondary held Phoenix QB Chris Chandler to 131 yards on just 11 completions - 14 if you include Prior’s three INTs.
Prior’s final pick sealed the 16-13 win for the Colts. With only 12 seconds remaining, the Cardinals looked to move into game-tying field goal position from the Colts 36-yard line. Outside linebacker Chip Banks deflected a scrambling Chandler pass and Prior lunged and caught the fluttering ball before it hit the Dome turf.
“We always recognized Mike’s ability to be a ball hawk back there, the way a center fielder has to go back and get the ball,” said Rick Venturi, the Colts defensive coordinator in 1992 and current radio analyst for the team. “I think Mike has played his best football in the last month. He has made some huge plays.”
2. Kenny Moore at Carolina, Week 9 of 2023
Colts 27, Panthers 13
Moore Stat Line: 2 INTs, both INTs returned for TDs (49 and 66 yards), 115 total INT return yards, 8 tackles, 2 PDs
Kenny nearly secured the top spot with his record-setting performance on Sunday. Note: Moore’s 115 total return yards is the most ever by an Indianapolis Colt and good for third all-time in franchise history.
1. Eugene Daniel vs. Green Bay, Week 8 of 1985
Colts 37, Packers 10
Daniel Stat Line: 3 INTs, 45 total INT return yards, 1 FR, 2 tackles and 5 PDs
At No. 1, we have to pay our respects to Indianapolis’ interceptions king. An eighth-round pick out of LSU, Eugene Daniel started more games at corner - 186 from 1984-1996 - than any other player at that position in team history. The Colts were 87-125 during Daniel’s tenure, but he totaled 35 picks - most ever by an Indianapolis Colt and third-most in franchise history - and 744 tackles in his 13 seasons in the Circle City.
This mid-season win over the Packers in 1985 proved to be Daniel’s finest statistical output in a long career of stat stuffing. Daniel became the first Colt in the Indianapolis era to snag three interceptions in one game and added a fumble recovery. Tough to top four turnovers by one player in a single game.
Three of the four turnovers generated by Daniel led to Colts offensive touchdowns. Daniel grabbed his first interception three plays into the game. Three plays later, Indianapolis found the end zone. Later in the first quarter, Daniel jumped in front of Packers WR James Lofton for his second steal. Three plays later the Colts led 14-0. Daniel also set up the team’s final TD after scooping up a fourth quarter fumble.
Daniel’s turnover production was historic, but equally impressive was the fact that he shut down a future Hall of Famer. In 2003 Lofton was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame following a 16-year career that included eight Pro Bowl nods and four All-Pro honors. In late October of 1985, Lofton was held to just three catches - the same number Eugene Daniel recorded.
“He’s a good corner,” Lofton admitted after the game. “He had an All-Pro day,”
Daniel was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week and called it “the best game I’ve ever played.”