INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts made tremendous progress on Sunday afternoon to return to the playoffs.
In one of the best performances of the season (and the best attack), the Colts (9-4) harassed the Raiders (7-6) and then blew them away in the final two quarters, 44-27.
What did the Colts learn from continuing a winning season?
1. Philip Rivers leads the best offensive performance of the season: It’s a playoff level quarterback game from a team that knew they had to find it in the last offseason. Efficiency was not mentioned several times in 2020 for Philip Rivers, and it was so on Sunday. The Rivers went from 19/28 with 244 yards and 2 touchdowns. Nice numbers. Sure. But look at what the whole crime did with Rivers’ control. The unit achieved 7 of its 8 (real) drives. And he reached a balance (212 rushing yards, 244 pass yards) that we hadn’t seen in the entire season. What Rivers currently lacks in his physical structure can help with that through the brilliant QB mind that gives the Colts an advantage in chess matches almost every week. Of course, the offensive line also has some appreciation for having beautifully defended Rivers again on Sunday, allowing the Colts to hit most of the season’s big games and get an incredible 8/11 in the third disadvantage. Something we didn’t give enough credit to in 2020 – Rivers has now led the Colts to 4 straight wins on the road (most of the franchise season since 2009). No fan or not, that’s damn impressive, especially considering the huge playoff consequences that were in Nashville and Las Vegas.
2. RB # 1 and WR # 1 on the display: If you’ve been listening to Kevin’s heels over the past week, you’ve heard we emphasize the appearance of a Jonathan Taylor / TY Hilton on the football team stage. Sunday was the perfect example of this. Taylor started things in the opening series and we finally saw the ability to run at home freed up outdoors. Taylor, who has been on the field in recent weeks, has pursued a career day with 150 rushing yards, averaging 7.5 yards per carry. That was the 62-yard, thanks to the great blocking and the 4.3 40-yard dash that will be on the outstanding spool. Games like that felt exactly why Taylor was worth trading for 2ndnd I ask. And then Hilton looked like Sunday 2016 to himself, catching 5 balls in 86 yards and 2 touchdowns. It was that Hilton made a huge controversial 3rdand touching goals in the first quarter and then lagging behind the Raiders in the second quarter for a 41-yard score. There wasn’t a single match of the season where the Colts took first place and number one broadband game like Sunday. And now the opposing defense coordinators need to treat Taylor and Hilton with even more respect in December and January.
3. Kenny Moore shows the flexibility in the corner: “Frustrated.” That’s how Kenny Moore characterized his game all the way to the point where he provided arguably his best game of the 2020 NFL season. It was so uncharacteristic to see Moore give up coverage and then make a missed punch and compound what a horse collared with a penalty. But like all elite corner defenders, Moore has reacted persistently to coaches dreaming of bringing their players a 60-minute match. It started with Moore jumping / breeding a hand-caught trap on the 3rdrd-and-8 from the Colts 13-yard line in the second quarter. As Frank Reich said in retrospect, it was an Odell Beckham Jr. grabbed 5-9 Moore, whose 6-6 tight end was waiting for Darren Waller behind him for the touchdown. If this game ended as a Raiders touchdown or Moore’s only pass break, the Raiders will either close this lead with a lead or a tie. In short, this game changed the game. With INT coming to a 3:30 point in the second quarter, the Colts then drove 78 yards in 13 games, running out for the remainder of the first half when Rodrigo Blankenship scored a field goal at the half-time beeper to lead the Colts 20-14. In case Moore needed another reason to make up for his sloppy play early, he added a textbook early in the fourth quarter, the game is still somewhat questionable. Moore did on Sunday how an NFL corner should react to the ups and downs that inevitably occur from this situation. That’s another reason Moore should be a Pro Bowler in 2020.
4. Xavier Rhodes, Darius Leonard injury watches: If you see Xavier Rhodes (knee) and Darius Leonard (back) injured in a game and not returning, there is concern. But let’s start with some good news. Frank Reich didn’t have plenty of details about these injuries after Sunday’s win, but mentioned that the team’s medical staff didn’t exclude any players for the rest of the game, although none of them returned. I don’t need to remind anyone what Rhodes and Leonard mean to this football team. These are obviously injuries that need to be looked at, although the Colts seem to have avoided the season finals and none of the players have been disqualified. On the front of the injury, he was gutted by a less than 100 percent Anthony Castonzo. Castonzo left the game a bit in the first quarter because he said he was “grabbed” by his knee. Castonzo said he lost some strength in his injured knee (MCL-ficam in his right knee). He went into the locker room, tested things to make sure he wouldn’t be offended again, and returned to the game and helped the attack perform at its best this season.
5. The Colts are taking a huge step towards the playoffs: You’ve heard all week about how important this is to the Colts and the Raiders. When it came to the Colts, Sunday’s victory took on even greater significance as the Titans strangled the Jaguars in an early afternoon slate. At 9-4, the Colts are currently sixth in the AFC playoffs (Monday night’s Browns and Ravens meeting may move a few things). With Sunday’s win, the Colts can take control of the playoffs. If the Colts win 2 of their last 3 matches, it will definitely close the playoffs. Honestly, 1 more win (Texas, Steelers, Jaguars) should be enough to get in. Of course I want that home match. That means they’re over 9-4 Titan (Lions, Packers, Texans). Around Thanksgiving, we mentioned that unless the Colts lost against both Titans and The Raiders on the stage are likely to be a playoff team in 2020. Well, Sunday’s impressive effort against another playoff-hungry team showed why the Colts are likely to play meaningful games in January, and the Raiders seem to be more of a pretender category watching the offseason.
–Injury report: The following players were inactive at the Colts on Sunday: LT-Anthony Castonzo (knee), LB-Bobby Okereke (ankle), P-Rigoberto Sanchez (illness), S-Khari Willis (back, quad), QB-Jacob Eason, WR – Dezmon Patmon, DE-Ben Banogu. Corner defender Xavier Rhodes left the game in the 3rdrd quarter with a knee injury and did not return. Linebacker Darius Leonard (back) left the game in 4thth quarter and did not return.
–Key Stat: The 44 points earned was the highest for the franchise since the 13th week of the 2014 season (49 points).
–What is the next step: The Colts (9-4) will return home in Week 15, taking over the Texas (13–9) with a 13:00 kick.