INDIANAPOLIS – Finally, it was time for the Colts to be the bully.
The Colts ended a 5-game losing streak to the Titans on Sunday, controlling both lines of scrimmage in a 23-16 victory at Lucas Oil Stadium.
What did we learn from the Colts (3-2) winning their first home game in nearly a year?
FIVE THINGS LEARNED
1. Finally, Being The Bully: After multiple years of being little brother to the Titans, the Colts dictated things up front to their division rivals from Nashville on Sunday. There’s a reason why the Titans had won 5 straight in this series. Well, the Colts flipped that script on Sunday, by controlling both sides of the line of scrimmage, especially when it mattered the most in the 4th quarter. That was when the Colts all but iced the game with a 14-play, 84-yard drive, which chewed up more than 7 minutes off the clock. Fittingly, that drive started after a 4th-and-1 stuff of Derrick Henry. Had the Titans converted there, the Colts were probably looking at a 4th quarter deficit. Instead, the Colts once again bowed up in the red zone, which was a huge story in Sunday’s win. Down left tackle Bernhard Raimann, rookie Blake Freehand was much better in his second NFL start. How about a 193-yard rushing day against the NFL’s best run defense? How about holding Henry to 43 rushing yards on 13 carries? That’s winning in the trenches. When the opponent has beaten you 5 straight and you haven’t won a home game in nearly a year, the game is natural going to be circled a little bit more on the calendar. And the Colts, finally, did their bullying against Mike Vrabel’s Titans.
2. Another Anthony Richardson Injury: Unfortunately, you can’t ignore the biggest Colts storyline exiting Sunday, and that was yet another Anthony Richardson injury, and this one could lead to an extended absence. Richardson went down late in the 2nd quarter on an option play he kept. He was in visible paint right away, pointing immediately to his right (throwing) shoulder. Shane Steichen didn’t provide any Richardson update after the game. It should be noted, Richardson missed the end of his senior season in high school due to a right shoulder injury. So in 4 NFL games, Richardson has only completed one full contest. He’s played 11 quarters in the NFL (and missed 9) and suffered 4 different injuries (right shoulder, bone bruise, ankle, concussion). Again, any missed time for Richardson this early in his career is especially damning as his development is beyond vital. And the Colts bye week isn’t until mid-November, so any multi-week absence for Richardson would lead to him missing more and more precious game/practice reps. While Richardson has certainly showed promise in his early playing time, there has to be real questions about the longevity of his career, given the style he plays. You are just naturally susceptible to more hits when you run it 10-to-12 times a game. Guys with that style have history of not being able to sustain high-level careers into their 30s. All 4 of these Richardson injuries have occurred on run plays, all outside of the pocket, too. This storyline is the biggest takeaway from Sunday. That’s the reality of this season’s biggest aspect—Anthony Richardson playing and growing. And real questions about Richardson’s availability moving forward are, unfortunately, valid.
3. Zack Moss, Josh Downs Step Up: When this season started, the Colts desperately needed some skill guys to sep up. In their first home win in nearly a year leave it to Zack Moss and Josh Downs for doing just that. Moss ran 23 times for a career-high 165 yards, including a 56-yard TD run to spark things early. Downs was a perfect 6-for-6 in receptions/targets, hauling in a career-high 97 yards. These two, and not Michael Pittman Jr., Alec Pierce, or Jonathan Taylor, did the heavy lifting in the playmaking department. What a year it’s already been for Moss and his committed, straight forward running style, which has been so consistent. And Downs looks seasoned already, showing some more after the catch today, too. Certainly, a big credit to the play of the Colts offensive line and Gardner Minshew once again entering the game in the 2nd quarter and giving what you dream of out of a backup—-no turnovers, plus a nice amount of passing efficiency. Minshew was 11-of-14 for 155 yards on Sunday, doubling down on his no turnover day in Baltimore to close out now three victories on the season. It was a day for some under the radar Colts offensive players to step up and deliver.
4. Freshly Paid Jonathan Taylor Makes 2023 Debut: Wow, what a 72-hour span for Jonathan Taylor. From his first media session in 4 months, to his first practice in nearly 10 months, to signing a new 3-year contract extension to making playing in a game after missing 7 straight contests. Taylor was used sparingly on Sunday, in his first game action since Week 15 of last season. Taylor had 6 carries for 18 yards, with a long rush of 5 yards. He added 1 catch on a screen and run for 16 yards. The role for Taylor on Sunday was much more in relief of Moss, who started the game and deserved to be more of the bell cow. This split up will be something to watch as Taylor gets back into more and more football shape. But it’s a great problem to have in diving up these carries.. Right after the selection of Anthony Richardson occurred, the thought was the Colts should immediately have one of the more dangerous running games in the NFL. That thought remains, pending Richardson’s health, especially with Moss showing more and more.
5. Maintaining AFC South Pace: With Sunday’s AFC South results (wins by the Colts and Jaguars + losses by the Texans and Titans), you now have Indy and Jacksonville atop the AFC South with 3-2 records. A year after the Colts won one divisional game the entire year, they already have their second divisional win by Week Five of the season. Now the Colts are at the mid-way point of their 6-game divisional slate, with a massive one awaiting next Sunday in Jacksonville. With Jacksonville winning in London on Sunday, that only adds to the ‘really need to win in October’ type feel to next week for the Colts after already losing the first meeting between these two teams in October. Putting all of the Richardson-injury news to the side, the Colts are in the thick of a ‘who knows’ type of year in the AFC South. Sure, the Jaguars are probably still the favorite, but one win down there next week would make things a bit interesting as the mid-way point of the season approaches.
-Injury Report: The following Colts were inactive on Sunday: LT-Bernhard Raimann (concussion), DE-Kwity Paye (concussion), LB-Shaquille Leonard (groin), TE-Will Mallory. The following players got injured and did not return: QB-Anthony Richardson (shoulder), TE-Mo Alie-Cox (concussion)
-Key Stat: In three extended relief/staring periods this year, Gardner Minshew is 68-of-96 with zero turnovers, helping the Colts to wins over the Texans, Ravens, and Titans.
-What’s Next: The Colts (3-2) lone road game in a 5-week stretch comes next Sunday afternoon as they head to Jacksonville (3-2), where they haven’t won since the 2014 season.
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