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INDIANAPOLIS – Here’s our latest ‘hits and misses’ piece on 1070TheFan.com highlighting the good and bad from the previous game.
The Colts enter their bye week fresh off one of their best offensive performances of the season, in a 42-28 victory over the Raiders.
What was the good and bad from Week Eight of the regular season?
-Tight Ends Historic Day: Frank Reich wasn’t kidding all offseason long when he would offer up how much he loved using tight ends in his offense and how that position also happened to be the deepest on the Colts’ roster. On Sunday, the Colts became the first team in NFL history to have three tight ends catch a touchdown in a game. The massive day from the Indy tight ends started with Mo Alie-Cox making a catch that should appear on any NFL highlight montage at the end of the season. Remember, Alie-Cox was probably the Colts’ sixth tight end in Training Camp. But, with Ross Travis tearing his ACL, Darrell Daniels being traded to Seattle and Erik Swoope having to miss Sunday, the Colts haven’t been afraid to call Alie-Cox’s number. Following Alie-Cox’s TD snag, the Colts received their normal contributions from Eric Ebron (3 catches for 37 yards and a touchdown) and Jack Doyle (6 catches for 70 yards and a touchdown). With how poor the play has been this season from the Colts’ wide receivers, this is a team that has really needed the sort of production they’ve received from the entire tight end group
-Everyone Involved In The Run Game: Game balls for the run game need to be divided up to so many people: the offensive line, Marlon Mack and the running backs, the attention received courtesy of T.Y. Hilton, Andrew Luck’s pre-snap reads and Frank Reich’s strong commitment to establish that ground game. On Sunday, the Colts piled up 222 rushing yards on 40 carries. What really stood out to me was all three running backs contributing with huge yards per carry numbers: Marlon Mack had 5.3 YPC (25 carries for 132 yards), Nyheim Hines had 7.1 YPC (11 carries for 78 yards) and Jordan Wilkins (2 carries for 14 yards). It didn’t matter the running back, huge holes were being created by this new-found offensive line group. Credit to Hines for looking like a natural tailback on several of his runs on Sunday.
-Andrew Luck: It’s not often Andrew Luck takes a backseat to a pair of huge days from the Colts’ offense. But he has, thanks to the run game producing back-to-back 200-plus yard days for the first time since 1985. Still, Luck has had two of his most efficient games ever, especially coming in consecutive games. Luck was 22-of-31 for 3 touchdowns and 239 yards against the Raiders. On non-kneel down drives, Luck led the Colts to 8 scores in 9 series on Sunday. That’s beyond impressive, with the first six drives on Sunday all starting inside the Colts’ 25-yard line. The Colts have scored 30 or more points in 3 straight games for the first time since 2010. Their quarterback is starting to approach one of the more efficient stretches of his career in throwing the football.
-Starting, Finishing: There were some pretty dark moments for the Colts in the second and third quarters on Sunday. But how they started and finished that game was the exact blueprint you want on the road. Think about this: the Raiders had the ball for 3:43 COMBINED in the first and fourth quarters. The Colts had the ball for 26:17 in those two quarters. They outscored the Raiders 31-0 during that time. Too many times under Chuck Pagano did the Colts go through long stretches of either starting slow or finishing slow. Neither was the case for Frank Reich’s team on Sunday.
-Darius Leonard’s Tomahawk Chop: It’s a play you won’t find on any tackling 101 film going forward. But Darius Leonard, even just halfway through his rookie season, has earned the right to take some chances. He took one in the fourth quarter on Sunday, when he punched the ball out of Doug Martin’s control. The forced fumble set up a game-clinching touchdown for the Colts. It was such a tremendous instinctual play from the rookie linebacker. Leonard clearly had the confidence to take a chance where a missed tackle there could have led to another big Oakland gain.
-Defensive Consistency: The reason this game had some uneasy moments for Colts’ fans came from really poor play in the second and third quarters. It was the sort of leakage and inability to execute like we saw earlier this month against the Patriots and Jets. The consistent playmaking was missing, too. It reappeared in the fourth quarter. But the Colts finished Sunday with just one quarterback hit and no tackles for loss. Those are areas they’ve really done a nice job with this season. At one point Sunday, Derek Carr had completed 17 straight passes. Despite the Raiders missing their top receiver and top running back, Oakland produced 4 touchdown drives, all of at least 75 yards. Poor tackling, a rise in penalties and just a lack of execution led to one of the lowlier defensive efforts we’ve seen from the Colts in 2018. Coming into Sunday, the Raiders had scored 13 points in the entire month of October. They put up 28 points against the Colts, all coming on lengthy drives.
-Secondary Play: Was it the loss of Malik Hooker that led to a struggling afternoon for the Indy secondary? Who knows, but the play from the defensive backs was a negative on Sunday. Starting cornerback Nate Hairston was benched after allowing a first-half touchdown. Hairston started, yet played just 9 defensive snaps on Sunday, as Pierre Desir took over for him and the Colts used Arthur Maulet in nickel packages. With Hooker out and then Mike Mitchell leaving the game in the third quarter, the Raiders found some success with a vertical passing game. Take out the anemic Bills, and the Colts have really, really struggled with their pass defense over the past month. Getting just one hit on Derek Carr didn’t help things either for the secondary on Sunday.
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