INDIANAPOLIS – What a difference a week makes.
The Colts bounced back in a necessary way in Week Two, controlling the Vikings with a 28-11 victory to show for it.
What was learned from Colts (1-1) evening their record on Sunday afternoon?
FIVE THINGS LEARNED
1. Compete Bounce Back: That’s how you bounce back in the NFL. Room for improvement remains for the Colts, but Sunday showed a team capable of winning in all facets of the game. The Colts dominated field position early on and set the tone at the line of scrimmage, while also receiving some defensive playmaking—two things we didn’t see in the season opener. Frank Reich said afterwards that Sunday’s performance was the ‘blueprint’ for how the Colts want to play. Dropping to 0-2 would have that panic button moving closer and closer. We saw Jim Irsay’s passion earlier this week in imploring for more from his team, and the fan base, for Sunday’s home opener. Reich and his entire staff had the Colts in much better positions to make plays with the final score of this game not even indicative of how much Indianapolis controlled things. The Vikings might be terrible, but the Colts need to take advantage of this early portion of their schedule. They handled their business quite well on Sunday afternoon, while also acknowledging a couple of areas for improvement (red zone play, getting more from T.Y. Hilton).
2. Stickier Defense: Unlike last week, Colts defenders were put in a better position to make plays, on a much more frequent basis. From the first drive on Sunday, the Colts played closer to the line of scrimmage. It led to more timing being disrupted, throws contested on a routine basis and a really impressive defensive performance for the Colts. The playmaking was at an elite level from Matt Eberflus’ unit, thanks to the defense altering the approach we saw in Week 1. The Colts made Kirk Cousins look like he didn’t belong in the league for much of Sunday’s contest, with the Minnesota QB going 11-of-26 for 113 yards and 3 interceptions. Cousins’ passer rating of 15.9 was easily the lowest of his 95 career starts. It’s this ability for the defense to change things up/be more aggressive that can lead to opposing QBs getting rattled early and that impacting the entire game. Whereas the defensive stars were void of big plays for the Colts last week, Kenny Moore, Darius Leonard and DeForest Buckner showed up early and often in Sunday’s home opener. The Colts finished Sunday with an eye-popping 9 passes defensed, 3.0 sacks and 3 interceptions, allowing just 7 first downs until the final series of the game. Oh yeah, and they scored two points, via a safety.
3. Rookies Deliver: With some key injuries impacting the Colts early in this 2020 season, they are going to need to count on their rookies a lot more this year. On Sunday, the early picks all contributed in key ways. You had the future at running back showing that time is now with the Colts pounding Jonathan Taylor to the tune of 26 carries for 101 yards and a touchdown. Reich said after the 28-11 win that the Colts planned to feature Taylor and we certainly saw that in a big way. You had Michael Pittman playing through a toe injury and catching 4 balls for 37 yards (several of those coming at important moments in the first half). And safety Julian Blackmon made his NFL debut. Blackmon had two tackles and a timely deflection in coverage which led to a Khari Willis interception. When Malik Hooker exited with an Achilles injury right before half, Blackmon then started alongside Willis. Is the future now at safety, too? We’ll see. But, nonetheless, this trio stepped up on Sunday and will play pivotal roles to this team getting into the month of January this season.
4. Mo Alie-Cox Coming Out Party: Entering Week Two, we talked about how big of an opportunity this was for Mo Alie-Cox. With the Colts down Jack Doyle (knee, ankle) and Trey Burton (calf), it was Alie-Cox heading into the starting lineup for a great chance at impressing this staff. Well, the former college basketball player did that, especially in responding from an early drop that led to a red-zone interception. Alie-Cox, who turned 27 years old on Saturday, hauled in all 5 of his other targets for a career-high 111 yards. In his third NFL season, Alie-Cox has longed received praise from the staff regarding his oozing potential. It’s the receiving part of Alie-Cox’s game that has taken a bit of time to develop, especially his route running. We saw some strides in that on Sunday, with Alie-Cox providing such a great frame (at 6-5 and 267 pounds) well down the field. Earlier this week, when Philip Rivers learned that Doyle would be out, the veteran QB went to Reich and Nick Sirianni and expressed confidence in targeting Alie-Cox and having him be a big factor in the offense. Alie-Cox answered that call well. At 27 years old, Alie-Cox can be a really important piece for the Colts moving forward. And, of course, for the time being with Doyle and Burton on the mend.
5. Rock Ya-Sin Misses Game Due To Illness: The Colts experienced their first true ‘life in 2020’ moment on Sunday afternoon. It remains to be see if Rock Ya-Sin has COVID, but an illness that developed Sunday morning at the stadium forced the second-year corner to miss the game. Ya-Sin was transported to a local hospital with a stomach illness prior to Sunday’s kickoff. As of Sunday morning, Ya-Sin was not on the NFL’s COVID/reserve list, with the expectation that he would play after he practiced all week. Remember, the Colts have not had a positive COVID test for a player since the start of training camp (nearly two months). Without Ya-Sin, the Colts had only 4 healthy cornerbacks: Kenny Moore, Xavier Rhodes, T.J. Carrie and Isaiah Rodgers. Speaking of absences, the Colts have a couple of big injuries to monitor with Parris Campbell (knee) and Malik Hooker (Achilles) both exiting Sunday’s game in the first half. Campbell was carted off and Frank Reich said the injury ‘didn’t look good,’ with the severity not yet known.
–Injury Report: The Colts had the following players inactive on Sunday: TE-Jack Doyle (knee, ankle), CB-Rock Ya-Sin (illness), LB-E.J. Speed. QB-Jacob Eason, WR-Dezmon Patmon, DT-Eli Anoku. Scond-year wideout Parris Campbell (knee) left the game after the second play, following a hit by Minnesota safety Harrison Smith. Linebacker Matthew Adams (ankle) left the game in the second quarter and did not return. Safety Malik Hooker (Achilles) left the game in the second quarter and did not return. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes (cramps) left the game in the third quarter and did not return.
–Key Stat: The Colts had a 100-yard rusher (Jonathan Taylor) and a 100-yard receiver (Mo Alie-Cox) on Sunday for the first time since 2010.
–What’s Next: The Colts (1-1) are back at home in Week Three, hosting the New York Jets (0-2). Lucas Oil Stadium is allowed to have 7,500 fans for the 4:05 PM kickoff in Week Three.