INDIANAPOLIS – Play to your standard, not the competition.
The Colts were much closer to the first part of that statement on Sunday, rolling to a 36-7 win over the Jets (0-3).
What was learned from the Colts (2-1) winning their second straight home game?
FIVE THINGS LEARNED
1. Cornerbacks Bring Playmaking: Without looking at the final score, you could find several stats in the box score that would make you believe this game was actually somewhat close. But the biggest outlier is what the Colts did in the turnover department, thanks to the cornerbacks. Xavier Rhodes picked off two passes, returning one for a touchdown and the other coming in the end zone. T.J. Carrie also added a pick six of his own in the second half. The Colts received great playmaking from their corners on Sunday. It was Rhodes in man coverage returning a pick for a TD on the game’s opening drive, setting the tone for the convincing victory. Rhodes added another INT in the end zone during the second quarter, halting any chance for the Jets to try and make this a game into the second half. Let’s throw Kenny Moore into this note as well, as the smallest Colts defender finally got an elusive Sam Darnold to the ground on a blitzing sack, to go along with a pass deflection, too, in the opening half. This trio of corners, with Rock Ya-Sin (illness) missing his second straight game, will obviously face much more potent passing offenses in 2020, but it was still notable to see such rare playmaking, with the Colts returning two interceptions for touchdowns for the first time since 1970. Throw in a mop-up safety, and the Colts defense outscored the Jets offense, 16-7 on Sunday. When your defense nearly covers a double-digit spread, it’s a good day of work.
2. Better In The Red Zone: The biggest takeaway from the starting offense on Sunday was that unit going 2-of-2 in the red zone. Entering Week 3, the Colts were one of the worst teams in the NFL in converting red-zone opportunities this season. They were 2-of-2 on Sunday, which allowed the Colts to continue to be in full control of the lowly Jets. The first red-zone TD came on a well-designed play-action fake, with jumbo personnel in the game, to a wide-open Mo Alie-Cox in the end zone. In the second half, it was Jonathan Taylor side-stepping a free rusher for a one-yard plunge on a 4th-and-Goal. Philip Rivers had another efficient day of work, going 17-of-21 for 217 yards, 1 touchdown and 0 interceptions. Reich said Rivers ‘played unreal’ in having another day of better than 80 percent passing. The Colts continue to be the only team in the NFL without a three-and-out + punt through three games. Still, capping drives has been a problem. They were better on Sunday in the red zone, although this will continue to be something to watch.
3. Not As Crisp As Scoreboard Says: Anytime you beat an NFL team by 29 points, it’s noteworthy. Yes, the Jets are a truly horrible football team, but the Colts still more than doubled the spread on Sunday. However, it wasn’t as dominant of a performance early on as many thought might happen. The trench play was inconsistent throughout the first half and the tackling was spotty. Frank Reich wasn’t pleased with the offense going 3-of-10 on third down, either. It was an early struggle to get the Colts run game going above more than 3.5 yards per carry. Conversely, the Jets were able to reach 4 yards per carry in the first half. And the only sack with the starters in there came courtesy of the Kenny Moore blitz. This result was never going to be an indicator of potential January success for the Colts. Maybe a better glimpse will come next week against a Bears team who has (somehow) started 3-0. Still, nearly a 30-point win with seemingly no major injuries is a solid afternoon for the Colts. Outside of a close game in the first quarter, this never had the feel of a 2018 Jaguars or 2019 Dolphins type of day. And it was also a game in which the Colts appeared to exit without any injuries.
4. No Drops For T.Y. Hilton: You had to know the first pass of the game was going to go to T.Y. Hilton. It wasn’t a heavily targeted day for Hilton, but he did catch all 3 of the passes thrown his way for 52 yards. Who knows if this will be a jolt of confidence for the Pro Bowler? But it was his best day of the 2020 season. Hilton being that consistent No. 1 wideout for the Colts has taken on more of an importance with the injury to Parris Campbell. It’s been quite some time since we’ve actually seen that for Hilton, on any sort of frequent basis. Hilton has now gone 16 straight games without 100 yards receiving, only eclipsing the 75-yard mark in 2 of those 16 contests. Seeing how the Bears and Chuck Pagano try to defend Hilton next Sunday should be interesting.
5. One For Chris Ballard: Man, the Jets have a pathetic roster of NFL talent. You can see why Chris Ballard casted off around a dozen guys that now play for the Jets. But looking specifically at the cornerback group on Sunday and you see where Ballard has made upgrades this offseason. While the Jets have Pierre Desir, Quincy Wilson and Nate Hairston, among others, playing corner, the Colts went out and got veterans T.J. Carrie and Xavier Rhodes this offseason, believing changes were needed in the secondary. Cutting Desir (and then signing Rhodes) received the most headlines. Sunday was a definite win for those moves by Ballard, with game balls deserving to go to the likes of Rhodes and Carrie, while Desir was whistled for a pass interference penalty in the end zone.
-Injury Report: The Colts had the following players inactive on Sunday: CB-Rock Ya-Sin (illness), QB-Jacob Eason, WR-Dezmon Patmon, DT-Eli Anoku. Rookie wideout Michael Pittman left the game late in the second quarter with an ankle injury but did return. There were no other announced injuries for the Colts.
–Key Stat: On Sunday, Philip Rivers became the 6th quarterback in NFL history to throw 400 touchdowns for a career. Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre and Dan Marino are the others.
–What’s Next: The Colts (2-1) are headed for the road the next two weeks. They will take on the Bears (3-0) and Chuck Pagano next Sunday at 1:00 PM.