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INDIANAPOLIS – Another win heading into the gauntlet.

The Colts are now tied atop the AFC South thanks to a 41-21 victory in Detroit in Week Eight.

What was learned from the Colts (5-2) returning from their bye week with a 20-point victory over the Lions (3-4)?

 

FIVE THINGS LEARNED

1. Colts Runaway From Lions: As has been the norm in virtually every Colts victory this season, the 4th quarter was pretty low stress on Sunday. That came with the Colts defense stuffing any attempt of a Lions run game, and then ramping up the big plays. It came with Philip Rivers putting together another accurate and efficient afternoon of spreading the ball around (23-of-33 for 262 yards and 3 touchdowns), despite no run game support early on. The Colts were a couple of scores better than the Lions for so much of Sunday, and the scoreboard eventually indicated that at the end of the day. All throughout Sunday you saw reasons why the Lions have now lost 7 straight games at home and entered Week Eight without being above average in any meaningful statistical category. But when you give up a punt block and yet still will by 20 points, it’s a good day of work, especially for a team still figuring out how to win away from home.

2. Game-Changing Defensive Plays Return: With the Colts defense again absolutely stifling the opposing run game (29 rushing yards on 13 carries), that unit got back to the serious playmaking bunch it was earlier in the season. Detroit had some momentum late in the third quarter, having cut the lead to 20-14 and nearing the red zone on another drive. Then, The Maniac announced his presence. Darius Leonard got ahold of Matthew Stafford on a blitz and that long wingspan of No. 53 stripped the ball for a critical turnover. The Colts cashed in on that turnover, with a 1-yard plunge from Jordan Wilkins capping an 8-play drive. And then scored 10 seconds later when Kenny Moore iced the game with a pick six. The Leonard play was probably the biggest on the entire afternoon. When healthy this season, Leonard had yet to make those game-changing plays we have become used to in his 3 NFL seasons. This strip/sack was Leonard getting back to what he does best. Along with Leonard and Moore, the Colts got notable performances from Tyquan Lewis (who started for the 1st time this season and recorded 2 sacks) and Denico Autry (2 sacks). And it should be mentioned that the Colts held Lions star wideout Kenny Golladay to 0 catches on 4 targets before he left due to a hip injury.

3. Career Day For Jordan Wilkins: Sorry, fantasy owners. No one could have predicted this performance from Jordan Wilkins. Entering Sunday, Wilkins had played just 6 offensive snaps in the past two games. But with the run game again struggling, and Jonathan Taylor not producing (11 carries for 22 yards), Wilkins was the Colts RB1 for the entire second half. Taylor only had 1 carry after halftime, with Wilkins finishing with a career-high 20 carries for 89 yards and a touchdown. The run game issues are still a mystery (Taylor and Nyheim Hines combined for 30 yards on 16 carries), but Wilkins certainly gave this part of the offense such an important spark. The question is very real looking ahead: Should the Colts give Wilkins that starting/lead back role? The run game problems aren’t solely on Taylor, but the rookie hasn’t given this rushing offense anywhere near the jolt that it was looking for. It might not last, but Wilkins should be the lead back against Baltimore next Sunday. This run game needs something different and the third-year back from Ole Miss gave it something we haven’t seen since Week Two.

4. Nyheim Hines Spark Needs To Be There Moving Forward: His celebrations were worthy of something you’d see on a Tokyo gymnastics floor next summer. And they were seen thanks to Nyheim Hines doing what he, and the Colts, have dreamed of since he was drafted in April 2018. We’ve seen Hines impact via the return game. But it’s what Hines did on offense against the Lions that would be huge for this team moving forward. It was Hines in the open field scoring showing off his elite track speed, spinning and leaping into the end zone for touchdown receptions of 22 and 29 yards in Sunday’s first half. One of the TD’s was an in-motion Hines causing major confusion and indecisions for the Detroit defense. The other was Hines split out wide just winning 1-on-1 via a go route. It’s this versatility and pop that Hines can bring to the Colts offense. And with T.Y. Hilton (groin) leaving in Sunday’s first half, the Colts could really use another weapon to emerge consistently.

5. Let The January Tests Begin: For the Colts to be in solid playoff position at this point of the season, a 5-2 record was the floor considering the easiness of the first seven games (the Colts were favored in six of those seven games). Credit Frank Reich and his team for being 3 games above .500, tied for first in the AFC South and having a little Wild Card cushion. But things are about to ramp up big time with week-in-week-out tests against teams that have definite January aspirations. And the Colts know they can’t have the special teams issues we saw on Sunday, and must get more from their run game. This will be such a great measuring stick to see how serious of a playoff threat the Colts are in 2020. Here’s the rest of November for the Colts: Ravens (5-2), at Titans (5-2), Packers (5-2), Titans (5-2). While three of those four will be at home, the Colts will still get a test they’ve yet to face in 2020. It’s time.

 

QUICK HITTERS

-Injury Report: The Colts had the following players inactive on Sunday: QB-Jacob Eason, WR-Dezmon Patmon, DE-Ron’Dell Carter, CB-Tremon Smith, TE-Noah Togiai. Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (groin) left the game in the second quarter and did not return. Wide receiver Ashton Dulin (knee) exited in the second half and did not return. Cornerback Rock Ya-Sin (concussion evaluation) left in the 4th quarter and did not return.

Key Stat: After playing just 6 total offensive snaps in the last two games, Jordan Wilkins had a career-high 15 carries against the Lions.

What’s Next: The Colts (5-2) are coming back home in Week Nine. They will take on the Ravens (5-2) next Sunday at 1:00, before a trip to Nashville for Thursday Night Football to play the Titans (5-2).