INDIANAPOLIS – How about that for some drama?
Finally locked in a game with fourth-quarter drama, it was the Colts making more plays than the NFC-leading Packers to record a thrilling 34-31 overtime comeback win on Sunday afternoon.
What was learned from the Colts (7-3) earning the best home win in the Frank Reich era?
FIVE THINGS LEARNED
1. Drama, Drama, Drama: How was that one for the heart, Colts fans? Unlike this time last season, the Colts haven’t really had much drama in the fourth quarter this season. Game pressure was fully alive on Sunday though and the Colts did more than the Packers in those moments, amidst one of the wilder finishes you’ll ever see. In scoring 17 unanswered points to start the second half, the Colts turned a game that easily could have gotten away from them into a victory that Jim Irsay called one of the best home wins in franchise history. Sure, the game-management at the end by the Colts was more than a little shaky, but the defense still defended the red zone on the final Green Bay drive to force a field goal and then Julian Blackmon made yet another Defensive Rookie of the Year type of play with his strip in overtime (after splitting a double team). Learning how to win, learning how to come from behind, learning how to thrive in pressure-packed situations are all steps to building a contending team. The Colts have looked like a contender here in November and that’s a different tune than they were signing this time last year.
2. Hot Rod’s Game Winner: Golfers dream to hit the ball as straight as that game-winning kick by Rodrigo Blankenship. And that was easily the most pressure-packed kick Hot Rod has had as an NFL rookie. The 39-yarder was flawless, with the snap of Luke Rhodes and hold by Rigoberto Sanchez on point, too. Blankenship was short on a 50-yarder earlier in the game, hitting the crossbar, not having the distance on his longest field goal attempt of the season. One year after having so many questions in the placekicking department, the undrafted rookie from Georgia has been so steady. As for the entire special teams unit, that group again stepped up for the Colts. After Blankenship was good from 32 yards out with 11:17 to go in the 4th quarter (tying the score at 28) practice squad call-up Cassius Marsh forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and veteran safety Tavon Wilson recovered it. Blankenship capped that great field position with a field goal from 41 yards to give the Colts their first lead of the game. Defensively and offensively, the Colts had their expected hiccups on Sunday, but that special teams unit again was the catalyst in making plays that are needed to beat the NFL’s elite. You think special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone, who was watching the game at home due for COVID reasons, was a happy viewer?
3. There’s Jonathan Taylor: Let’s be honest: this was not supposed to be the Jonathan Taylor breakout game. It was Nyheim Hines getting the start and Jordan Wilkins starting another series, before Taylor got his real chance. Taylor was RB3 to start this game. But in the second quarter, the Colts decided to turn to Taylor more. The success initially wasn’t great (7 carries for 18 yards at halftime), but he helped change the game in the 3rd quarter. Taylor did the heavy lifting to get the offense going after halftime, and finished the game with 90 rushing yards on 22 carries (along with 4 catches for 24 yards). The production won’t win many people a fantasy matchup, but it was how Taylor looked in creating those yards that left an impression. For several of those runs, it was Taylor turning plays that looked like they were going nowhere into positive runs. This is something we hadn’t seen enough from Taylor in his rookie campaign. Down 14 at half, Frank Reich stuck with the run (against a Green Bay defense that has struggled against the run) and trusted his rookie running back to carry a heavy workload. Taylor delivered, and allowed this offense to support the defense forcing back-to-back three-and-outs in the third quarter. In Sunday’s second half, Taylor looked the closest we’ve seen to that No. 1 running back, which this team really needs to help diversify the offense. Taylor was among several rookies who delivered on Sunday.
4. Second Half Team: How about the Colts in the second half the last two weeks? Trailing to the Titans and Packers, they’ve outscored two conference finalists from last season by a score of 37-3. A combination of necessary second-half adjustments, playing a full 60 minutes, and capitalizing on complementary football has given the Colts two of the best wins in the Frank Reich era. Against Green Bay, it was the Colts defense bouncing back to force key three-and-outs, with the offense sustaining drives and helping to keep Aaron Rodgers on the sideline. Obviously, the Colts need to play better in first halves, but it’s still very impressive to see what they’ve done in the final two quarters. That has to give the Colts a jolt of confidence as they are in the midst of their toughest stretch of the season. Unlike Sunday’s first half, the Colts finally took advantage of Green Bay mistakes and every unit stepped up in a major way.
5. Proving You Can Do It In Other Ways: Frank Reich talked about it before and after this one, playing the Packers is a bigger deal. Yes, all 16 games count the same in the standings, but the challenge against playing Green Bay offers a different type of barometer when talking about playoff success. How would the Colts face against the first legit passing offense they’ve seen this season? How would they handle facing one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history? The Colts had proven that they could stop top-flight rushing teams this season (Titans) or win a shootout (Bengals), but this one had more at stake. And the Colts have now proven they can take a punch from one of the best teams/offenses in the NFL and punch back, and do it again and again. Yes, moving to 7-3 on the season is big. However, this one is a win that proves the Colts are capable of winning games in January against a variety of teams. That’s telling, and something to build on for the final 6 games of the season.
–Injury Report: The Colts had the following players inactive on Sunday: TE-Noah Togiai (knee), OT-Braden Smith (thumb), CB-Isaiah Rodgers (knee), QB-Jacob Eason, WR-Dezmon Patmon, DE-Ben Banogu, LB-Matthew Adams. Colts linebacker Anthony Walker got hurt in overtime and did not return.
–Key Stat: Per ESPN: Aaron Rodgers is 95-2 in his career when his teams are leading by at least 14 points. He’s 1-2 against the Colts in such games, with Indianapolis recording comeback home wins over Rodgers and the Packers in 2012 and now 2020, too.
–What’s Next: The Colts (7-3) will have one more home game this month, taking on the Titans (7-3) in another massive one next Sunday at 1:00 PM.