INDIANAPOLIS – In the most pressure-packed, 60-plus minute game of the season for the Indianapolis Colts, they received contributions from their youth that could be huge for January (and beyond).
Projecting impact for the 2020 rookies was always difficult, outside of the obvious in Michael Pittman and Jonathan Taylor.
But through an undrafted kicker winning a head-to-head camp competition and a safety shattering realistic expectations less than a year after tearing an ACL, the Colts had rookies deliver on Sunday unlike we’ve seen all season long.
Michael Pittman: The continued emergency of the rookie wideout saw him score his first NFL touchdown on Sunday. How about the yards after catch for Pittman on his 45-yard score in Sunday’s first quarter? Pittman finished Sunday with 3 catches for 66 yards, looking again like a major weapon with the ball in his hands. The rise of Pittman here in November was needed. He was thought to be a ready-made guy from Day 1. He’s showing it now.
Jonathan Taylor: Honestly, I think this was Taylor’s best game of his rookie season. Yeah, he didn’t get into the end zone or crack 100 yards, but he gave this offense needed production and consistentcy in the critical third quarter. Taylor finished Sunday with 90 rushing yards on 22 carries (while adding 4 catches for 24 yards). What was truly impressive about the work Taylor did on Sunday is it came with him looking like RB3 on the depth chart early in this one, but more importantly his ability to create some big runs on his own, even when the blocking wasn’t set-up for a positive gain. This was something we hadn’t seen enough from Taylor.
Julian Blackmon: When the Packers won the coin toss in overtime, you could feel a collective ‘oh bleep’ shout from Colts Nation. But leave it to Julian Blackmon to make another Defensive Rookie of the Year type play. It was Blackmon first splitting a double team on a 2nd-and-2 screen pass and then stripping Packers wideout Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a fumble that put the Colts on the doorstep of a game-winning field goal try. Again, this is a free safety coming up and attacking a block on the perimeter, disengaging from it to make the tackle and then also seeking out a loosely carried ball to cause the fumble. Simply, Blackmon is a stud.
Rodrigo Blankenship: While the distance of Hot Rod is a question, his reliability inside of 45 yards continues to be there. And it was seen with Blankenship kicking an arrow through the uprights from 39 yards out in overtime for the game winner. As the Colts have gone through their 7-3 start this season, they’ve largely avoided the need for many pressure-filled moments or kicks in the 4th quarter. That was not the case on Sunday. Hot Rod stepped up and split the uprights to cap a stretch in which he’s made 16 of his last 17 field goal attempts.
Certainly, what these four did on Sunday was huge for the Colts coming back to record the finest home win in the Frank Reich era.
And yet it resonates even more when you think a little more big picture.
If the Colts are going to get on a run this January, these names above will play critical roles in this team’s ceiling rising, with needed skill talent, a game-changing defender and a sound placekicker.