INDIANAPOLIS – Heading into the final two weeks of the regular season, a 10-win season to this point still means the Colts need to do some more work in order to earn a postseason berth.
Those scenarios can be found here, but winning remains a must as the Colts (10-4) take on the struggling Steelers (11-3) this Sunday in Pittsburgh.
What did we learn from the Colts on Tuesday?
- Nick Sirianni thinks this current 3-game stretch of Philip Rivers is the best he’s seen the quarterback play (Sirianni was with the Chargers and Rivers from 2013-15). And Sirianni would put Rivers’ stretch up with anyone in the NFL right now. Rivers hasn’t thrown a pick in 3 games, producing a QB rating of 121.0 (2nd best in the NFL during this span and he’s completing 74 percent of his passes (1st in the NFL). The defenses haven’t been the ’85 Bears, but it’s still notable to see Rivers putting up these numbers while dealing with a toe injury.
- Watching DeForest Buckner get hurt in last Thursday’s practice, yet still play against the Texans, and then have a huge game for a defensive tackle even had Matt Eberflus in a bit of awe on Tuesday. Despite playing a season-low 35 snaps, a limited Buckner still produced 3 sacks and 4 quarterback hits. “That’s remarkable, isn’t it,” Eberflus said on Tuesday when asked about Buckner still putting up those numbers in a limited/banged-up role. “For him to come back (and play)…when he hurt his ankle in the practice, we were all holding our breath saying, ‘We hope he comes back.’ And he always had a positive attitude. That’s part of it with healing and treatment to have that positive attitude, to have then for your body and mind to respond the correct way. He did everything he could to get ready and then the impact he had in that football game and his leadership with his character and what he brings to our defense was just outstanding. His impact was definitely felt.”
- What was it like for special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone on Sunday to see punter Rigoberto Sanchez return and play less than three weeks removed from having surgery for a cancerous tumor. “I have to be honest, I was really emotional at the beginning of that game. I was definitely tearing up there in the beginning (after Sanchez got introduced).” The Colts did have Sanchez introduced last on Sunday, and the crowd of 10,000 acknowledged the amazing story. Sanchez handled all of his normal duties, punting 2 times for a 45.5-yard averaging, along with kicking off and holding for Rodrigo Blankenship.
- Kemoko Turay didn’t appear in the stat sheet against the Texans in playing a season-high 33 snaps, but the staff felt his presence. Frank Reich liked what Turay showed, often going up against Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil. “I think he’s getting more comfortable with his body and we are just encouraging him to keep going and stay at it,” defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said of Turay on Tuesday. “He did a better job of using his length. He’s getting more comfortable with more snaps.” Turay has played 72 snaps in his 5 games this season and is yet to record a sack or QB hit. But he showed a little more variety in his rushes on Sunday, which is a needed step.
- On the list of Pro Bowl snubs for the Colts, RT-Braden Smith is on there. Smith met the media on Tuesday and talked about how it’s even surprising that he’s found a permanent home at tackle in the NFL (he said his lone start at tackle in college came as a sophomore against Jacksonville State). Smith said he feels his game has specifically taken a jump in Year Three when it comes to the mental aspect of things. He’s using some visualization tactics this year and trying to have one play not linger and impact him. Smith, who is signed through 2022, could/should be looking at a major pay day this coming offseason.
- It will be Jim Nantz and Tony Romo on the call of Colts/Steelers this Sunday at 1:00 PM. This will be the first time that Romo has called a Colts game since his broadcast career began in 2017. The early line has the Colts favored by 1.5. In 14 prior meetings in Pittsburgh, the Colts have been favored just once.
- You think there will be some jawing between Eric Ebron and his former team on Sunday? Ebron has had some candid feelings about his end with the Colts, calling out the team’s management this summer. Lately, Ebron’s propensity to drop the football has shown up in Pittsburgh. Now, Ebron did get banged up and left Monday’s loss to the Bengals early so his availability for Sunday appears to be up in the air. In 14 games this season Ebron has 51 receptions, 511 yards, 4 TDs and 7 drops.
- Even with a couple big injuries, this will be the best defense the Colts have faced all season. The Steelers take away the football better than nearly anyone in the NFL (2nd in takeaways with 25) and rank 2nd the NFL in points allowed.
- Last year’s meeting between these two teams (a 26-24 Pittsburgh win) was a matchup of Jacoby Brissett/Brian Hoyer against Mason Rudolph. You had 5 combined turnovers in that game with Colts kicking issues again contributing to the loss. That game was when Brissett got hurt and Hoyer had to relieve him in the first half.
- The Colts will get back to practice on Wednesday, with sessions on Thursday and Friday afternoon. A Saturday morning walk-through will be had before heading to Pittsburgh for Sunday’s 1:00 PM road finale.
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