INDIANAPOLIS – A blaring Jim Irsay rendition of “We Will Rock You” is the perfect way to describe what the Colts did to the Bills on Sunday afternoon.
It was a butt-whooping by the Colts on Sunday, thrashing the Bills, 41-15, in western New York.
What did we learn from the Colts (6-5) climbing above .500 for the first time all year?
FIVE THINGS LEARNED
1. Colts Can Beat Legit Opponents: Finally, the monkey is off the Colts back. Entering Sunday, the Colts had lost 8 straight games against playoff teams. As I pointed out this week, it wasn’t like the Colts were getting blown off the field in such games. They were close, and had some golden chances earlier this year to get such wins. But they couldn’t close against those teams. Sunday was different. A clinical start carried into the Colts handling the elements better than the residents of western New York, and then putting a stamp on the win of the year, and the finest performance of the Frank Reich/Chris Ballard era. For those nervous at halftime if the Colts would blow another one, it never got close to such anxiety. The Indy defense did its part with an early three-and-out. The offense responded with clock-eating drives, and a pair of third-quarter TDs. This was the killer instinct that had been lacking for the past year. Now, to keep pushing further up the AFC standings and secure a playoff berth, the Colts will have to find more of these wins down the stretch. But Sunday was the first step in that.
2. Jonathan Taylor Needs To Be In MVP Conversation: It won’t happen because the NFL’s MVP voters don’t respect running backs, but Jonathan Taylor is one of the best players in the NFL. Period. We knew the potential for Taylor to have a huge day on Sunday was there with Buffalo missing two key defensive parts up the middle. But no one could have seen a franchise-record 5 touchdowns before the 4th quarter even started for Taylor. On Sunday, Taylor had the look of a runner built for the playoffs, being able to take a game over, and doing it against a defense that came into the game as one of the league’s best units. Taylor finished the afternoon with 32 carries for 185 yards. He added another 3 catches for 19 yards, with 5 total touchdowns. The Bills got some hands on Taylor early in plays, but he dusted off those would-be tacklers, heading for his end-zone home. In 2021, there’s been plenty of debate on how often Taylor touches the football. Taylor touched it on 19 of the Colts 31 offensive plays in the first half, carrying out a committed and focused game plan. And by no coincidence, the Colts had a 17-point lead at halftime. You think this is a good upcoming week for Hard Knocks to feature Jonathan Taylor?
3. Hat Tip To Frank Reich, Matt Eberflus: The Colts have been tremendous in early-game scripts this season, but the Bills came into Sunday having allowed just 6 first-quarter points all season long. Well, a scripted game plan from Frank Reich led to the Colts leading 14-0 at the end of Sunday’s opening quarter. It wasn’t just the play calls though that stood out. You also had a key game management decision by Reich in there when the Colts defense was on the field. Reich decided to accept a 3rd-and-8 holding penalty by the Bills, thus sending Buffalo out of field goal range for a 3rd-and-18. Against, Josh Allen that brings in some risk. Well, Allen tossed an INT to George Odum on the play. In a blowout, these plays/moments can get lost in the shuffle a bit. Defensively, with Eberflus’ unit executing an important rush plan against Allen, and disguising things well pre-snap, the Indy defense got important stops before and after halftime to halt any potential momentum for the home team. You didn’t see Allen finding the off-script magic that he did in last year’s playoff loss. Anytime you go on the road and put together a performance like the Colts did on Sunday, particularly against a legit opponent, the coaching staff deserves major credit. At times, these two have held the Colts back this season. That was definitely not the case on Sunday.
4. Handling The Elements Again: For the second time this season, it’s been the “dome-climate” Colts that have handled the wind and rain far better than their opponent. Just like last month in San Francisco, the Colts looked rather comfortable in the ugly Buffalo weather on Sunday. They didn’t have a fatal fumble on a kick return with no one touching the returner. They avoided drops. They kicked the ball better. They went through the entire first half without a penalty, which helped contribute to the best half of the season. Granted, this is likely the last iffy weather game the Colts will have the rest of the regular season (inside in Houston, inside in Las Vegas, outside in Jacksonville). But if playoff football is going to happen, and a road game against Baltimore, Kansas City or New England is needed, the Colts have shown they can handle some ugly weather.
5. Moving Up In The Standings: In winning 3 straight games, the Colts are now over .500 for the first time all season and are climbing closer and closer to the top 7 of the AFC. At 6-5, the Colts are still outside the Wild Card picture, in 9th place after being in 12th at the start of November. But they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. No matter the Colts opponent on Sunday, finding a win was the sole goal. Adding to that though, beating the Bills (6-4) now has Buffalo in the Wild Card mix and the Colts with a head-to-head tiebreaker over them. Wins, especially conference wins, need to keep on coming for the Colts because the Wild Card remains the realistic playoff path. While the Titans (8-3) did lose on Sunday, their magic number to win the AFC South remains 4 (combination of Titans wins/Colts losses), with 6 weeks to go. How good were the Colts on Sunday? Carson Wentz got to sit out the final series—marking his first missed snaps of the season (non injury-related), as Sam Ehlinger put this one on ice. And, no, the Colts will still be sending that first-round pick to Philadelphia. But it was another sign of thorough of a beat down this was by the Colts.
-Injury Report: Linebacker Matthew Adams left the game in third quarter with an ankle injury. Guard Quenton Nelson left the game in the third quarter and did not return. The team’s inactives were as followed: RB-Marlon Mack, DT-Antwaun Woods, OT-Julie’n Davenport, OL-Will Fries, WR-Mike Strachan.
-Key Stat: Jonathan Taylor now has had 100 yards from scrimmage and a rushing TD in 8 straight games. It ties the longest streak in NFL history.
–What’s Next: The Colts (6-5) will close out November with another big one inside of Lucas Oil Stadium. It’ll be Tom Brady, Bruce Arians and the Bucs (6-4) coming off a short week and playing the Colts next Sunday at 1:00 PM.