INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts—in first place of the AFC South—made quite the September statement on Sunday.
In one of the wilder final few minutes of regulation, plus overtime, it was the “indoor” Colts (2-1) handling Sunday’s less than ideal elements better than the “outdoor” Ravens (2-1).
What did we learn from the Colts winning in overtime, 22-19?
1. Colts Survive Wild AfternoonSource:Getty
1. Colts Survive Wild Afternoon: Led by a historic kicking day, a stout defensive front and enough timely offense, the Colts outlasted Baltimore in overtime on Sunday. And it came in one of the more notable wins this franchise has had in quite some time, given the opponent, the quarterback on the opposing sideline and the location of the game. Leave it to the dome team, in their first outdoor game of the year, handling some rainy/windy/wet elements much better than the outdoor team in Baltimore. It’s not like the Colts have been practicing in poor weather either. But the Colts were the team who committed no turnovers, winning that battle 2-0, which was a huge reason why the road team won on Sunday. Part of the overall Sunday survival was overcoming a passing offense that barely did anything with Gardner Minshew under center, nor properly accounting for free Ravens rushers (i.e. Kyle Hamilton) at all. Of course, even scoring just 19 points against Baltimore isn’t something we’ve seen very often in games at the home of the Ravens. The stinginess of this Baltimore defense entering Sunday was quite impressive. In its 5 previous home games, Baltimore had allowed just 1 total. Colts running back Zack Moss had another week of running hard, clearly playing through some injury, to rush for 122 yards on 30 carries, and made a hell of a TD snag on a key third down in the opening half. Michael Pittman Jr. had one of his finest moments as a pro in a huge turn of events 34-yard overtime grab. And Gus Bradley’s defense kept the Baltimore offense to just 2 “big” drives on a day in which the Ravens had 15 series, and no plays of more than 20 yards. The Colts defensive front continues to be a playmaking group, which has been vital to this early-season success. Sunday’s game never had either team reach a two-possession lead, and had the feel of who will crack first. Opportunities to win were probably more abundant for the Ravens, but it was the Colts showing some fortitude in winning a game in which they were a touchdown-underdog. Talk about quite the early September statement in this start to the Shane Steichen era.
2. Historic Day From Matt GaySource:Getty
Historic Day From Matt Gay: A day like Sunday—one in which new Colts kicker Matt Gay made a wildly impressive 4 field goals of north of 50 yards (outdoors!)—is why the Colts gave their new kicker one of the highest kicker contracts in NFL history. On a day when points were at a premium, Gay capped off stalled drives with kicks at a distance the Colts wouldn’t have even been comfortable in attempting in recent years. No kicking in NFL history has made 4 field goals from longer than 50 yards in a game, and Gay did it while the greatest kicker in league history was on the other sideline. The Colts have a legit weapon at the placekicking position. It helps in the points department when you have a young/inexperienced/injured offensive situation. And, obviously, the Colts hope it’ll be a huge help in meaningful December/January kicks one day. For me, I had no issue with the eye-popping contract given to Gay back in March, as long as it wouldn’t hinder the Colts from other free agency moves. Sunday is why you think about making such a deal for Gay. The Colts have had a kicking issue/question in recent years, particularly from long distance. So credit to Chris Ballard for, aggressively, trying to turn that into a strength.
3. First Place AFC SouthSource:Getty
First Place AFC South: As the month of October arrives, the Indianapolis Colts are leading the AFC South at 2-1. While the Colts had some big absences on Sunday (no Jonathan Taylor, Ryan Kelly, Anthony Richardson), it should be noted Baltimore had even more injuries, knowing all 7 of their inactives on Friday, which is something you rarely see, especially in Week 3, and that doesn’t include starting running back J.K. Dobbins, who was lost for the season back in Week 1. But still, the Colts were the team that simply made fewer mistakes on a day where it would be easy to fall into those type of issues. And they beat arguably the best quarterback they’ll see all season long. Again, for some/many, wins with Gardner Minshew at quarterback don’t lead to much for the future of this franchise. Yes, Anthony Richardson missing any time this season due to injury is a huge bummer for the biggest goal of this 2023 development—the rookie development of No. 5. And this one stings a little extra because the Ravens offers such a unique defensive challenge in a hostile environment. Good news for next week though? Richardson also traveled to Baltimore, so more signs point to him still feeling good post-concussion as he tries to make his return next Sunday when the Colts host the Rams. But in living in the present moment of the 2023 season, the Colts are starting a season unlike they have in recent years. And for a team that’s struggled to close out games as of late, this is a sign in turning that around.
4. JuJu Brents Impacts In NFL DebutSource:Getty
JuJu Brents Impacts In NFL Debut: I’ll admit, I didn’t think we would see rookie CB-JuJu Brents ascend this week to that 3rd cornerback spot. But the benching of Darrell Baker Jr. meant someone would benefit, and that was Brents going from a healthy scratch in Weeks 1 and 2 to playing that key 3rd cornerback role in his NFL debut on Sunday. And Brents brought some physicality at cornerback, including making a terrific strip of Baltimore running back Kenyon Drake, plus pouncing on the ball for a first-quarter turnover the Colts desperately needed. In scramble mode for some injection of life early on Sunday, there was the 2nd round rookie providing just that in his first ever NFL game. This was the play that turned what looked to be a two-score Baltimore lead, into much-needed early hope for the visitors. Then in the 3rd quarter, the Colts trusted Brents in man coverage against Ravens Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews. And Brents was outstanding with his technique and anticipating to record a key pass breakup. A youth movement in the secondary has been fully embraced by the Colts and Brents has a terrific opportunity now moving forward to entrench himself back there. It was a very difficult offseason for Brents missing more time than any other Colts defender. The Warren Central product is healthy now and had a very nice first NFL performance, including a play that shouldn’t be forgotten.
5. Shane Steichen Acting With AccountabilitySource:Getty
Shane Steichen Acting With Accountability: Just 3 weeks into the Shane Steichen era, and the head coach is already sending an early message to his locker room. If you have a subpar game, that job is in jeopardy. Deon Jackson went from Week 1 starter, to playing no snaps in Week 2, to being cut on Saturday afternoon, despite the Colts having no obvious depth behind Zack Moss. The Colts brought Trey Sermon (5 carries for 17 yards on Sunday) off the streets and he became the backup running back in less than one week. And then cornerback Darrel Baker Jr. went from definite CB No. 3 (a starter in the often-used to nickel package) to a healthy inactive on Sunday, following a poor performance against the Texans. Rookie JuJu Brents made his NFL debut in place of Baker Jr. While both Jackson and Baker Jr. are former undrafted free agents, it’s still an early message from Steichen on the consequences for poor play. Guys are going to notice that in the locker room. And it’s a change with the length of the leash compared to the Frank Reich era.
6. QUICK HITTERSSource:Getty
–Injury Report: The following Colts were inactive on Sunday: QB-Antony Richardson (concussion), C-Ryan Kelly, CB-Darrell Baker Jr., DE-Isaiah Land, TE-Will Mallory, OL-Arlington Hambright, DL-Adetomiwa Adebawore. The following players got injured and did not return:
-Key Stat: New Colts kicker Matt Gay made 4 field goals on Sunday from north of 50 yards, the most in a game since 1963.
–What’s Next: The Colts (2-1) will return home in Week 4 after playing back-to-back games on the road. It’ll be the Rams (1-1) coming to Lucas Oil Stadium for a 1:00 PM kick.