INDIANAPOLIS – Ah, so that’s why those in New England are asking Bill Belichick if he is coaching for his job.
In a game that won’t find its way into Canton, Ohio anytime soon, it was the Colts proving they were more competent than the Patriots to win in Germany, 10-6.
What did we learn from the Colts getting to 5-5 as they head into their bye week?
FIVE THINGS LEARNED
1. Why/How Did Colts Win?Source:Getty
Why/How Did Colts Win? For a second straight week, the Colts proved to be slightly more component and/or less inept than their opponent. And those wins count just the same in the standings as any others. So let’s focus to lead off on why the Colts won this one, with plenty of Patriots stupidity part of that. First, the Colts converted their early red-zone chance, with a 4th-and-Goal pitch to Jonathan Taylor on the team’s opening drive of the game leading to 7 points, right after the Patriots had just stalled out for 3 points on their first series. It was that Shane Steichen decision, plus effort from Taylor in space and the blocking of Kylen Granson which gave the Colts a lead they would hold for the rest of the game, no matter how ugly it looked. Playing from ahead for the entire game was a massive factor in facing a New England offense that couldn’t finish off drives. Another big play worth pointing out was Isaiah McKenzie taking a 4th quarter kick return 41 yards, with some great blocking, to give the Colts a short field, which Matt Gay later converted from 51 yards out to push the lead back to 4 points. And how about the full extension third-down snag from Josh Downs (who had his playing time severely limited on Sunday due to a knee injury) as the Colts could bleed more clock and force New England to drive even further on their last-gasp drive of the game. Obviously, you have one of the worst interceptions you’ll ever see from Mac Jones, to an awful fake-spike interception by Bailey Zappe that will dominate the headlines. But if we are looking for more Colts specific reasons on why they leave Germany victors, let’s start mainly with the red-zone difference and special teams difference. Without that cushion at 4 points for a huge chunk of the day, maybe the Patriots can play more of a FG-type game But needing that eventual touchdown, which dated back to that opening 4th down TD run by Taylor.
2. Hurricane DayoSource:Getty
Hurricane Dayo: A little bit more big picture, but the interior pressure from the Colts, specifically Dayo Odyeingbo early on, was a huge factor in getting this win. Odeyingbo finished Sunday with a career-high 3 sacks, all of which came in the first half. This type of performance from Odeyingbo comes on the heels of him flashing more and more in recent weeks. Odeyingbo had a tackle for loss in each of the last 3 games, along with 4 total quarterback hits in that span. As much as we talked about a critical year for Kwity Paye in 2023 (Year 3 for him, with a team decision on a 5th year option for Paye needed this spring), something similar could be said for Odeyingbo. It’s Year 3 of a 4-year rookie deal for Odeyingbo, as that is a difference from being a 2nd round pick, compared to Paye as the 1st rounder. There’s no questions Odeyingbo has done more to prove he should be here long-term than his fellow draft mate, especially when it comes to creating a pass rush. Odeyingbo is a versatile option along the defensive line and that comes in extra handy when you have Grover Stewart suspended. Plus, it can’t be lost that Odeyingbo has played in every game the last two seasons, whereas Paye has missed 6. Any mention of DL production right now though should also include a major hat tip to DeForest Buckner, whose presence calls for many double teams, freeing up others (like Odeyingbo) for chances, and the Colts took advantage of that with 9 total hits on Sunday.
3. Surviving MinshewSource:Getty
Surviving Minshew: The Colts are surviving their backup quarterback right now. Gardner Minshew got away with a 3rd quarter interception on Sunday, as the Patriots squandered a short field when they missed a 35-yard field goal. For a second straight week, the Colts passing game was so rough, you were just hoping drives would end in punts, as seemingly every Minshew drop back brought uneasy moments. Heading into the bye week, a resurrection of this passing game needs immense focus, although that might be too lofty of a thought. What might be most troubling with Minshew right now is you are having issues in the processing/recognizing departments to go along with some inaccuracy, too. It’s a jittery, squirrely, dancing Minshew back there, living on the edge with way, way too many drop backs. Playing behind the starting offensive line the Colts began the year with for the first time since Week Two (until Ryan Kelly exited Sunday with a concussion), pass protection was of little issue for Minshew. Yet, he led an offense accounting for just 10 points and should be very grateful Patriots rookie kicker Chad Ryland missed that 35-yard field goal following an interception. Heading into the bye week, Minshew and the passing offense is easily the biggest Colts question.
4. Got To .500 At Bye WeekSource:Getty
Got To .500 At Bye Week: Part of it has to do with upcoming bye week, but it’s hard to overstate what this win means to the Colts. With the win, the Colts have got back to .500. They are now lurking in the Wild Card position, and have put themselves in a spot where a strong final 7 games could have them challenging for a playoff berth. For the Colts to provide any potential intrigue deep into the month of December, they needed to take care of the worst team in the NFC last week (Carolina) and the worst team in the AFC this week (New England). Repeated performances like we have seen the last two weeks, won’t get the Colts very far in a playoff push. There’s zero question the Colts must play better than they have the last two weeks if they want to seriously push for any sort of fringe playoff spot. But the standings don’t have pictures on them, just numbers. And the Colts are 5-5, with 7 to go. Something in the 9-10 win range is going to have to be there, which means improved play from what we’ve seen over the last 120 minutes of Colts football has to be there, even if both of those results ended in wins.
5. Bye Week FocusSource:Getty
Bye Week Focus: The Colts will now head for their bye week, the first extended time off this season, with no mini bye on this year’s schedule from a Thursday night game. As we look ahead to the final 7 games of the season (Buccaneers, at Titans, at Bengals, Steelers, at Falcons, Raiders, Texans), Grover Stewart’s suspension lasts for two more games, with him returning for the Cincinnati game. And the Colts felt the absence of Stewart on Sunday, with the Patriots frequently, and successfully, pounding the ball right at the middle of the Indy defense. Also, on the “need to get better” list would be more from the Colts passing offense. And the run game from Jonathan Taylor (23 carries for 69 yards on Sunday) saw little production, with loaded boxes from the Patriots clearly part of that reason. Yes, the schedule won’t include anymore Carolina’s or New England’s on it, but it still isn’t loaded with upper echelon teams/elite level quarterbacks. Without question, the Colts will have to play better to string some more wins together, but they needed Ws first before any thought of pushing for a playoff spot re-entered the possibilities.
6. QUICK HITTERSSource:Getty
-Injury Report: The following Colts were inactive on Sunday: TE-Drew Ogletree (foot) CB-JuJu Brents (quad), OL-Arlington Hambright, C-Jack Anderson, LB-Cameron McGrone. The following players got injured and did not return: C-Ryan Kelly (concussion).
–Key Stat: For the first time in 2023, the Colts didn’t score 20 points in a game.
-What’s Next: The Colts (5-5) will now have their bye week following the trip to Germany. Their next game will be Sunday, November 26th vs. the Buccaneers (3-5).