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Indianapolis Colts v Carolina Panthers

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INDIANAPOLIS – Have a day, Kenny Moore II.

On day when several of the Colts best players stepped up, it was Moore II sparking things in the 27-10 win over Carolina?

What did we learn from the Colts moving to 4-6 on the year?

1. Kenny Moore Delivering In Contract Year

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It’s not often we lead off with an individual player, but Kenny Moore II was that freakin’ good on Sunday. Just give Moore II the AFC Defensive Player of the Week award now. For the first time in Colts history, they had a player return two interceptions for a touchdown. And it was Moore II doing it in front of several of his sisters, who were in attendance in Charlotte. What a bounce back (contract) year it’s been for Kenny Moore II. And Moore II”s finest moment of the 2023 season came on a back-breaking pick 6 for the Panthers late in Sunday’s first half. It was yet another pressure by DeForest Buckner (more below) forcing a throw from rookie Bryce Young. And there was the uber-instinctual Moore II ready to jump the pass, make the pick and then return it 49 yards for the pick six. And then, with the Colts leaking some major oil early in the 4th quarter, it was Moore II putting this game on ice when Young airmailed a screen, as No. 23 took it 66 yards the other way to push the lead back to 3 scores at 27-10. Admittedly, Moore II has said he didn’t handle his public contract issues well last year, and it led to one of the poorest seasons of his career. He has played much better in 2023, tormenting teams as a disruptive guy at the line of scrimmage. With the Colts cornerback position in shambles, Moore II’s steadying, playmaking presence has been there in ’23. And that first INT return for a TD took whatever small amount of life Carolina was trying to create before half and eliminated it. For good measure, Moore II’s then slammed the door shut with another pick 6 as Carolina was creeping back into this one. Moore II’s agent would be wise to dial up Chris Ballard this coming week as the Pro Bowl corner is in line for another nice, multi-year pay day.

2. Colts Welcome Penalty Gifts

Indianapolis Colts v Carolina Panthers Source:Getty

No question, a big reason why the Colts won this game, and were in multi-score control for a massive chunk of it was because the Panthers penalty-filled afternoon (10 penalties for 81 yards). While the Colts had some early mistakes that showed why they were on a 3-game losing streak, the Panthers certainly explained why they entered Sunday with the NFL’s worst record. Indy had a couple issues in special teams (Isaiah McKenzie muffed an early punt and the Colts gave up a big kick and punt return). Sunday was also probably the most banged up the Colts have gotten in a game this season with 3 guys leaving and not returning: CB-Tony Brown (concussion), WR-Josh Downs (knee), TE-Drew Ogeltree (foot), and that’s coupled with the Colts missing key guys in QB-Anthony Richardson, RT-Braden Smith, CB-JuJu Brents and LB-Zaire Franklin. Now, an element of winning football games is to not be as dumb as your opponent. And the Colts checked that box on Sunday. Getting out of your own way is part of winning and the Colts did that much better on the road than the 1-win Panthers playing at home.

3. Best Players Play Like It

Indianapolis Colts v Carolina Panthers Source:Getty

Remember when Chris Ballard said at his season-ending press conference last year (paraphrasing) “we need our best players to play better.” The GM wasn’t wrong pointing to that among the many things that went wrong for the Colts last season. Well on Sunday, the Colts best players showed up in a big way, especially early as the Colts built a 3-score lead, which was always going to be a near impossible mountain for Carolina to climb. Plus, it was needed in a game where you have your backup quarterback (and looking like one) and don’t have the quarterback of your defense either. The list on Sunday would include DeForest Buckner setting the tone early, Jonathan Taylor doing the heavy lifting for the offense, Kenny Moore II’s variety of playmaking, Michael Pittman Jr. returning from a nasty hit to help out a banged up wideout group and Matt Gay continuing his All-Pro season. On that list are many Colts you would label “their best players.” And those guys, almost all of them who played for Frank Reich, showed up big-time against their former coach.

4. Jonathan Taylor Gets Heavy Focus

Indianapolis Colts v Carolina Panthers Source:Getty

Well, Shane Steichen wasn’t going to make the same mistake some 7 days later. Jonathan Taylor was the main weapon for the Colts early, with more success in the 1st half than the 2nd half. The Colts had a clear, early focus of getting Jonathan Taylor touches. He had 7 touches before Zack Moss entered the game and the Colts quickly found success with a fresh runner entering the game, after JT’s nice start. When Taylor took a screen pass into the end zone mid-way through the 2nd quarter, it was the 13th touch of the game for No. 28. Carolina entered Sunday as one of the worst run defenses in the NFL, so it was extra smart of Steichen to hammer them with Taylor. A wrinkle to the JT focus came late in the first half, when Zack Moss started a 2-minute drive, but the Colts then went back to Taylor after the two-minute warning, another sign of this RB playing time becoming a very clear No. 1 on the depth chart Taylor) and No. 2 on the depth chart (Moss). Taylor touched it 7 times in the 2nd half, but the success wasn’t much. For the game, Taylor had 23 total touches (for 69 yards), with Moss having just 7 touches (for 26 yards). The Colts needed what Taylor was giving them early on, because it was not a good day for Gardner Minshew and the passing offense, with that unit scoring just 13 points.

5. Winning Feeling Going To Germany

Indianapolis Colts v Carolina Panthers Source:Getty

In ending a 3-game losing streak, the Colts move to 4-5 on the year. If this team is going play meaningful football come December/January, the recent losing streak will have to be flipped to a multi-game win streak. Sunday was a start in that direction, although how the Colts played doesn’t ignite some major confidence shift in a string of wins on the horizon. Again, the upcoming schedule is not daunting at all. But that doesn’t mean the Colts have shown this season they are capable of winning 3 or 4 in a row. And a team like Carolina committing brutal penalty after brutal penalty isn’t sitting there every week. Looking ahead to next week in Germany, the Colts will practice like normal in Indianapolis at their team facility on Wednesday and Thursday. They will then board a plane for Frankfurt, Germany on Thursday afternoon, which is about a 9-hour flight. They’ll have a light Friday practice before playing the Patriots on Sunday in Frankfurt. The team will land in Germany around Friday morning (5-hour time change). Can the Colts follow the “leave Thursday” script like Kansas City did in Week 9 to an international win going into the bye week?


Indianapolis Colts v Jacksonville Jaguars Source:Getty

Injury Report: The following Colts were inactive on Sunday: RT-Braden Smith (hip, wrist), LB-Zaire Franklin (knee), CB-JuJu Brents (quad), CB-Ameer Speed, TE-Will Mallory, C-Jack Anderson. The following players got injured and did not return: CB-Tony Brown (concussion), WR-Josh Downs (knee), TE-Drew Ogletree (foot).

Key Stat: The Colts continue to be the only team in the NFL who have scored at least 20 points in every game this season.

What’s Next: The Colts (4-5) will now play in Germany next Sunday, with a 9:30 AM eastern kickoff time against the Patriots (2-6).

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