INDIANAPOLIS – Offensive precision by the Indianapolis Colts was on full display for the national audience tuning in Thursday night.
Led by the Colts getting back to their identity, they put up their most points in a game since 2014, beating the Jets, 45-30.
What did we learn from the Colts (4-5) winning their first home primetime game in six tries?
Five Things Learned
1. Colts Avoid Weird: Quirky things can happen on Thursday Night Football. The Colts didn’t sniff that, with an injury to Jets QB-Mike White certainly not hurting that cause. The Indy offense was surgical in Thursday’s first half, putting up 28 points, and letting the Jets know they could fire up the buses to Indianapolis International early if they wanted to. It was the first time since 2007 that the Colts scored touchdowns on each of their first four drives. The Colts had no turnovers Thursday, their first penalty didn’t occur until the 4th quarter and Rigoberto Sanchez wasn’t needed to punt until the 44th minute of the game, thus offering little help to the Jets to even try to make this somewhat competitive through the first three quarters. Yes, the Jets are bad, especially away from home. But putting up 45 points on another NFL team is not something you see on a routine basis. With the win, the Colts have checked box No. 1 in their pursuit of a 7-2 finish to the season. Maybe this performance will give the Colts another home primetime game in this decade.
2. Back to Your Identity: The headlines from this one will be all about Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines, but the offensive line will love re-watching the film of the work it did. With the starting offensive line working together for a second straight game, space was aplenty for Taylor and Hines to show off their 4.3 40-yard speed, and those two did exactly that. On a short week, Frank Reich wanted to stick with the basics and not overthink things too much. That was accomplished with the Colts going back to their identity. On another note, Taylor (172 yards rushing) has to be the favorite to win the NFL’s rushing title this season. You know it’s a good night when Danny Pinter (Chrip! Chrip!) is catching a touchdown. With two minutes to go in Thursday’s third quarter, the Colts had already rushed for 261 yards—the most of any NFL team this season. They actually finished with 260 yards on 30 attempts, with a franchise-record 8.7 yards per carry. Some will say, ‘well it was against the Jets.’ Entering Thursday, the Jets ranked 7th in the NFL in allowing 3.99 yards per carry. That number is now 4.59 YPC, dropping the Jets to 26th in the league.
3. Not Forgetting About Nyheim Hines: It’s something I’ve mentioned in passing over the last few weeks, but it probably deserved more attention. Nyheim Hines entered Thursday having minimal touches in recent games. In his last 5 games, Hines had the following number of touches: 4, 4, 5, 9, 5. He’s too skilled and versatile to be used that little (and you are paying him too much for that). On Thursday, Hines had 7 touches for 82 yards in the first half alone. His 34-yard TD run got this offensive explosion started, and he finished the night with 108 yards on 10 carries/catches. At the start of the season, I thought Hines needed 10-to-12 touches per game. That number needs to get back there, especially with a wideout group not having much depth. Hines is too big of a threat not to force feed, while moving him all over the field. After Hines did it early, Taylor ripped one for 78 yards in the third quarter. With these two setting the tone, Carson Wentz had a really efficient night, going 22-of-30 for 272 yards for 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions.
4. Pass Defense Issues Aren’t Going Anywhere: Phew, it was a good thing (for the Colts) that Mike White hurt his throwing forearm on a DeForest Buckner rush in Thursday’s first quarter. Although Josh Johnson will enjoy adding all these highlights to his career reel. When White exited the game, he was 7-of-11 for 95 yards and a touchdown and the score was tied at 7. But White’s injured throwing forearm took him out of the game, bringing Josh Johnson into the game. Johnson played in the AAF and XFL the two previous seasons. And what do you know, but the pass defense again lacked resistance way, way too often on Thursday. Free release by the Colts defense was the name of the game early on and the pass rush wasn’t consistent enough in the second half, even with Indianapolis having a massive lead and the Jets in obvious passing situations. The middle of the field remains a golden opportunity for an opposing offense. Mike White and Josh Johnson combined for these numbers on Thursday: 34-of-52 for 412 yards, 4 touchdowns and 1 interception. The scheme, pass rush and secondary remain a glaring issue with Josh Allen, Tom Brady, Kyle Murray and Derek Carr still on the schedule.
5. Embrace Mini Bye: It took 9 weeks into the season, but the Colts finally have their first weekend off. That’s good news for T.Y. Hilton (concussion), although the Khari Willis (calf) move to injured reserve means he will be out for at least the next two games (Jaguars and Bills). Plus, you’ve had some typically durable guys—Quenton Nelson, Braden Smith, Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines—appear on the injury report a decent amount this year (to varying degrees). Smith left Thursday’s game in the third quarter with a triceps injury, so that’s obviously something to monitor moving forward. And Xavier Rhodes exited in the second half with a calf injury. Given the Jets massive road issues and them playing a third string QB, this was the easiest game left on the Colts schedule. The Colts got the job done. Another free-space game is coming next Sunday (Jaguars) before a game in Buffalo and vs. Tampa Bay closes out the month. Right now, it’s all about stringing wins together.
-Injury Report: Right tackle Braden Smith (triceps) left the game in the 3rd quarter and did not return. The team’s inactives were as followed: WR-T.Y. Hilton (concussion), CB-BoPete Keyes, RB-Marlon Mack, DE-Ben Banogu, OT-Julie’n Davenport, OL-Will Fries.
-Key Stat: Jonathan Taylor finished Thursday with more than 100 scrimmage yards and 1 touchdown, marking the 6th straight game he’s done that, which is the NFL’s longest such streak since LaDanian Tomlinson in 2006.
–What’s Next: The Colts (4-5) now have their first off weekend of the year. They will be at home a week from Sunday, taking on the Jaguars (1-6) at 1:00 PM in Week 10.
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