INDIANAPOLIS – It was an early glimpse into what the Colts envisioned back in late April.
With the game on the line this past Sunday, a team that has far too often this season had an inability to close out games, finally found such a play from two guys who could totally change the trajectory of this season (and the future).
An edge pressure from right end Kwity Paye, forcing Trevor Lawrence to slide up into the pocket. There, Dayo Odeyingbo was collapsing from the left interior, eventually getting to Lawrence and stripping the ball from the No. 1 overall pick.
Now, fellow defenders Kenny Moore (adding pressure on a blitz) and DeForest Buckner (who got the initial hit on Lawrence) also had critical roles in this game-sealing play, with Kemoko Turay pouncing on the fumble.
But 10 games into their rookie campaigns, Paye and Odeyingbo combined to make the sort of play this franchise has waited for, ever since the retirement of Robert Mathis.
“It was great,” Paye said of him and his fellow rookie playing such a big part in the game-sealing victory. “We knew that the defense had to make a play, and (Odeyingbo) just came up big and just stripped (Lawrence).”
The rookie seasons for Paye and Odeyingbo were always going to go down much different paths.
Paye was a Day 1 starter. Now, he has missed nearly 3 full games due to a hamstring injury. In his 8 games of action, Paye has 17 tackles (2 for loss), 1 sack and 5 quarterback hits.
Lately, Paye’s production has skyrocketed. All of his QB hits, and his lone sack, have come in the last two games.
Some will point to Paye’s impact as of late being more a result of Matt Eberflus scheming up games that have freed up the rookie as a free rusher. There’s validity to that, but it also seems like the near misses from Paye earlier in the year are starting to get home a bit more. Against the Jaguars, Paye caused some pressure from a variety of spots up front.
Odeyingbo’s NFL tenure is just 3 games old, with his Achilles rehab now in the phase where he must play to get that full, 100 percent, explosion back.
In those 3 games, Odeyingbo has 2 tackles and a half sack (on the forced fumble) in 53 defensive snaps. His presence has been needed even more right now due to the season-ending injury to Tyquan Lewis.
The Colts staff has noticed general growth from both young players.
“Just getting better and playing with confidence.,” Frank Reich says of Paye and Odeyingbo. “Working really hard in practice, eager to just get better. ‘What can I do to get better?’ Working hard. Great teammates. Great hustle. Everything you want, everything you want.
“Those guys are going to be good players and we’re on the right track.”
For a team with one of the worst pressure rates in the NFL, seeing strides from Paye and Odeyingbo would do wonders down the stretch.
That’s especially true when you look at the quarterbacks—Josh Allen, Tom Brady, Mac Jones, Kyler Murray, Derek Carr—-remaining on the schedule.
Paye and Odeyingbo were drafted to help be the faces (along with DeForest Buckner) of the Colts pass rush moving forward.
They are really needed right now though.
Was what we saw on Sunday just the start of a flurry of plays to end this season?