To be a playoff contender in the NFL, you have to be able to win in different ways. There's no hiding a weakness in the NFL — and relying on one singular strength is an invitation to opponents to do whatever they can to stop that one thing you do well.
So while the Colts' 23-17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday may have felt like a slog at times, it did prove something important: The Colts, now at 5-5, showed how deep a team they have, and how that allows them to win games in different ways on a week-to-week basis.
"That's what the NFL's all about," center Ryan Kelly said. "You're going to have some times where things aren't going so great."
Kelly was speaking from the perspective of the Colts' offense, which after scoring on its first two possessions mustered just two field goals and seven punts the rest of Sunday afternoon. The Jaguars' defense threw some un-scouted looks at the Colts' offense and consistently put pressure on Carson Wentz, who completed 22 of 34 passes for 180 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Of course, this is a Jaguars' defense that held the Buffalo Bills to just six points a week ago.
"Shoot," Wentz said. "That was a grind. But a win is a win in this division."
The Colts' offense scored 30 or more points in each of its last four games before Sunday — but as head coach Frank Reich said, "we're not going to go out there and score 40 every week or 30."
But instead of struggling as a team without its offense scoring an avalanche of points, the Colts won on Sunday thanks to contributions from special teams and defense. Zaire Franklin blocked a punt — one which special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone predicted — that turned into an E.J. Speed touchdown, and then some big-time plays on defense from guys like Kenny Moore II and Dayo Odeyingbo, who forced a game-sealing fumble late in the fourth quarter.
"It just tells you that we're a resilient team and that we believe in each other," Franklin. "I think all great teams, no matter if one person's down, you know the man behind you's got your back. So whether that's defensively, offensively, special teams, we know our whole team's got our back."
Running back Jonathan Taylor, who rushed for 116 yards on 21 carries with the Colts' only offensive touchdown of Week 10, agreed.
"It shows (our) toughness," Taylor said. "There's a lot of teams that, maybe the win might have to lean on the defense or lean on the offense or special teams. But we're able to lean on each other any way — special teams needs to make a play in the clutch, they can. Offense, defense, same thing. I think it just shows the toughness between all three phases that we have."
So while a win like the one the Colts notched on Sunday may not have come with many style points, to those who played in the game, it proved something important.
"If you look at the players we have top to bottom, I mean, there's no denying that we have a stacked roster — (and we have) the leadership top to bottom in our locker room on and off the field. And then capability that we have to play together — I think we've shown some really, really bright spots of how well we can play together."
The Colts feel like their best football is still ahead of them, and that feeling is a good one at this point in the season. Because having climbed out of an 0-3 and 1-4 hole, the question the Colts are chewing on now at .500 and staring down a massive Week 11 against the Buffalo Bills is: Well, why not us?
"There's a lot of good teams in the AFC but no one's just taken over, so why can't it be us? Why can't the Indianapolis Colts take over right now? That's our mindset," Reich said. "Why can't we take over? So, if we're going to do it, we got to prove it this weekend in Buffalo against a very good football team."