INDIANAPOLIS — Darius Leonard is going to have to make some more room on his mantelshelf.
The National Football League today announced that the Indianapolis Colts linebacker was voted the Week 8 NFL Rookie of the Week after his standout performance in last Sunday’s victory over the Oakland Raiders.
It’s the second NFL Rookie of the Week award this season for Leonard, who also earned the honor for his performance Week 2 against the Washington Redskins.
Against the Raiders, Leonard was once again all over the field for the Colts’ defense, collecting nine tackles, but it was one instinctual play in particular that changed the course of the game and helped Indy head into its bye week with its second win in a row, and third overall.
In a back-and-forth affair, the Colts (3-5) finally pulled back ahead, 35-28, after a 10-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Andrew Luck to tight end Jack Doyle with 5:33 left in the fourth quarter.
The Raiders, looking to answer with a touchdown drive of their own to tie the game, handed the ball off to running back Doug Martin on the very next play from scrimmage. But that’s when Leonard punched the ball out of the back’s grasp.
After the pile cleared with fellow rookie linebacker Matthew Adams in possession of the ball, the Colts would put the cherry on top five plays later with a one-yard touchdown run by Marlon Mack, and they flew home with a 42-28 victory.
“That’s what playmakers do,” Colts head coach Frank Reich said of Leonard’s forced fumble after the game. “That’s what a playmaker is defined by. They find a way to make the play in the clutch. Our offense kept answering and we just needed to get the pressure on them and the defense got that big stop. Obviously, the offense put it in and that was huge.”
Leonard’s second NFL Rookie of the Week award adds to a growing list of accolades for Leonard, the Colts’ second-round (36th-overall) pick in this year’s NFL Draft who was also the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Month in September.
Despite missing the Colts’ Week 5 game against the New England Patriots, Leonard continues to lead the league in total tackles (88), and has been a major contributor in other areas defensively, adding 4.0 sacks, 7.0 tackles for loss, two passes defensed, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.