EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — When you're in the same class as Jerry Rice, you know you've done something really, really special.
For Dwayne Allen, Monday night's performance against the New York Jets could certainly be classified as "special," as the Indianapolis Colts' tight end caught three touchdown passes — all in the first half — to help set the tone in the Colts' 41-10 drubbing at MetLife Stadium.
In doing so, Allen became the first player with three receiving touchdowns in the first half on Monday Night Football since Jerry Rice accomplished that feat during Week 16 of the 1995 season against the Minnesota Vikings.
"(Offensive coordinator) Rob Chudzinski does a great job of spreading the ball around, and all the receivers know that any given night can be their night, and tonight just was my night," Allen said. "You always say, 'Be prepared,' and I was prepared."
Allen's first two touchdown receptions really couldn't have been any easier.
His first one came with the game scoreless and just less than 10:30 left in the first quarter, when quarterback Andrew Luck took the snap from the New York 7-yard line and dropped back and explored his options.
Allen, who lined up along the right end of the offensive line, first acted like he was blocking on the play, but then streaked across the field to his left and was wide open when he caught the pass at the 4-yard line, and was able to walk into the end zone from there.
Allen's second touchdown — on the Colts' very next drive — might've been even easier.
On 1st and 10 from the New York 21-yard line, Luck, lined up in the shotgun with running back Frank Gore to his left, took the snap once again and dropped back to get an look at his options.
Allen, once again lined up along the right side of the offensive line, immediately took off this time and ran a corner route, taking advantage of a clear-out by wide receiver Phillip Dorsett that left the tight end wide open to catch Luck's pass at the 2-yard line, where Allen ran in untouched.
"Andrew Luck has thrown two touchdown passes to Dwayne Allen," ESPN Monday Night Football color man Jon Gruden said on the broadcast, "and there's been nobody in the same zip code."
But Allen's third touchdown catch on the night was simply a thing of beauty from the fifth-year veteran out of Clemson.
Now up 17-3, the Colts faced a 2nd and 8 from the Jets' 23-yard line with just more than a minute to go in the second quarter. Luck took the snap and quickly faked a handoff to Gore, took a quick three-step drop and planted his back foot in the ground, launching a pass to the left side of the field.
Allen, draped by Jets linebacker Darron Lee, showed off some impressive concentration to turn around, find the ball — which was placed on his back shoulder — and come down to the turf with the catch in the end zone.
By making that play, Allen became just the third tight end in Colts history to have caught three touchdowns in a single game, joining Ken Dilger (Dec. 14, 1997) and Dallas Clark (Dec. 13, 2009).
"After some early drops, (tight ends) coach Jim Hostler has done a great job of working ball drills with us and just working (on) concentration," Allen said of that play. "So I didn't even see the linebacker at all; my whole focus was on the ball and making sure I got it to the tuck."
For Allen, the game was a certain highlight to what's been an up and down year. Signed to a lucrative contract before the season, Allen came into the Jets game having caught just 24 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns in nine games.
Now, he's just three touchdowns away from his career single-season high of eight, which he established in 2014.
"He's a pivotal part of every game plan. I mean, he's a premiere player, he does a heck of a job," Luck said of Allen. "And the ball bounces funny ways in this game: sometimes it's T.Y. (Hilton), sometimes it's Donte (Moncrief), sometimes it's (Jack) Doyle, (Erik) Swoope, Frank (Gore) — whoever it is — and tonight it was Dwayne's night, and he made some really nice catches, especially that last one."