OAKLAND, Calif. — The Indianapolis Colts today defeated the the Oakland Raiders, 42-28, at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
What's top of mind for the Colts as they improve to 3-5 on the season?
On paper, the Colts should've waltzed into Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, got a few touchdowns here, made a few defensive stops there, and flew home with an easy victory over a struggling Oakland team.
But the Raiders, even after falling down 10 points early, proved that the whole "on paper" approach to a game that many outsiders like to employ means absolutely nothing.
Oakland's offense, especially, was finding success on play after play after play throughout Sunday's game, and Indy, for a large part of afternoon, could do little to stop it.
Fortunately for the Colts, their own offense was up to the task, as well, and the two teams in the second half would find themselves tied at 21 and then 28.
But finally, after allowing four straight touchdown drives, the Colts' defense was able to force a Raiders punt early in the fourth quarter, and the offense, as it had done all game, continued on.
Tight end Jack Doyle, playing for the first time after missing five games with a hip injury, came up huge on the ensuing drive, converting first downs on three different receptions, and then willing his way to a 10-yard touchdown catch with 5:28 left in the fourth quarter, putting Indy ahead, 35-28, for the first time since midway through the second quarter.
A huge defensive play by rookie linebacker Darius Leonard, who forced a fumble on the ensuing Oakland drive, gave the ball right back to the Colts in Raiders' territory, and Indianapolis was able to put the cherry on top with a one-yard Marlon Mack touchdown run to create the final 42-28 score, and the Colts head into their bye week with a second straight win and tons of momentum.
Someone make a play.
All season long, the Colts' defense has been able to, at some point, force its opponents into some sort of mistake to give the ball back to the offense, but that just wasn't the case through 3 1/2 quarters on Sunday in Oakland.
The Raiders, who fell in a 10-0 hole early, would score touchdowns on four straight drives (not counting a two-play sequence to end the first half) after going three-and-out on their opening possession, as Derek Carr, Doug Martin and the rest of the Oakland offense, led by head coach Jon Gruden, was simply having its way with the Indy defense.
Someone make a play.
But, finally, Oakland was forced to punt, ending that touchdown streak, at the 9:20 mark of the fourth quarter. The Colts turned that into the go-ahead touchdown catch by Doyle.
Just up a touchdown, 35-28, however, the Raiders had more than five minutes left to tie this thing up and force overtime.
Someone make a play.
On their very first play on the ensuing drive, however, Leonard made the play.
Martin, who to that point had been gashing the Indy defense at various junctures of the game, got the handoff on 1st and 10 from the Oakland 25, and got one yard to the 26 before Leonard came flying in from the left side, punching the ball from the running back's grasp.
Fellow rookie linebacker Matthew Adams fell on the ball at the Oakland 27-yard line, and this one was virtually over.
For good measure, Mack punched it in from one yard out five plays later, and the Colts are flying high entering their bye week.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Did Mo Alie-Cox make the greatest catch in recent Colts memory?
Perhaps there's a recency bias involved here, but there's no reason to believe it doesn't at least rank right up there with the rest of 'em.
The Colts were putting together one heck of an opening drive on their first possession of the game, and a nine-yard Jordan Wilkins run set up Indy with a 1st and 10 at the Oakland 26-yard line.
Luck, lined up under center, took the snap and utilized a play-action fake to his back before launching a high, arching pass towards the front-left corner of the end zone.
It was put in a place that only Alie-Cox could even possibly get a hand on it — and that's what he did. Literally.
Using his basketball skills — Alie-Cox was a hoops standout at VCU, remember, and never played competitive football until last year when the Colts took a chance on him as an undrafted free agent — Cox leaped high in the air and plucked the ball out of the air at its highest point with one hand, and came down in the end zone to complete the 26-yard touchdown grab — his first-career score — giving the Colts an early 7-0 lead.
One-handed catches have become commonplace in today's NFL, but not like the play Alie-Cox made on Sunday.
Welcome to the NFL, Mo.
Can your unsung hero also be your player of the game?
Last week against the Buffalo Bills, Marlon Mack went off, logging career-highs in carries (19) and rushing yards (126), and also scoring two touchdowns — one via the pass, and one via the run — and Indy rolled to a big home victory.
In a much tighter contest on Sunday in Oakland, the Colts really needed Mack to put in a similar performance to stay in the ballgame — and the second-year South Florida product delivered.
He had an even better career day against the Raiders, re-establishing career-highs in rushing attempts (25) and yards (132) and also scoring a single-game-best two rushing touchdowns to continue his hot streak.
In fact, Mack is the first Colts running back since Joseph Addai back in 2007 to run for 100 yards in back-to-back games.
Let's also give props to this Indy offensive line, which really seems to be gelling with the combination of Anthony Castonzo (left tackle), Quenton Nelson (left guard), Ryan Kelly (center), Mark Glowinski (right guard) and Braden Smith (right tackle).
The Colts, in all, rushed for 222 yards on Sunday, a week after running for 220 yards against the Bills.
It's the first time Indy has ran for 200-plus yards in consecutive weeks since the 1985 season.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
• It's hard to believe we've gone this far without mentioning the fact a Colts player broke one of the greatest records in NFL history on Sunday. Kicker Adam Vinatieri came into Sunday's game needing five points to pass Morten Andersen to become the NFL's all-time leading scorer, and after tying Andersen with a field goal and an extra point, Vinatieri connected on a 25-yard field goal just before the end of the first half to stand alone atop the leaderboard. Vinny actually came into the game nursing an injured right groin, but you'd never know it, as he hit both of his field goal attempts and all four of his extra-point tries. Just another record-breaking day for the greatest kicker in NFL history.
• Let's stick with that Colts offensive line, shall we? For a third straight game, the opposing defense put up a goose egg in the sacks category. Three games. Zero sacks. Remember when the quarterback getting hit was a huge issue year after year after year? Luck has been sacked just 10 times in eight games this season, as the Colts rank in the Top 5 in the NFL in fewest sacks allowed. Credit the offensive line, Luck, the Reich's new scheme, the running game — it all factors into this success.
• Staying on offense, and the run game, Nyheim Hines did one heck of a job as the Colts' secondary running back on Sunday. Hines collected 78 yards on just 11 carries — an average of 7.1 yards every time he touched the ball — and helped spell Mack at several junctures throughout the ballgame. Hines, listed at 5-foot-9 and 198 yards, was able to break several tackles and make all kinds of defenders miss, and is showing he's more than just a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield.
• Dontrelle Inman was signed less than two weeks ago. The fifth-year veteran had prior experience in Reich's offense when both were with the Chargers, and Inman was looked upon as someone who could come in and contribute right away at a position of need after Ryan Grant went down with an ankle injury, and Marcus Johnson was placed on injured reserve. Inman even started his first game as a member of the Colts, just a few days after signing, but despite playing the most snaps of any receiver last week against the Bills, he came away with no catches. That certainly wasn't the case on Sunday against the Raiders, however. Inman tied Doyle for team-high honors with six receptions and had 52 yards on the day, as a couple of his catches, particularly, were extremely tough grabs that required a ton of concentration to move the sticks. Put Inman in the same category as safety Mike Mitchell as a veteran brought in off the streets who has needed little time to get ready and make plays for this Colts team.
WHAT WENT WRONG:
• Although the unit was able to put the clamps down towards the end and make plays when it really needed to, the play of the Indy defense was an issue for a large portion of Sunday's game. It seemed as if Carr and the Raiders' offense were able to have success with whatever plays Gruden was calling, and it'd be one thing if you could simply tip your cap to a team executing, but the Colts' defense was struggling at times to do some of the simple things, such as tackle, cover one-on-one in space or generate any sort of pass rush (the Colts had zero sacks and just one quarterback hit against on the day). There's certainly no reason to panic — this is still mostly a young, developing unit — but coordinator Matt Eberflus and his coaches will assuredly have some teaching points for the guys when they return from the break.
• The untimely penalties really seemed to bite the Colts at times on Sunday, as Indy finished with 10 accepted flags for 77 yards. Perhaps that masked a similarly brutal 10 accepted penalties for 79 yards by the Raiders, but it's pretty impressive that Indy was able to overcome some of those avoidable issues to put Oakland away and fly home with the win.
— The only player who exited Sunday's game and didn't return for the Colts was safety Mike Mitchell, who suffered a calf injury in the third quarter. Center Ryan Kelly also suffered a hand injury earlier in the game, but returned. We'll see if Reich has an update on Mitchell during his usual Monday conference call.
Rest. Relaxation. Well, maybe a little, at least. The Colts' bye week comes right smack dab in the middle of their schedule, and it's a terrific opportunity for the guys to mend their various nicks, bruises and pulls and come back healthy for the second half of the season. But make no bones about it: going into the bye with two straight wins, getting to 3-5 and remaining in the picture in the division, is perhaps the best takeaway heading into the break. Indy returns from the bye for Week 10 with its first of three straight home games, as the reeling (but still extremely talented) Jacksonville Jaguars come to Lucas Oil Stadium.
Catch all the action at the Oakland Coliseum as the Indianapolis Colts take on the Oakland Raiders.