INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts improved to 2-5 on the season Sunday with their 37-5 victory over the Buffalo Bills at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Heading into Sunday's game on a four-game losing streak, the Colts turned in an absolutely dominating performance on both sides of the ball, earning a much-needed win as the team turns its attention to its longest road trip of the season, next Sunday's matchup against the Raiders in Oakland, before heading into the bye week.
Colts head coach Frank Reich saw his offense pummel a talented Bills defense to the tune of 220 rushing yards on the day, while his defense logged five takeaways — two on forced fumbles/recoveries and three on interceptions.
"The guys in the locker room, all week long, have been talking about — for a couple weeks now — 'Lets get this thing going,' and we really wanted to get it going on offense, starting with the run game," Reich told Colts.com's Caroline Cann after the game. "And, man, the way the O-line came out and just dominated up front against a great defense … and then the defense got us the turnovers. That's what we said going in: stop them, create turnovers, give us short fields, and they did that all day long."
Here are the FIVE THINGS LEARNED from Sunday's victory over the Bills:
• RUN, MARLON, RUN: It's no surprise that most offensive playcallers want to establish a strong run game, which typically lends itself to opening up things down the field against defenses that have no choice but to start working their way forward before the snap. But on Sunday against the Bills, the Colts not only established the run — they never really went away from it. Not the way this offensive line was blocking, anyway. Indy finished with 220 yards rushing on the day, which is the fourth-highest total by the team since 2000 and the most since Sept. 30, 2007, when the Colts had 226 yards rushing against the Denver Broncos. Marlon Mack led the way for the three young, talented Colts backs, as he had a career day: 19 carries for 126 yards and a touchdown on the ground, and he also added a 29-yard touchdown reception. Kudos to this Indy offensive line, which didn't allow a single sack for a second straight week, and was pushing around a quality Bills defense all day on Sunday.
• OPPORTUNISTIC: The Colts entered Sunday's game already showing the ability to make some game-changing plays on defense, as evidenced by their 10 takeaways through six games, which ranked tied for 10th in the NFL. But with a big lead for the first time, really, all season on Sunday, the Colts' defenders took it to a completely new level. Indianapolis had five takeaways — two coming on forced fumbles/recoveries (Mike Mitchell, recovered by Darius Leonard; Kemoko Turay strip sack, recovered by Quincy Wilson), and three coming on interceptions (Mitchell, Kenny Moore II and Corey Moore). Perhaps most importantly, those defensive plays led to added opportunities for the offense, which, for the most part, cashed in, scoring 24 points off turnovers.
• HIGH EFFICIENCY: The Colts have relied upon Andrew Luck to deliver superhuman-like performances the last three weeks to pull his team back into ballgames after it had fallen behind by double digits by halftime. In each instance, the Colts have, at the very least, been able to get back to within one score by the fourth quarter, but just weren't able to complete the comeback by the end of the game. Sunday's game against the Bills? A completely different scenario — one in which Indianapolis was in control from the start, and, this time, the Colts were the ones with a huge lead, 24-0, by halftime. Luck and Reich were happy to continue running the ball down the Bills' throat time and time again — and it worked well — but the seventh-year Stanford product also delivered in the pass game when he needed to, finishing with 17-of-23 completions for 156 yards and four touchdowns through the air. It sounds cliché, but Luck simply took what the defense was giving him, and matched with a dominating performance by the offensive line, that resulted in a top-notch day on Sunday.
• MAGIC MIKE: Two weeks ago, Mike Mitchell was itching for an opportunity to get back on the field to show what he could do. He was given that chance a couple days later, when the Colts, in need of help at the strong safety position with Clayton Geathers injured, signed him and immediately placed him in the starting lineup five days later against the New York Jets. Mitchell responded with a solid outing, and was named to Pro Football Focus' Week 6 Team of the Week. But Sunday's game against the Bills was an opportunity for Mitchell to show his new home fans what he could do. His day included seven tackles, two passes defensed, one interception and one forced fumble. His takeaways led to 10 points for the Colts, too. "Leader," Reich said when describing Mitchell after the game. "Just oozes leadership right from the start. Walks off the street and he's leading. … Been a big lift for our defense."
• NOTES OF INTEREST:
— The Colts' 32-point differential is the most since 9/29/13 when the team won by 34 against Jacksonville.
— Andrew Luck now has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 30 consecutive games to tie Dan Marino, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan for the eighth-longest streak in league history.
— Erik Swoope had his third touchdown in as many games. He joins Eric Ebron as the only Colt to have a receiving touchdown in three straight games this season. Also, Colts tight ends now account for nine of 19 receiving touchdowns this season.
— Darius Leonard led the team with 17 tackles (12 solo) and added one fumble recovery. His 79 tackles through the first seven weeks of the season are tied for fifth in league history since 1994.