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Five Things Learned: Colts-Raiders (Week 8)

Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich, left, shakes hands with Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden after an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts improved to 3-5 on the season Sunday with their 42-28 victory over the Oakland Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

Indianapolis got off to a hot start, jumping out to a 10-0 lead, but Oakland came storming right back, scoring touchdowns on four straight possessions after going three-and-out to start the game, and keeping the Colts on their heels throughout.

But Indy was more than willing to trade punches, particularly on offense, as the Colts used another well-balanced effort through the air (three touchdowns passes, all to tight ends) and on the ground (222 rushing yards; two touchdowns), and with the Indy defense coming on late by forcing a punt and then earning a takeaway that led directly to a game-sealing touchdown, head coach Frank Reich’s crew flew home happy and heads into its bye week riding a two-game winning streak.

“Wow, what a game,” Reich told reporters. “What a great team effort, going toe-to-toe on the road. A lot of positive things to wrap the whole game. I just love the way the guys hung together, fought every series.”

Here are the FIVE THINGS LEARNED from Sunday’s victory over the Raiders:

• CHURNING YARDS: The return of Marlon Mack to the Colts’ lineup two weeks ago has made a huge impact on the Colts’ offensive attack. Last week in the team’s lopsided victory over the Buffalo Bills, Mack set career-highs in rushing attempts (19), rushing yards (126) and had two scores (one rushing, one receiving), and Indy, in all, collected 220 yards on the ground. On Sunday against the Raiders — same story, although in a much closer game. Mack re-established career-bests in rushing attempts (25), rushing yards (132) and had a single-game career-best two rushing scores, and, coupled with 78 rushing yards from rookie Nyheim Hines, the Colts ran for another 222 total yards. Mack becomes the first Colts running back since Joseph Addai back in 2007 to put in back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances, while Indy has topped 200 rushing yards in consecutive games for the first time since 1985.

• TIMELY PLAY: The Colts’ defense didn’t turn in its best performance of the season on Sunday, but when it really needed to make plays down the stretch, the unit delivered. After allowing the Raiders to score touchdowns on four straight possessions (not counting a meaningless possession at the end of the first half), Indy finally forced Buffalo to punt at the 9:20 mark of the fourth quarter, with the score tied at 28. The Colts’ offense, meanwhile, continued to roll on its ensuing drive, and after six plays and 57 yards, Andrew Luck found his tight end, Jack Doyle, for a 10-yard touchdown to go up 35-28. On Oakland’s very next play after the kickoff, Darius Leonard came flying in from the left side to punch the ball out of Raiders running back Doug Martin’s grasp; Matthew Adams fell on the ball for Indy, and five plays later, Mack found the end zone from one yard out to put the finishing touch on a 42-28 victory. It wasn’t always pretty for Indy’s defense on Sunday, but oftentimes the timeliness of quality play is all that matters.

• GIMME MO, MO, MO: In the spring of 2017, Mo Alie-Cox was coming off a standout career at VCU — as a basketball player. Organized football simply wasn’t part of his athletic background. But the Colts saw something in the way Cox was able to utilize his athleticism on the court, and took a chance on trying to eventually develop him into an NFL-caliber tight end — something we’ve seen done before with the likes of Marcus Pollard, Erik Swoope and others. Alie-Cox quickly grapsed onto the NFL game, and found himself making his NFL debut earlier this season. But on Sunday, he quickly showed Colts fans exactly what kind of potential he has as a playmaker, as he made one of the greatest catches in recent Colts history on Indy’s opening drive against the Raiders, leaping high in the air and snagging a one-handed, 26-yard touchdown reception. “He swallowed the ball with his hand,” Luck said of the play after the game. “It was truly some type of gravitational (pull). He just flopped it in there.”

• THE 🐐: Adam Vinatieri established himself as the “G.O.A.T.,” or the “Greatest Of All-Time,” a while back, but what he was able to accomplish on Sunday cemented that label. Needing five points to become the NFL’s all-time leading scorer, Vinatieri finished his day against the Raiders with 10 points — two made field goals and four made extra-point attempts — and now stands alone on that prestigious mountaintop with 2,550 points and counting. Vinny got the game ball from Reich for his efforts. “I love my teammates, all of them, for the last 23 years unselfishly, for going out there and letting me do my job and help me do my job and [make] a lot of great memories along the way,” Vinatieri said after the game. “Being in that locker room after – and that’s the best part about today; it’s less the record but more that we got the record on a win, you know what I mean? The atmosphere in the locker room and the guys there and the support, you know, it’s hard to explain on how I just love and respect the players and the game and all the guys.”

• NOTES OF INTEREST:

— The Colts have won two games in a row for the first time since 2016 (Nov. 6-20).

— The Colts have now scored 30 or more points in three straight games. The last time that occurred was over a four-game stretch in 2010 (Dec. 5-26)

— After appearing in 375 career games (including postseason) and 185 games as a Colt, Vinatieri passed David Lee and Ray Donaldson for the 10th-most games played in Colts history.

— Andrew Luck has now thrown at least one touchdown in 31 straight games to take sole possession of the eighth-longest streak in NFL history. Luck’s 23 touchdowns are the second-most in team history through the first eight weeks of the season, only trailing Peyton Manning’s 26 in 2004.

— With his 88 tackles on the year, Darius Leonard passed Kiko Alonso (81) for the most tackles by a rookie since 1994 through the first eight weeks of a season.

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