Five Things Learned: Colts-Falcons (2019, Week 3)

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts moved to 2-1 on the season Sunday with their 27-24 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in their 2019 home opener at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Colts jumped out to a commanding 20-3 lead by halftime of Sunday’s Week 3 contest, and then held on from there as the Falcons (1-2) embarked on a furious second-half rally. Atlanta got it as close as three points at 20-17 with 13:56 left in the fourth quarter, and then 27-24 with 4:17 left in the game before Indy was able to close out the game on offense.

“Wow, what a great win at home on our home opener,” Colts head coach Frank Reich said. “This really meant a lot and a lot to our fans, but it meant a lot to our team as well. We appreciate – there was a lot of energy in that stadium. It was loud out there today in Lucas Oil. So we’re proud of our fans and the support made a difference in the game.”

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

» ‘ON FIRE:’ There’s something to be said about a fast start; Jacoby Brissett not only accomplished that feat on Sunday — he just kept going and going and going until the end of the first half, as Indy went into the break with a 20-3 advantage. The Colts quarterback completed his first 16 passes, which is tied for the fifth-best streak in team history, and by the end of the game had put in the best performance of his career, completing 28-of-37 passes (76 percent) for 310 yards and two touchdowns for a 118.1 passer rating. And even though Reich has said he wants to emphasize the run most weeks, he said it was important to keep the ball in his quarterback’s hands on Sunday. “Jacoby was just on fire,” Reich said. “Just kind of like when we’re running it and we’re gaining yards every time we call a run, when the quarterback gets hot like that, we’ve got to have the flexibility as an offense to ride the hot hand and this week it was Jacoby.”

» CLOSE IT OUT: Despite a terrific first two quarters, the Colts knew the Falcons (1-2) weren’t going to go away quietly. Atlanta scored two straight touchdowns — both passing plays from quarterback Matt Ryan to tight end Austin Hooper — to get to within three, 20-17, early in the fourth quarter, and then responded to a Marlon Mack touchdown run midway through the fourth with an impressive 10-yard touchdown catch from Julio Jones to once again cut the Indy lead to three, 27-24, with 4:11 remaining. But after not being able to close the game out on offense in their eventual win last Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, the Colts were able to get the job done this time around against the Falcons, as Brissett led a drive that featured three first downs and drained Atlanta of all three of its timeouts. The crucial play was a 3rd-and-4 from the Atlanta 27 with just less than two minutes remaining, as Brissett pulled the ball out of the stomach of Mack and found Jack Doyle wide open; the tight end slid down at the 16, and two kneels later Indy had its second win of the year. “We debated run, run-pass,” Reich said of that 3rd-and-4 play. “So we had a little run-pass check thing going on in there. So (I) just really wanted to be aggressive and end with the ball in our hand.”

» INJURIES STACK UP: Both teams on Sunday had to deal with their fair share of injuries, as key players seemed to be going down every few plays. The most unfortunate injury for the Falcons was suffered by safety Keanu Neal, who was carted off with an Achilles injury late in the second quarter. For the Colts, cornerback Kenny Moore II (forearm), defensive tackle/end Denico Autry (eye), defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad (stinger) each missed time but eventually returned, while wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (quad) and defensive tackle/end Tyquan Lewis (ankle) did not return to the ballgame after suffering their respective injuries. Safety Malik Hooker, meanwhile, was not out on the field for several plays in the second half, but Reich said that was planned as part of the rotation at safety. Reich is scheduled to hold his weekly conference call with reporters today at 4 p.m. so we’ll see if he has any updates on the statuses of Hilton, Lewis or anyone else dinged up from yesterday’s game.

» BACK ON TRACK: Reich never wavered in his support of kicker Adam Vinatieri, even as the future Hall of Famer had perhaps the worst two-game stretch of his career to begin the season. And on Sunday, Vinatieri got right back on track by hitting all five of his kicks on the afternoon — two field goals and three extra-point tries. The 24-year veteran Vinatieri’s day got off to an interesting start, when his first field goal attempt from 49 yards out hit off the left upright, but then ricocheted back through for three points. It was all smooth sailing from there. “Right, wrong or indifferent, you probably put a little extra pressure on yourself coming off the week that we did before,” Vinatieri said. “So you try not to think about it and just go out there and focus in on the kick and do your job.”

» NOTES OF INTEREST:

— The Colts on Sunday had their first home-opener victory since 9/8/13 against Oakland, when the Colts won 21-17.

— Running back Marlon Mack eclipsed 1,500 career rushing yards on his second carry of the game. He became the fourth player in franchise history to reach 1,500 yards before turning 24 years old, joining Alan Ameche (1995-56), Marshall Faulk (1994-96) and Edgerrin James (1999-2001).

— See more stats and notes from Sunday’s game by clicking here.

See all the best action on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium as the Indianapolis Colts host the Atlanta Falcons in their home opener.

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