INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts evened their record at 1-1 on the year Sunday with their 28-11 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in their 2020 Week 2 matchup at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Vikings (0-2) struck first with a Dan Bailey 21-yard field to go up 3-0 at the nine-minute mark of the first quarter, but it would be all Colts from there, as Indy was able to wear out its opponent with a heavy ground attack on offense, a swarming, suffocating defensive attack and a perfect day in the kicking game.
It was a satisfying all-around effort for head coach Frank Reich, whose team was able to learn its lessons from a disappointing Week 1 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars and, in many ways, reverse course against the Vikings to earn its first victory of the season.
"Great team effort in all three phases. What we talked about all week was our identity and our standards – that we needed to live up to both of those and make a statement with our identity and our standards," Reich said. "I thought offensively we did that, got back to the run game, mixing it up well. … Defensively, I don't know if you can play much better than we played defensively. That was an explosive offense. We were good for 60 minutes. You could feel it the whole game.
"That's what we wanted to see today," Reich continued. "That's the kind of game that we expected. I'm just proud of the team in the way we responded after last week."
Here are the FIVE THINGS LEARNED from Sunday's victory over the Vikings:
» BORN TO RUN: Reich had admitted last week that he had hoped to have established the run better in the Colts' Week 1 loss to the Jaguars, when quarterback Philip Rivers ended up throwing the ball 46 times, compared to just 22 total rushing attempts by the team. So against the Vikings, Reich unleashed rookie running back Jonathan Taylor, who was making his first-career start in place of veteran Marlon Mack, who suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in Week 1, and the talented Wisconsin product ended up showing off that elite blend of size, speed and running power that earned him one of the greatest careers in NCAA history. Taylor had 26 rushing attempts in all for 101 yards and his first-career touchdown, a five-yard run at the 11:45 mark of the second quarter that gave the Colts a 7-3 lead they wouldn't relinquish the rest of the way. Taylor said it didn't take him long to start feeling it on Sunday, despite the fact it was his first NFL start. "Especially after the first carry, you kind of getting into that mindset. You break the ice, and you realize it's still just football until you refocus, lock in and focus at your task at hand each and every single play," he said. "When you keep doing that play, after play, after play, next thing you know it's fourth quarter, and if you've been doing that each play, the results should be in your favor."
» DEFENSIVE DOMINANCE: Simply put, the execution and communication — or lack thereof — by the Colts' defense Week 1 against the Jaguars left everyone with a sour taste in their mouths. Quarterback Gardner Minshew II had his way dinking and dunking down the field, completing 19-of-20 passes with three touchdowns and zero interceptions, and the couple times he did throw down the field, a missed assignment or penalty would lead to a big play for the offense. But Matt Eberflus' bunch clearly took the teaching points from the Week 1 game film and made all the necessary adjustments Sunday against the Vikings, who have plenty of firepower on offense, but couldn't do diddly squat all afternoon. The Colts' defense limited the Vikings to 175 total yards and recorded 3.0 sacks, three interceptions, forced a safety and held the Minnesota offense to 2-of-9 (22 percent) on third downs; the 175 total yards are the fewest yards allowed by Indianapolis since Oct. 19, 2014, vs. the Cincinnati Bengals (135). Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook was held to just 63 yards rushing, while quarterback Kirk Cousins completed just 11-of-26 passes for 113 yards, for a quarterback rating of 15.9. Quite the turnaround. "We played such a good game on defense," Reich said. "I can't say enough about how they played, and how the defensive staff coached it, and how we played it."
» GIVE US MO: Taylor wasn't the only young offensive player who cashed in on a new starting opportunity for the Colts on Sunday. With two-time Pro Bowler Jack Doyle ruled out with knee and ankle injuries, the Colts turned to big Mo Alie-Cox at the tight end position, and the former VCU basketball standout certainly didn't disappoint. Able to shake off an early dropped pass that led to a Vikings interception, Alie-Cox finished with single-game career-highs in receptions (five) and receiving yards (111) for a ridiculous yards-per-catch average of 22.2. Reich and Rivers were constantly able to get Alie-Cox in situations in which he could get the ball in space and have room to run, and then he also showed off his athleticism late, skying for an impressive 27-yard reception around two Minnesota defenders at the 2-yard line, setting up Rivers' passing touchdown to Zach Pascal on the very next play, which really put the dagger in the Vikings early in the fourth quarter. "He works so hard. It's so important to him," Reich said of Alie-Cox. "He's physically and mentally tough, and he's just continued to get better. It was obvious this week with Jack (Doyle) down, with that being a big blow, Philip (Rivers) let us know right away – he let me and Nick (Sirianni) know right away how much confidence he has in Mo and not holding anything back. Philip likes throwing to those big targets. He is used to doing it to receivers, but you could see how quickly he got used to Mo – just throwing to that big target. What else can you say, Mo is a big man and a great competitor. Hats off to him."
» NOTABLE INJURIES: While the Colts are certainly happy with the all-around results from Sunday's win, the team is holding its collective breath as it pertains to the injury status of a couple key players — one on each side of the ball. Wide receiver Parris Campbell went down early with what looked to be a brutal knee injury and didn't return, while safety Malik Hooker limped off into the locker room just before halftime and was eventually ruled out with an Achilles injury. The Colts will await the results of further tests before determining the status of either player, but these could be the latest bumps in the road for both Campbell and Hooker, who have unfortunately battled several injuries throughout their respective careers. In related news, linebacker Matthew Adams (ankle) and cornerback Xavier Rhodes (cramps) also exited Sunday's game and did not return, while cornerback Rock Ya-Sin was taken to a local hospital before the game to be evaluated for a stomach illness. Reich is scheduled to speak to reporters around 4 p.m. ET today, so we'll see if he has any updates.
» NOTES OF INTEREST:
— Indianapolis finished with a 100-yard rusher (Jonathan Taylor, 101) and a 100-yard receiver (Mo Alie-Cox, 111) in the win. It was the first time the Colts had both a 100-yard rusher and receiver in the same game since Joseph Addai (128) and Pierre Garcon (103) on Oct. 17, 2010, at Washington.
— Taylor finished with 18 carries in the first half. It is the most by a running back in the NFL since Derrick Henry (21) on December 16, 2018. It is also tied for the fourth-most carries by a Colts running back in in team history in the first half. Edgerrin James had 19 three different times.
Click here to check out more stats and notes from Sunday's win over the Vikings, courtesy of Colts Communications.
Colts fans can catch the re-air of Sunday's Week 2 win over the Minnesota Vikings on WTTV4.2 this Wednesday at 8pm.