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Five Things Learned

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5 Colts Things Learned, Week 10: Inside Josh Downs' spectacular catch, DeForest Buckner an unsung hero again, Bernhard Raimann shows out in emotional win over Patriots

The Colts topped the New England Patriots, 10-6, on Sunday at Frankfurt Stadium in Germany and head into their bye week with a 5-5 record. Here are a few big things we learned on Sunday in Europe:


1. The Colts' defense powered a win for the second straight week.

The Colts are one of three teams this season – joining the Jacksonville Jaguars and Philadelphia Eagles – to win consecutive games despite being out-gained by at least 75 yards in each victory. The Carolina Panthers last week out-gained the Colts, 275-198; on Sunday in Frankfurt, the New England Patriots out-gained the Colts, 340-264.

Also: The Colts, in stifling the Patriots' to just six points, became the sixth team in the NFL to allow 13 or fewer points in two consecutive wins this season, joining the Raiders, Chargers, Bills, Chiefs and Cowboys.

Just as was the case in Charlotte last weekend, the Colts' defense clamped down in key situations and then late in the game.

The Patriots had four possessions reach the end zone and managed just six points off them. Kicker Chad Ryland missed a field goal after Adetomiwa Adebawore and Dayo Odeyingbo forced a Mac Jones incompletion on third and three at the Colts' 17-yard line midway through the third quarter; late in the fourth quarter, safety Julian Blackmon jumped in front of a Jones pass near the end zone for a game-shifting interception. 

"We can't let them in the end zone – if they don't score, they can't win," defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said. "Just building up the mentality because we have been in the past not good in the red zone, and they're a top three team in the red zone. That was one of the big emphases this week, and the guys came up big."

Also, as was the case against Carolina, early pressure on Jones paid dividends as the game went on. Odeyingbo sacked Jones three times in the first half, and defensive ends Tyquan Lewis and Kwity Paye added first half sacks.

Fast-forward to the fourth quarter, and on the Blackmon interception, defensive end Samson Ebukam knifed inside and flashed into Jones' peripheral vision as he went to loft a throw toward tight end Hunter Henry. Had Jones led Henry into the end zone, he might've had a touchdown – but instead, Jones, feeling pressure that had been there all day, didn't step into the throw. He threw off his back foot, and the ball fluttered into the waiting arms of Blackmon.

Officially, Pro Football Focus didn't credit a pressure to Ebukam on that play. But even if it wasn't a statistical pressure, Jones felt it – and it led to one of the biggest plays of the night.

2. DeForest Buckner wrecked another game.

While Buckner wasn't credited with a sack, his six total pressures topped the Colts, and he added two quarterback hits and a tackle for a loss. He now has 11 pressures (seventh-most in the NFL in Weeks 9 and 10) and a pass rush win rate of 27.6 percent (second-highest in the NFL) over the last two weeks.

Because Buckner's been so good for so long, sometimes he gets taken for granted by fans or folks outside the Colts' facility (I can assure you: No one takes him for granted on 56th Street). But games like he's had the last two weeks should be a reminder to the NFL universe just how dominant Buckner is.

Before leaving for Frankfurt, I caught up with defensive line coach Nate Ollie, who offered an insightful bit of perspective on what makes Buckner such a great player this deep into his career: His humility.

"He's always striving to do something better, he's always striving to be better," Ollie said. "Like if he gets a sack, that ain't good enough, let me get a sack fumble. If he gets a tackle, it's what could I have done to make it a TFL. He's always striving — it's that 'never got it' mindset."

The other thing Ollie told me about Buckner is how important mental toughness is to his game. Specifically: As a pass rusher, you can't throw nothing but fastballs. Opposing offensive linemen will sit on Buckner's signature rip-and-swim move if he does it too often, so like an elite starting pitcher in baseball, he has to set it up to maximize its impact.

But setting up that move might mean Buckner "loses" a few pass rushing reps. It means, though, that when the Colts need to get pressure on the quarterback in a key spot, Buckner can go to his fastball – or, if he notices the line is sitting on it, go to a changeup off it to still generate pressure.

"You gotta be mentally tough for that," Ollie said.

And on top of who Buckner is – an elite player – he's an even better example for a young Colts defensive line room.

"Guys see that — if Buck can do it, why can't I do it?" Ollie said. "This is a guy who's going into Year 8 in the league and he's in there playing at a high level, running to the ball, practicing hard, taking great notes all the time. It's amazing."

3. Inside Gardner Minshew's clutch throw, and Josh Downs' spectacular catch.

Facing a third-and-five at their own 10-yard line with 2:52 left and a 10-6 lead, quarterback Gardner Minshew dropped back to pass out of the shotgun. He started reading the play out to his left, then looked right and tried to buy some time.

Meanwhile, Downs ran an in-breaking route about five yards beyond the sticks, taking him from the right of the formation to the left. When Minshew began buying time in the pocket, Downs was on the left hash. He picked up Minshew's movements in the backfield and, when he got to the right hash, quickly accelerated on a diagonal line toward the numbers. 

Minshew, with defensive end Keion White in his face, chucked the ball downfield to a spot only Downs could get to – so long as he laid out and made a spectacular diving catch. Which, of course, he did:

"I was like, I'm going to get this regardless," Downs said. "He put it where only I could get it."

Downs impressed his teammates with his grit and toughness to even get on the field before making that play. But consider what happened after the catch: The Colts ran three plays, forced the Patriots to use their final two timeouts, and then had Rigoberto Sanchez punt the ball to the New England 14-yard line. 

If that pass isn't completed, Sanchez is punting from the edge of his own end zone. Even with a good punt, the Patriots could've wound up with a Hail Mary shot at the end zone. 

Instead, Bailey Zappe was picked off by Rodney Thomas II to seal the Colts' win with 30 seconds left.

4. Bernhard Raimann showed out in front of at on of family and friends.

NFL Network's Stacey Dales did a tremendous job with her interview with Bernhard Raimann on the field at Frankfurt Stadium after Sunday's game, which was attended by several friends and family members who'd never seen him play football before.

And check out the emotion Raimann showed when he saw former Colts defensive end Bjoern Werner, the German who's one of the most recognizable NFL commentators in Europe:

Here's where the story gets good, though. On a European stage, Raimann earned his highest PFF run block grade (75.7), highest pass block grade (86.5) and overall grade (82.2) of the 2023 season. For a kid who got hooked on football by watching Friday Night Lights and attending an NFL game in London a decade ago, Sunday was a full-circle moment for Raimann. 

And one made even better by Sunday's game being, by PFF's grades, his best game of the year. 

"It's hard to put into words," Raimann said. "Obviously wins are huge. They're hard to come by in the NFL. Getting a win in Germany just means that much more. Looking back at the this journey — watching an NFL game in London, watching the NFL live for the first time, I remember how much it meant to me and now being on the flip side of that, being out on the field celebrating a win with my teammates, it's unbelievable. It's unbelievable. I can't even put it in words."

5. Darrell Baker Jr. had quite a weekend.

While the Colts were traveling to Frankfurt Thursday night into Friday morning, cornerback Darrell Baker Jr.'s fiancee, Jade, went into labor. Baker was able to connect with his fiancee via the plane wifi and FaceTime and witnessed the birth of his first child, a son named Dallas.

Baker went out Sunday and played well – the Patriots targeted him just once in coverage, and he limited that play to a seven-yard gain. Over the last two weeks, Baker earned a 79.7 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus; Bryce Young and Jones combined for a 60.9 passer rating when throwing his way.

It's just two weeks, but let's put Baker's solid play in some context. Among 97 cornerbacks with at least 25 coverage snaps in Weeks 9 and 10, Baker ranks:

  • 11th in coverage snaps (79)
  • 20th in PFF coverage grade (79.7)
  • 19th in yards allowed (26)
  • 26th in passer rating allowed (60.9)
  • 9th in yards per reception allowed (5.2)
  • 13th in yards allowed per coverage snap (0.33)

More importantly: Congrats to Baker and his fiancee, who will get to spend plenty of quality time with their newborn son during the Colts' bye week.

View highlights from the Colts' matchup versus the New England Patriots in Germany at Frankfurt Stadium on November 12.

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