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Five Things Learned

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5 Colts Things Learned, Week 9: Early pressure pays off as defense stifles Panthers; turnover-free game steadies offense

The Colts snapped a three-game losing streak with a 27-13 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium, a game defined by Kenny Moore II's two pick-sixes and some other individual standout performances on defense. 

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1. Early pressure on Bryce Young paid dividends as the game went on.

The Colts' defensive line – led by a rampaging DeForest Buckner – set the tone over the Carolina Panthers' first five possessions. Specifically: 2023 No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young was under pressure on six of his first 13 dropbacks and completed just four of nine passes for 14 yards while being sacked twice.

On those six dropbacks under pressure, Young completed two of four passes – both on third down well short of the sticks – for four yards.

"With Bryce back there, he's a rookie quarterback, we knew we had to put the pressure on him," Buckner, who sacked Young in the first quarter, said. "We had to make him feel us up front all day and I feel like we consistently did that the entire day."

That cumulative pressure had an impact. The next time Young was under pressure on a dropback – defensive ends Isaiah Land and Jake Martin collapsed the pocket with 31 seconds left in the second quarter on Carolina's sixth possession – he floated a pass toward running back Chuba Hubbard that Kenny Moore II jumped in front of for his first of two pick-sixes.

Moore's first pick-six put the Colts up 20-3 at halftime. Young was pressured on 13 of 29 dropbacks in the second half and threw two interceptions: First, Moore's second pick-six on an overthrown screen to running back Miles Sanders; second, with Land and defensive end Tyquan Lewis closing in, linebacker Segun Olubi stepped in front of a pass for his first career interception.

Over the entire game, the Colts pressured Young on 21 dropbacks and held him to eight completions on 15 attempts for 38 yards (2.5 yards/attempt) with four sacks. Young had a 19.1 passer rating when under pressure.

"It works hand and hand – coverage and rush working together," Moore said. "So, I think we're just trying to make it tough on the quarterback to try to spend a little extra second to read the coverage."

2. Kenny Moore II's two pick-sixes were a remarkable achievement.

Moore became the 60th player and only defensive player to have multiple touchdowns in a game this season, joining a group that includes:

  • 23 wide receivers
  • 22 running backs, including Zack Moss
  • 7 tight ends
  • 7 quarterbacks, including Anthony Richardson and Gardner Minshew II

Only 30 players in NFL history, including Moore, have had multiple pick-sixes in a single game; Moore is the first player in Colts history to record that accomplishment. Also, a fun fact: Teams are now 29-1 when having a player return two interceptions for touchdowns (the lone loss: The St. Louis Cardinals fell, 30-27, to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1961 despite safety Jerry Norton's two pick-sixes). 

Anyways, the last 10 players to have two pick-sixes in a single game are now:

  • Colts CB Kenny Moore II (Nov. 5, 2023 vs. Carolina)
  • Buccaneers S Mike Edwards (Sept. 19, 2021 vs. Atlanta)
  • Titans LB Zach Brown (Dec. 30, 2012 vs. Jacksonville)
  • Rams CB Jackrabbit Jenkins (Nov. 25, 2012 vs. Arizona)
  • Browns DE David Bowens (Oct. 24, 2010 vs. New Orleans)
  • Chiefs LB Derrick Johnson (Jan. 3, 2010 vs. Denver)
  • Cardinals CB Antrelle Rolle (Nov. 18, 2007 vs. Cincinnati)
  • Buccaneers CB Ronde Barber (Oct. 22, 2006 vs. Philadelphia)
  • Texans CB Aaron Glenn (Dec. 8, 2002 vs. Pittsburgh)
  • Steelers CB Dewayne Washington (Nov. 22, 1998 vs. Jacksonville)

Since the start of the 1998 season, the NFL has played 6,526 regular-season games. What Moore accomplished has happened once in every 651 games in that span.

3. Moore wasn't the only Colts cornerback to have a good showing in Week 9.

With the Panthers primarily playing 11 personnel (one back, one tight end, three wide receivers), the Colts trotted out a cornerback trio of Moore in the slot and Jaylon Jones/Darrell Baker Jr. on the outside. Jones and Baker were targeted 13 times and allowed eight receptions for 40 yards, and they both notched a pass break-up. 

Jones earned an 85.9 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus, while Baker's checked in at 79.0. 

For Baker in particular, Sunday's game is something on which he can build. Baker held Young to a 56.3 passer rating in coverage, and Panthers receivers averaged 4.8 yards per reception. Prior to Week 9, Baker allowed a 121.0 passer rating and 16.4 yards per reception when targeted. 

We'll see where cornerback JuJu Brents is heading into Week 10 – he's missed the last two games with a quad injury – but both Jones and Baker will head to Germany coming off solid games against the Panthers.

4. The Colts did what they needed to on offense.

The most important number for the Colts' offense wasn't 198 (total yards gained) or 3.5 (yards per play). It was zero. 

As in: Zero turnovers. 

The Colts improved to 4-0 in 2023 when not turning the ball over, and that was the No. 1 thing Sunday's game called for. With Moore vaulting the Colts to a 17-point lead at halftime, and then another 17-point lead in the fourth quarter, the offense primarily had to avoid giving Carolina momentum. 

"Kenny Moore II won the game today, 14-13 really if you look at it," quarterback Gardner Minshew said. "At the end of the day we knew what we had to do. Our defense was playing really, really well. Like I said Kenny Moore scored 14, so taking care of the ball was huge.

"We're undefeated this year when we take care of the ball. I think if we continue to be able to do that, put our defense in good spots and play complementary football, we can win games."

Since 2010, teams are 9-88 when gaining under 200 yards of total offense. Three other teams (the Seahawks, Cardinals and Rams) gained under 200 yards of offense on Sunday and lost by a combined score of 74-6. 

While head coach Shane Steichen said the Colts' offense needed to be more productive in the second half – they averaged 1.3 yards per play over the final two quarters – the focus was mostly on taking care of the football. 

"There's a time and place to be aggressive," Steichen said, "and the second half wasn't that in that game."

5. Injuries to Josh Downs and Drew Ogletree are worth monitoring this week.

Both Downs (knee) and Ogletree (foot) left Sunday's game and did not return. Downs was listed as questionable with a knee injury coming into Week 9 and only played 11 snaps before exiting early in the second quarter.

Downs and Ogletree are central figures in the Colts' offense, so we'll keep an eye on their statuses when the Colts put out practice reports Wednesday and Thursday from Indianapolis, and Friday from Frankfurt ahead of Week 10's game against the New England Patriots at Deutsche Bank Park. 

"We kind of knew through the week (Downs) was dealing with some stuff," Minshew said. "Hate to lose him. He's a great player. Felt really good about Isaiah McKenzie coming in. He did some good things. Got open. I didn't find him on a couple, but got open and played a good game.

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The Colts celebrate after a win over the Carolina Panthers in Week 9 at Bank of America Stadium.

View highlights from the Colts' matchup versus the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on November 5.

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