INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts came out firing on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as one of their players supplying the fireworks, who has only been on the active roster now for a month, continues his late-season ascension.
Marcus Johnson had the most productive game of his career on Sunday, coming down with 105 yards on just three receptions in the Colts' 38-35 Week 14 loss at Raymond James Stadium.
The third-year receiver's performance was the most receiving yards he's had in a game, which was aided by the two longest receptions he's had in his career — a 50-yarder and another of 46 yards — as he consistently blew by the Buccaneers' secondary in his continued efforts building a rapport with quarterback Jacoby Brissett.
"I think these last couple weeks have kind of been intermediate, shorter routes. Today was that breakthrough in showing that deep ball," Johnson told Colts.com's Jeffrey Gorman after Sunday's game. "That's what a lot of teams know me for, but it hadn't been these last couple weeks of truly being able to show it, and today was a breakout in that. So it's something to build on, and as team's play it honest, now they have to respect the deep ball and underneath, and that's when it really comes to life. And that's something we'll keep pushing in practice."
Johnson's first big catch came on just the fifth play of the game when Brissett faced pressure off of the edges, climbed the pocket and launched the ball downfield into the end zone, where Johnson leapt up and came down with a 46-yard touchdown, the third score of his career and second this season.
The play that would result in the longest catch of Johnson's career came in the second quarter with just 38 seconds remaining in the second half, with the Colts backed up to their own 25-yard line.
After getting another clean inside release off of the line of scrimmage, Johnson darted downfield as Brissett uncorked a deep ball. Just like before, Johnson jumped up, positioned himself to high-point the ball and came down with it. What could've been a potentially futile drive would result in the Colts getting down inside Tampa Bay's 5-yard line in just five plays, and ultimately resulted in a field goal for the Colts, who carried a 27-21 lead into the halftime break.
With Johnson beating the Buccaneers' defense deep on multiple occasions, he struck fear in their secondary as he would later draw a 45-yard defensive pass interference penalty in the fourth quarter as the Colts attempted to pull away with their 35-31 lead.
"In a couple zones, we thought we could scheme some things up to take shots," Colts head coach Frank Reich said after the game. "We wanted to be aggressive throwing it down there, so we were able to get that today. Marcus Johnson, obviously, made a couple huge plays down the field and then he drew an interference down the field so that's as good as a catch in our book. That's something very positive to build off."
An ankle injury during the Colts' matchup with the New York Jets early in the 2018 season ended Johnson's year prematurely, but he fought back in his rehab to get back on the field for the Colts this summer to show why they traded for him in the first place.
After an intense preseason battle for roster spots at receiver, Johnson re-joined the Colts on their practice squad in October. He was then called up to the 53-man roster due to injuries at the position in Week 10, and his development has picked back up where it left off this summer.
While injuries created an opportunity for Johnson to get on the field with the Colts, he has taken full advantage and now has 12 catches for 207 yards (17.3 avg.) and two touchdowns in just five games, with three starts.