INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts improved to 5-2 on the year Sunday with their 41-21 victory over the Detroit Lions in their 2020 Week 8 matchup at Ford Field.
It wasn't always pretty for the Colts on Sunday, especially early, as the offense sputtered and then the team allowed a blocked punt on its second possession, giving Detroit (3-4) prime field position and, eventually, a 7-0 first-quarter lead. But both the offense and the defense responded in a major way from that point on, logging huge play after huge play, and also taking advantage of some significant miscues by their opponent, to fly home with a 20-point road win.
"Good win today," head coach Frank Reich said. "We talked really hard about playing good football for 60 minutes — you know, putting good stuff on tape for 60 minutes. And like any football game, you know, there's going to be swings, highs and lows. I thought our guys handled that well.
"We get a punt blocked; nobody panicked," Reich continued. "We've got to build on that momentum."
Here are the FIVE THINGS LEARNED from Sunday's victory over the Lions:
» WEATHER THE STORM: The Colts, coming off their bye week on Sunday, had fallen victim to some slow starts of late, particularly in Week 5 against the Cleveland Browns and in Week 6 against the Cincinnati Bengals; Indy wasn't able to come back to win against the Browns, but did scratch and claw its way to victory against the Bengals. Unfortunately for the Colts, that theme would continue on Sunday, as the Lions blocked a punt on Indy's second drive of the ballgame and two plays later turned it into a 25-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Marvin Jones to take an early 7-0 lead. Unlike against the Browns and Bengals, however, the Colts were able to right the ship from there, using big plays from the offense and defense, and taking advantage of some crucial blunders by the Lions, to score 20 points in the second quarter and 21 points in the fourth to eventually cruise to a 20-point road win. "It was just a 60-minute game," Reich said. "That's what we want to do, we just want to keep getting a little bit better every week. So, really proud of the way the guys hung in there and played to the final whistle."
» RIVERS FANTASTIC AGAIN: Before the bye week, Philip Rivers answered the call with the Colts trailing the Bengals 21-0 early on, putting on a second-quarter performance for the ages and leading his team to a dramatic come-from-behind victory. And while there wasn't nearly as big of a deficit on Sunday against the Lions, when Indy's run game just wasn't working early, the veteran Rivers put the offense on his back once again and helped lead the way to another win. He completed 23-of-33 passes in all for 262 yards with three touchdowns to no interceptions for a QB rating of 123.5, spreading the ball out to 11 different Colts receivers and averaging 7.9 yards per passing attempt. "He played exceptionally good football today, not only with the way he threw the ball and the accuracy, but some decisions that he made along the way and a couple of checks that he got us into," Reich said of Rivers, who has completed 161-of-231 (69.7 percent) passes for 1,860 yards with 10 touchdowns to six interceptions on the year in seven games. "We'll continue to play to his strength. He's only one player on the team, but certainly a key player for us."
» DEFENSE CLOSES DOOR: The Colts' defense overall has been fantastic the entire season, which is clearly evident when you take even a quick glance at all the relevant weekly stats and where this Indy unit ranks (which is first, second or third in just about every key category). But the defense also has had its share of the blame for Indy's slow starts of late against the Browns and the Bengals, even though coordinator Matt Eberflus' bunch picked up the pace considerably over the final two or three quarters to keep the team in the ballgame. On Sunday against the Lions, the slow start certainly couldn't be totally attributed to the defense due to the fact it was an early blocked punt that gave Detroit prime field position, leading to its first touchdown of the day two plays later. But outside of a couple plays here and there, the unit really slammed the door shut from that point — especially late in the third quarter and into the fourth quarter. Linebacker Darius Leonard, making his return for the first time since Week 4 after working his way back from a groin injury, had a strip sack of Matthew Stafford late in the third quarter, which was recovered by defensive end Justin Houston; eight plays later, the Colts extended their lead to 28-14 on a Jordan Wilkins touchdown and two-point conversion. On the Lions' very next play from scrimmage, cornerback Kenny Moore II baited Stafford into an interception at the Detroit 29-yard line, and Moore II sprinted into the end zone from there for the pick six to give the Colts an all-of-a-sudden commanding 35-14 lead. The all-around defensive effort for the Colts on Sunday was fantastic: they held the Lions to just 29 (!) rushing yards, they sacked Stafford five times (with Denico Autry and Tyquan Lewis each getting two sacks apiece) and tallied nine total tackles for loss and five passes defensed, on top of the two takeaways. This Indy defense continues to prove it's legit.
» TOUGH STRETCH: The Colts' win on Sunday moves them to 5-2 for a second straight season. Last year, Indy would win just two of its final nine games to finish 7-9 and miss out on the playoffs. This time around, however, there seems to be a confidence in the way the team is finishing games, and also in the way the Colts are outscoring their opponents, that they won't face a similar fate. But the team certainly has done itself a favor with a strong start heading into what is a brutal stretch of opponents over the next several weeks; Indy now takes on the 5-2 Baltimore Ravens, the 5-2 Tennessee Titans (twice), the 5-2 Green Bay Packers and, later on, the 7-0 Pittsburgh Steelers — and don't forget about the always-tough divisional games against the Houston Texans (twice) and Jacksonville Jaguars, as well as a road contest against the hot-and-cold Las Vegas Raiders. While Reich insists the Colts are a different team from last year's group that struggled down the stretch, he's still able to admit that he hopes there were lessons to be learned from 2019 that can be applied this time around. "Our M.O., our DNA, is to handle these situations: it's get 1-0 every week; it's get one-percent better every week. That's really all we are going to focus on," Reich said. "It really comes down to getting our players, putting together good plans in all three phases. It comes down to practicing hard and preparing hard, and then getting better. So, I think we can learn from last year. We won't talk too much about that — we really won't. Last year was last year. It's a different team. We are just going to focus on trying to build from where we are right now."
» NOTES OF INTEREST:
— Tight end Jack Doyle recorded two receptions for 18 yards and one touchdown. With the touchdown reception, Doyle passed Tom Mitchell (19) and Dwayne Allen (19) for the fourth-most total touchdowns by a tight end in team history.
— Indianapolis now has three interceptions returned for touchdowns. It is only the 11th time in franchise history that a Colts team has had three or more interception returns for a touchdown in a single season.
Click here to check out more stats and notes from Sunday's win over the Lions, courtesy of Colts Communications.
See all the action at Ford Field as the Indianapolis Colts face the Detroit Lions in Week 8.
Colts fans can catch the re-air of Sunday's Week 8 win over the Detroit Lions on WTTV4.2 this Wednesday at 8pm presented by POWERHOME SOLAR.