INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts improved to 4-2 on the year Sunday with their 31-27 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in their 2020 Week 6 matchup at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Colts found themselves in a major hole early, as a seven-yard run by Bengals running back Joe Mixon on the very first play of the second quarter gave Cincinnati an early 21-0 lead. But Indy quarterback Philip Rivers would get red hot from there, and matched with a much tighter defensive effort moving forward, the Colts would outscore the Bengals 21-3 in the second quarter to go into halftime trailing by just three, 24-21.
Indianapolis would limit Cincinnati (1-4-1) to two Randy Bullock field goals in the second half, while the offense continued to put points on the board. Finally, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Rivers found a diving tight end Jack Doyle with a perfectly-placed 14-yard touchdown pass; the ensuing extra point gave the Colts their first lead of the day, 28-27. Indy would add a 40-yard Rodrigo Blankenship field goal at the 4:03 mark of the fourth quarter, while rookie safety Julian Blackmon would come up huge in the clutch from there, picking off Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow with 46 seconds left to clinch a dramatic come-from-behind victory to head into their bye week with a little momentum.
"Obviously, big win today — huge win, huge complementary football," Colts head coach Frank Reich said. "All three phases played well. Obviously, we didn't get off to a good start. Not quite the way we envisioned it, but we fought back hard. I give the guys a lot of credit. We did what it took to fight back in."
Here are the FIVE THINGS LEARNED from Sunday's victory over the Bengals:
» MAJOR COMEBACK: Before we get into the nitty gritty of how the Colts came back to win, let's take a macro-level view at the comeback itself. After Joe Mixon's seven-yard touchdown run made it 21-0 Bengals early in the second quarter, and then after a Jordan Wilkins carry that lost a yard on the ensuing Colts drive, ESPN's metrics gave the Colts a 7.2-percent chance of even having a shot at winning the ballgame. By halftime, with the score 24-21 Bengals, Indy had a 43.6-percent chance at winning. The odds finally shifted towards the Colts at the 13:43 mark of the third quarter; still trailing 24-21, Joe Burrow misfired to A.J. Green on third down, and now Indy, with all the momentum it had built to that point, had a 52.4-percent chance of winning. Those odds went back and forth the rest of the second half, and finally, were at 78.1-percent in favor of Indianapolis, which led 31-27 on Cincinnati's final drive, on the play Julian Blackmon ended up picking off Burrow to seal the game. The 21-point come-from-behind victory is tied for the second-largest in Colts franchise history, and was their largest home regular season comeback win ever.
» RED HOT RIVERS: After falling in a 21-0 hole, the Colts needed to score points — and fast — to get back into the ballgame on Sunday against the Bengals. Fortunately, their veteran quarterback was more than happy to oblige. In fact, Philip Rivers got the heavy lifting out of the way with a second quarter for the ages, completing 14-of-21 passes for 235 yards with two touchdowns in the period; his 235 passing yards were the third most in a quarter in franchise history, trailing only Peyton Manning (247 in 2004) and Dan Orlovsky (240 in 2011), according to ESPN's Mike Wells. That allowed Indy to go into halftime trailing by just three, 24-21, and from there, with the Colts' defense stepping up its play, Rivers was able to deliver a couple more crucial drives; on the first play of the fourth quarter, he found a diving Jack Doyle for a 14-yard touchdown to give Indy its first lead of the day, 28-27, and then the Colts would drive just short of the red zone with time ticking in the fourth quarter, getting close enough for Rodrigo Blankenship to nail a 40-yard field goal with 4:07 left to secure a four-point win. Rivers finished the game completing 29-of-44 passes for 371 yards with three touchdowns to one interception, and is a nominee for the FedEx Air Player of the Week award. "Philip was in the zone," Reich said. "You could feel it, you could see it, and I just felt like any pass we were going to call, he was going to find a way to get a completion and make plays."
» BURTON, JOHNSON KEY: Philip Rivers was on fire, for sure, but he also needed his receivers to step up in a big way. Several Colts pass catchers did just that, but perhaps none better than tight end Trey Burton and wide receiver Marcus Johnson. Burton, playing in his third game with the Colts after spending the first three weeks of the season on injured reserve with a calf injury, finished with four receptions for 58 yards and a 10-yard touchdown reception; he also added a one-yard rushing touchdown for Indy's first points early in the second quarter. Johnson, meanwhile, was Rivers' top target down the field, as he finished with five receptions for 108 yards — an average of 21.6 yards per catch. Johnson had spent the previous weeks on the Colts' practice squad before being called up the day before the game, but is now officially a member of the 53-man roster, and rewarded the team with his second-career 100-yard receiving performance. "We know who he is, we know he has the ability to make plays for us. He's done it for us. We have a lot of confidence in him. He's a true pro. He's unselfish and I'm just really happy for Marcus," Reich said of Johnson. "I'm obviously happy for our team, but he's such a good dude, such a great teammate. This has really been his chance to shine, and he's taken advantage of the opportunity."
» BYE WEEK MOMENTUM: The Colts are winners heading into their bye week for a third straight season under Reich. They've gone completely different directions after the bye week the last couple seasons, however. In 2018, Indy went on the road to defeat the Oakland Raiders, 42-28, and, after its Week 9 bye, won seven of its final eight games to earn a spot in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs, where the Colts defeated the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium before bowing out to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round. Last year, Indy went on the road to defeat the eventual Super Bowl champion Chiefs, 19-13, before its Week 6 bye; while the Colts won their next two games following the bye week last year, they would win just two more contests the rest of the way to miss the postseason completely. This Colts team has very much earned a few days off its feet this time around, but Reich wants his guys to stay dialed in mentally and physically so that they are ready to keep the momentum going for the rest of the year, starting with their Week 8 matchup on the road against the Detroit Lions.
» NOTES OF INTEREST:
— Indianapolis overcame a 21-point deficit marking the largest comeback for the team at home in the regular season. The Colts have overcome four other 21-point deficits, all on the road (1975 at Buffalo, 1995 at the New York Jets, 1995 at Miami and 2003 at Tampa Bay). The game marked the first time a team has overcome a 21-point deficit in the regular season since 2016 (Kansas City).
— With his first three receptions, running back Nyheim Hines passed Joe Washington (127) for the third-most receptions by a Colts running back in their first three seasons. He also passed Washington for the 10th-most receptions by a Colts player in their first three seasons.
Click here to check out more stats and notes from Sunday's win over the Bengals, courtesy of Colts Communications.
See the best images from Lucas Oil Stadium as the Indianapolis Colts defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 6.
Colts fans can catch the re-air of Sunday's Week 6 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on WTTV4.2 this Wednesday at 8pm presented by POWERHOME SOLAR.