INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts improved to 2-1 on the year Sunday with their 36-7 victory over the New York Jets in their 2020 Week 3 matchup at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Colts set the tone early, as cornerback Xavier Rhodes would pick off Jets quarterback Sam Darnold's second pass attempt of the day and return it 44 yards to the end zone for a touchdown, establishing a theme for the rest of the afternoon; the Indy defense would add another pick-six and force a safety in a second straight dominating performance.
"Defensively, it was quite an effort," Colts head coach Frank Reich told reporters after the game. "It was a unique game to get the pick-six (at the start). Offense, we really didn't even get on the field until the end of the first quarter so just a unique game in that regard. But defense coming up big and scoring 16 points, back-to-back safeties in two games. That's quite an accomplishment. Guys just making plays all over the field."
Here are the FIVE THINGS LEARNED from Sunday's victory over the Jets:
» DEFENSIVE DOMINANCE: While the Jets (0-3) on Sunday were able to move the ball at times a little bit better than the Minnesota Vikings did in the Colts' suffocating Week 2 victory, the Indy defense and its propensity for back-breaking big plays this time around made all the difference. In fact, the Colts' defense (16 points) would end up outscoring the Jets' offense (7 points) thanks to the two pick-sixes by cornebacks Xavier Rhodes and T.J. Carrie, and a late safety forced by defensive end Justin Houston, as Indy became the eighth team in NFL history — and the sixth since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger — to post two pick-sixes and force a safety in the same game. The Colts, in all, allowed just 260 total yards of offense, and the Jets converted just 3-of-12 attempts on third down. Rhodes — who added a second interception later in the game — said his unit's strong play the last couple weeks, especially, can be attributed to a group willing to put in the work throughout the week to make meaningful corrections. "Just looking at our mistakes — the mistakes we made each and every game we play no matter if we win or lose," Rhodes said. "There's always mistakes out there being made so we just go each and every week correcting mistakes we made previously and we're going to do the same this week and looking forward to playing Chicago."
» MANY MILESTONES: While Philip Rivers, of course, played the first 16 seasons of his NFL career with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers, he entered the 2020 season, his first as the Colts' quarterback, on the cusp of some historic milestones, many of which he accomplished in Sunday’s win over the Jets. First, with a one-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mo Alie-Cox early in the second quarter, Rivers reached the 400 career passing touchdowns mark, becoming the sixth member of that exclusive club. Then, with a 45-yard completion to Alie-Cox later in the second quarter, Rivers passed Hall of Famer Dan Marino to enter fifth place on the NFL's all-time passing completions list (4,967). Finally, Rivers would become the sixth player to reach the 60,000 passing yards plateau. When it comes to the 400 passing touchdowns and 60,000 passing yards, Rivers joined the likes of Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre and Marino on those respective lists. "The milestones are meaningful," Rivers said after the game. "I could sit here and tell you they don't matter and I don't care about them, but they are meaningful. I've dreamed of playing quarterback in this league since I was a little kid and some of those guys are far, far away on that list in both yardage and touchdowns. But some of those guys are guys I grew up loving, I was fans of, posters on the wall; some of them I have been able to compete against. It certainly is special."
» HIDDEN YARDAGE: The brilliance of the Colts' special teams units — and their ability to win the field position battle — was on full display in Sunday's win over the Jets. New York on Sunday began its drives, on average, from its own 18-yard line; the Colts, meanwhile, were able to begin their drives from their own 34-yard line — a massive difference of 16 yards. That's significant. The kickoff coverage units were fantastic for Indy throughout the game, as the Jets were brought down at their own 21-, 12- and 9-yard line on three different kickoffs, and Rigoberto Sanchez's punting, and his coverage units, was just as solid; three of Sanchez's four punts on the day were called for fair catches inside the 10-yard line. Oftentimes the highlights on the offensive and defensive side of the ball get the most attention, but the Colts pay very close attention to the "hidden yardage" either won or lost throughout a ballgame, and they're certainly excelling in this area so far in 2020. "Special teams really excelled, made big plays," Reich said. "Field position was good for us the whole game. We took advantage of those opportunities."
» CLEAN BALLGAME: For whatever reason, there seems to have been an uptick in major injuries across the NFL landscape the first few weeks of the season, and the Colts, unfortunately, weren't spared from this trend. In Week 1, the Colts lost starting running back Marlon Mack for the season with a ruptured Achilles. In Week 2, the team lost starting safety Malik Hooker for the year, also due to an Achilles injury, as well as top slot receiver Parris Campbell, who is out indefinitely with a knee injury, and linebacker and key special teams contributor Matthew Adams, who was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury. Fortunately for the Colts, it seems as if they were spared of any major injuries coming out of Sunday's win over the Jets. Reich had mentioned after the game there are likely going to be some typical bumps and bruises the team has to deal with this week as it prepares for this Sunday's Week 4 contest on the road against the Chicago Bears, but that there was nothing major he knew of injury-wise heading into the week; wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. (ankle) was the only player listed with an injury throughout the Jets game, and he was able to return. That's great news for a team that could possibly start to see the return of some key guys over the next few weeks; tight end Trey Burton (calf) is eligible to return from IR as soon as this Sunday against the Bears, while defensive end Kemoko Turay (ankle) can return from the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list as soon as Week 8, after the bye week.
» NOTES OF INTEREST:
— Indianapolis scored on a passing touchdown, rushing touchdown, interception returned for a touchdown (two), field goal (two), extra point (four), and a safety. It is only the second time in team history the Colts produced each of those scores in a single game. The other was November 17, 1996 vs. New York Jets.
— The Colts defense recorded safeties in back-to-back games for the first since Weeks 10 and 11 of 1960.
Click here to check out more stats and notes from Sunday's win over the Jets, courtesy of Colts Communications.
Colts fans can catch the re-air of Sunday's Week 3 win over the New York Jets on WTTV4.2 this Wednesday at 8pm presented by POWERHOME SOLAR.
See all the action on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium as the Indianapolis Colts host the New York Jets in Week 3.