INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts' offense this season features three young, speedy wide receivers in T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett.
Accordingly, all three players warrant plenty of attention by opposing defenses week in and week out — which is just fine to the Colts' tight ends.
In offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski's scheme, the tight ends can be just as much of a weapon down the field as the wide receivers, which was on full display Sunday in the team's 2016 season opener against the Detroit Lions.
In all, tight ends Dwayne Allen and Jack Doyle combined to catch seven passes for 88 yards and three of the team's four touchdowns in the Colts' 39-35 loss.
"I think in this offense everybody has chances to make big plays," said Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who finished his day completing 31-of-47 passes (66 percent) for 385 yards and four touchdowns to zero interceptions. "We saw a bunch of guys make a bunch of big plays and I think we have quality tight ends that can go up and make big catches. They certainly did a good job of getting open."
If it weren't for a slow start for the offense on Sunday, those numbers might've been even more inflated.
The Colts were trailing 21-3 with five seconds left in the second quarter before they were able to tally their first touchdown of the day, a two-yard pass from Luck to Moncrief, to cut the halftime lead to 11, at 21-10.
But the second half on Sunday was a much different story for the Indianapolis offense, thanks in large part to its tight ends.
In the third and fourth quarters combined, Luck completed 16-of-27 passes for 231 yards and three touchdowns, each of which went to Allen and Doyle, who combined to catch four passes for 54 yards during that same span.
"(We) just got things going," said Allen, whose third quarter touchdown reception was his first since Week 1 of the 2015 season. "I think we were able to stretch the field and start hitting some of our playmakers down the field. It's a long game, and they were able to get tired and we were able to get into our gameplan."
Allen's touchdown reception came about midway through the third quarter, when he was able to sneak open for a 19-yard pass play to make the score 21-16 with 8:41 left in the period. Luck then connected with Allen, again, on the two-point conversion, to trim the Lions' once-secure lead to just three, at 21-18.
Doyle's two scores, meanwhile, were even more clutch.
Trailing 28-21 halfway through the fourth quarter, Doyle scored on a 16-yard reception from Luck to tie the game at 28-all with 8:19 left. It was the first time the two teams were all squared up since Detroit had opened the game's scoring with a 21-yard touchdown run at the 4:43 mark in the first quarter.
Then, after seeing the Lions score once more in the fourth quarter — only to miss their extra-point attempt — the Colts began an eight-play, 75-yard drive, hoping to earn a touchdown and an extra point to claim their first lead of the game.
The eighth play of the drive turned out to be just that, as Doyle popped up just at the right time to snag a six-yard touchdown pass from Luck. After the extra point from Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis finally led, 35-34.
"Yeah, the play was intended for Donte, maybe," Doyle said with a laugh, referring to Moncrief, who was right behind him on the play. "But it was an exciting time."
In just one game, Doyle has tied his career-high for receiving touchdowns in a season, having also caught two scores in 2014. Previously utilized as more of an all-around tight end in Indianapolis — known for his blocking and special teams skills — Doyle was bumped up to the No. 2 tight end on the depth chart this offseason after the team re-signed Allen and elected to let Coby Fleener, who ultimately signed with the New Orleans Saints, test the free agent market.
Allen said he wasn't surprised to see Doyle step up the way he did on Sunday.
"That's Jack Doyle," Allen said. "I don't worry a bit whenever Jack comes in and I'm on the sideline, because I know he's more than capable of going out there and executing, whether it's in the run blocking, pass blocking, or as you were able to see today, the receiving. He was able to go in there and get it done."
While the Colts' Week 2 matchup on the road against the Denver Broncos could prove to feature a totally different offensive attack scheme-wise, Sunday's game against the Lions showed Chudzinski and Luck everything they needed to know about their tight ends.
"You try to do your job, and a lot of defenses are going to try to take away T.Y. and Donte and Phil," Doyle said. "So, you know, if the ball seems to find our way, we've got to be open and make plays for the team."