1. The Colts' emphasis on tempo and quick game paid off.
Half of Matt Ryan's 58 pass attempts came with the Colts operating a no-huddle offense; he threw the ball in 2.5 seconds or quicker on 21 of those 29 dropbacks, per Pro Football Focus.
The Colts' emphasized going up-tempo in practice leading into Sunday, which tired out the Jaguars' pass rushers, kept Jacksonville's defensive personnel static on a play-to-play basis and helped spark Indianapolis' highest point total since Week 11 of the 2021 season.
"I'll take a tired O-lineman over a tired D-lineman any day of the week," center Ryan Kelly said. "And it forces them not to be able to sub a lot."
So that was step one toward neutralizing a Jaguars pass rush that sacked Ryan five times and hit him seven times in the Colts' 24-0 Week 2 loss. The next step was executing the game plan – it's one thing to go up tempo and throw short passes, and it's another to complete those passes for the kind of efficient gains that allow an offense to stay on schedule and keep going no huddle.
Ryan completed 15 of 21 no-huddle passes thrown within 2.5 seconds of receiving the snap for 146 yards; seven of those completions went for first downs and 11 gained at least four yards.
"The quick game really becomes your running game," head coach Frank Reich said. "It becomes a little bit of an extension of your running game.
"... It's tough sledding running against them, so let's not run uphill like that. Let's do that with the short, quick passing game."
The benefit to getting the ball out quick, too, is it gives the offensive line a bit of a breather – especially important in a game where Ryan dropped back 58 times, often while operating up-tempo.
"It was a good change of pace for us," Ryan said. "I thought we played with good tempo – used the speed when we needed it, but also we were able to check out of some things and get into some looks that we wanted to get into. I thought Frank (Reich) did a great job calling it today. I thought we had a good plan coming in.
"And, you know, we'll see what we do with it moving forward. But I thought it was effective for us today."
Those last two sentences are key here – the Colts won't necessarily build their offense around up-tempo, no-huddle, quick-game concepts every week going forward. This was a plan that worked for Week 6 against the Jaguars. But since no-huddle limits the amount of personnel groupings an offense can get to – something Reich values to create advantageous matchups – it may not be something that works for the Colts going against some of the opponents left on their schedule.
But it also can be something they can turn to at points during the season, and opposing defenses will have to be aware of the Colts' ability to efficiently run a no-huddle offense at any time.
"I think it's a great thing to have in your arsenal," Kelly said. "Maybe not all the time — I think there's certainly times to do it, certain times not — but obviously we just kept competing and kept getting down there, and then it tires the defense out. It's a great feeling."
2. Parris Campbell came up big.
Campbell set a career high in receptions with seven; four of those went for a fist down and one was a touchdown on which Campbell contorted his body and held on to the football to stretch it across the goal line:
Campbell was where he needed to be when Ryan looked his way, and made plays with the ball in his hands – 30 of his 57 receiving yards came after the catch, and 19 of his yards came after contact, per Pro Football Focus.
"He was huge," Ryan said. "He's got a knack when he's got the ball in his hands of making guys miss, getting extra yards. And you can see his confidence continuing to grow. You know, I know he's had kind of a tough road here throughout his career overcoming injury and having to battle through that. And he's another guy I see as one of the guys whose confidence you can just feel it when you're around him. You know, it's continuing to grow and his belief is continuing to grow. I thought he had a huge impact on the game for us today."
View the top photos from the Colts' 34-27 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium.
3. The Colts were not lacking in offensive weapons.
Even without running backs Jonathan Taylor (ankle) and Nyheim Hines (concussion), there was no part of Sunday's game where you were longing for more offensive weapons on the field. The aforementioned Campbell had a fantastic game, while Michael Pittman Jr. set career highs in receptions (13) and yards (134) and Alec Pierce looked like the ideal complement to him:
(Notably, neither Pittman nor Pierce played in the Colts' Week 2 shutout loss in Jacksonville.)
Tight end Kylen Granson also caught four passes, three of which went for first downs – and two of those first downs came on third-and-longs. Jelani Woods caught his third touchdown of the season and added a 17-yard reception that sparked the Colts' first scoring drive, too.
And Deon Jackson became the first Colts running back since Joseph Addai in 2009 to have 10 receptions in a game; he gained 79 yards on those catches.
Again: This production came without two players who the Colts considered to be two of their top three playmakers heading into the season. We've also seen productive moments from guys like Ashton Dulin (who's on injured reserve) and Mo Alie-Cox (who wasn't targeted) in 2022.
The Colts have believed for months that their offensive weapons were not lacking. With the ascension of Pierce, and with guys like Campbell and Alie-Cox and Granson taking their turns with impact games, that belief certainly looks justified.
"We trust all those guys," Ryan said. "I'm proud of the guys."
4. EJ Speed impressed again as a next man up.
On a fourth-and-one on the Colts' 32-yard line late in the third quarter, the Jaguars lined up in a pistol formation with running back Travis Etienne Jr. behind quarterback Trevor Lawrence. That formation was a tell the Jaguars might try to run the ball with Lawrence, who was effective with the ball in his hands on Sunday (six carries, 23 yards, two touchdowns).
At the snap, Lawrence took off to his right with Etienne sprinting a few yards behind him – a classic speed option. Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and defensive end Tyquan Lewis both did well to win the point of attack and knock their opposing offensive linemen back, and then linebacker EJ Speed lived up to his name.
"He plays with a lot of speed, he plays aggressive, he's a great tackler in space," safety Rodney McLeod Jr. said. "... He continues to demonstrate that week to week when he gets his opportunities."
Speed out-ran center Luke Fortner to get to the edge just as Lawrence got there, then stayed disciplined as Lawrence pitched the ball to Etienne. Speed brought down Etienne two yards beyond the line of scrimmage, forcing a turnover on downs the Colts' offense converted into a 66-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.
It was another big play against the run for Speed, who will enter Week 7 as Pro Football Focus' highest-graded linebacker against the run (90.7).
"EJ, he's that spark," linebacker Zaire Franklin said. "He's that guy you can always rely on to make a play. He's a playmaker. Smart, athletic, he's rangy — he can do everything on the field.
"... EJ's just been dynamite all year. I just know, if EJ's out there, it's good. It was great to see that play. I turned up with him. That's my man for sure."
5. Bubba Ventrone's special teams units came up big again.
The Jaguars gained possession on three punts and seven kickoffs on Sunday, and only one of those drives started beyond their own 25-yard line:
|Kickoff||JAX 25||End of half|
|Kickoff||JAX 19||Turnover on downs|
|Kickoff||JAX 25||Fumble/end of game|
The possession that started on the 44-yard line came when punter Matt Haack punted from the Colts' 19-yard line; his other two punts were fair caught inside the 15-yard line.
But where the Colts' coverage unit shined was on the four kickoffs Jacksonville returned on Sunday (the other three were touchbacks). On those:
- Grant Stuard and Speed combined to tackle returner Jamal Agnew at the Jaguars' 23-yard line
- JoJo Domann tackled returner Chris Claybrooks at the Jaguars' 19-yard line
- Stuard and Tony Brown combined to tackle Claybrooks at the Jaguars' 14-yard line
- Nick Cross and Zaire Franklin combined to tackle Claybrooks at the Jaguars' 25-yard line
Haack and kicker Chase McLaughlin are new in 2022, of course, but so are Stuard (acquired in a cut-down day pick swap with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Brown (signed as a free agent in March), Domann (signed as an undrafted free agent) and Cross (drafted in the third round). And newcomers like Dallis Flowers (undrafted free agent), Rodney McLeod Jr. (free agent), Rodney Thomas II (draft pick) and Ifeadi Odenigbo (free agent) all were part of the Colts' kickoff coverage unit, as was Ben Banogu, who's fifth on the team in special teams snaps with 92.
A strong combination of scouting, coaching and execution has allowed the Colts' special teams units to continue playing at a high level despite so much turnover in that phase this year.
The Colts beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 34-27 in Week Six of the 2022 season.