This is what they can be.
The Indianapolis Colts’ top-to-bottom 31-3 dismantling of the Houston Texans on Sunday offensively (passing and running) and defensively (tackling and snarling) was coach Frank Reich’s preseason game plan come to life.
Coming off of a 2020 playoff season, the Colts were thinking bigger than 11-5, only to start 2021 going 0-3. Injuries contributed, but beginning the year by falling into a crevasse without crampons or climbing ropes boded ill.
It is too soon at 2-4 to claim a true resurrection is underway since playing in this manner a few weeks in a row is what is necessary, but when it comes to handing out performance grades versus Houston, the Colts did everything well enough for a report card of all A’s.
“Excellent defensive performance” is what Reich cited first. “Special teams was on point and played well. Then I thought offensively, we played well. Good, complete win.”
Thank you for the succinct what’s-not-to-like summary, Frank.
Little too soon to gush about how great Indianapolis is given the overall record, but if the Colts can keep winning, Reich will open up his playbook with a few more adjectives.
When Indianapolis drafted Jonathan Taylor in the second round last year, it seemed a no-brainer, based on his Wisconsin college play, that he could become a special player. At the time, though, he didn’t even figure to start because the Colts had Marlon Mack. But when unfortunate son Mack went down for the season early, Taylor emerged as a sleeper stock whose value keeps rising.
Against Houston, Taylor broke an 83-yard touchdown run, rushed for 145 yards in all and scored two touchdowns. Reich doesn’t want to wear out the 5-foot-10, 226-pound Taylor, but between handoffs and catching passes from Carson Wentz, he envisions keeping the former Badger star quite busy.
“Yeah, I think in the perfect game, in my mind anyway, he’s getting at least 20 carries and (having) a big day,” Reich said.
Taylor seems to be on the cusp of making those type of games routine.
Also, after dueling sprained ankles quelling his mobility and other issues, quarterback Wentz seems to be in a solid comfort zone running the offense. Wentz threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns against the Texans and seems smoother being in charge. No doubt it helps to be able to run without limping.
Seeking to selectively employ Wentz’s arm strength, the Colts are trying to open up the offense to convert long-distance passes.
“I think it’s definitely something we are capable of as long as teams give us the right looks that we are looking for,” Wentz said. “I love throwing the ball down the field. I love striking quick and fast the way we did today on a couple of those.”
That being a universal scenario among quarterbacks, of course.
One weapon Wentz did not have at his disposal during the season’s first five games was injured receiver T.Y. Hilton. This time, Hilton was available and looked sharp. He excited the Lucas Oil Stadium fans by bursting out of the locker room wearing former NBA star Michael Jordan’s comeback uniform No. 45 and then caught four passes for 60 yards. He now has 612 catches as a Colt.
As if another reminder was needed proclaiming a return, Wentz threw to Hilton on the first Colts play from scrimmage. Hilton was welcomed back like the meaningful veteran he is with this team.
“It was fun, man,” Hilton said. “The crowd brought the energy.”
Actually, Hilton brought energy to the team, issuing a stirring pregame pep talk.
The only disturbance in the force was Hilton being slow to rise from the ground on a play near the end of the game. He tweaked a quad muscle but later said it is not a big enough deal to hinder him when Indianapolis meets the San Francisco 49ers in California this coming Sunday night.
Whether his quadriceps ache or not, perhaps Reich should enlist Hilton for a fresh weekly Gettysburg Address to spark the team.