The Indianapolis Colts, once in the driver’s seat of the AFC South, have come tumbling back to reality. Following a 17-point beat down at the hands of the Jaguars and a referee-influenced loss to the Browns, Indy desperately needed to right the ship on Sunday.
Alas, the Saints continued the onslaught, taking a 38-27 victory back home with them to New Orleans. A third straight defeat leaves the Colts (3-5) in the cellar of the division all alone. There is plenty to discuss from this past weekend. Without further ado, let’s dive into the good, the bad, and the ugly in Week 8.
The Good: The Colts’ Run Game, Josh Downs, And DeForest Buckner!
No. 1: The Colts’ Rushing Attack Is Lethal
Jonathan Taylor got off to a hot start on Sunday, recording 11 carries for 90+ yards in the first half. Add in Zack Moss’ contributions (11 rushing attempts for 66 yards), and it’s clear how much the ground game was working against New Orleans.
It is promising to see the running lanes open up, even with the offensive line seeing such uncertainty in terms of health. The dynamic duo of Taylor and Moss should serve the Colts well going forward, with the hope of Anthony Richardson returning in 2024 to form a three-headed monster out of the backfield.
No. 2: DeForest Bucker Is Still One Of The Best Defenders On Planet Earth
The Colts made a bold move in 2020 by trading a first-round pick to San Francisco for superstar defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. Since acquiring the All-Pro talent, Buckner has been the heart and soul of the entire Indy defense.
Against the Saints, DeFo sacked quarterback Derek Carr early in the second frame, forcing the ball loose and allowing teammate Dayo Odeyingbo to recover it. Even without his running mate Grover Stewart, Buckner continues putting his fingerprints on every snap.
No. 3: Josh Downs Was A Massive Steal For The Colts
No Anthony Richardson? Not a problem for first-year wideout Josh Downs. Although the two rookies developed invaluable chemistry all offseason, Downs has proven he can succeed no matter which quarterback throws the ball his way.
The North Carolina alum is on pace for 85 receptions and 1,000+ yards, putting him ahead of franchise legends like Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and T.Y. Hilton. Gardner Minshew trusts the young pass catcher to be the primary safety blanket, but wait until Richardson gets a full season with Downs — this is merely a glimpse of his ceiling.
The Bad: Gardner Minshew And The Colts’ Cornerback Room
No. 4: Gardner Minshew
This might come off as crass or mean-spirited, but Gardner Minshew has not played well in his time as QB1. Minshew has the talent to win games, but his decision-making, and primarily his ball security, have cost the Colts on far too many occasions, including a mind-numbing interception against the Saints.
Still, Minshew is not in jeopardy of losing his gig anytime soon. And no, contrary to what some Colts fans think, Sam Ehlinger wouldn’t give Indy any better chance at winning. Like it or not, this is Minshew’s crew the rest of the way. Here’s to hoping the veteran signal-caller quits putting his defense in sticky situations.
No. 5: Chris Ballard Is Reaping What He Sowed At Cornerback
After trading away Stephon Gilmore and drafting three cornerbacks at the 2023 NFL Draft, Colts general manager Chris Ballard opted for a full-scale youth movement at the position. In theory, it was a wise decision to quit with the patchwork cornerbacks. But, in actuality, the lack of veteran depth is killing Gus Bradley’s unit.
Now, we must mention Isaiah Rodgers, an expected starter, got suspended for violating NFL gambling rules in the offseason. And it is also worth noting that second-round pick JuJu Brents has dealt with injury after injury in Year 1. But the decision to cut ties with Darius Rush, while failing to bring in any veteran backups, will continue to be a thorn in the team’s side.
Derek Carr gashed the secondary for 310 yards with the help of the explosive Rashid Shaheed, who posted a prime Randy Moss stat line (3 catches, 153 receiving yards, and a touchdown). Therein lies the rub; the entire point of the Bradley scheme is to limit big plays and keep the football in front of the defenders. The Colts failed on all fronts in Week 8.
The Ugly: Shane Steichen Abandoning Jonathan Taylor vs. Saints
No. 6: Shane Steichen Overthought It
Make no mistake; Shane Steichen is the right guy as head coach in Indianapolis. He is an offensive mastermind 90 percent of the time. However, there are a few times a game the fan base collectively scratches its head. Against the Saints? The usage of Jonathan Taylor serves as the catalyst for the dismay.
After Taylor hit the ground running with a near 100-yard performance in the first half, the former All-Pro toted the rock once on the opening drive of the third quarter, and then we never heard from him again. Steichen ruled out injury, instead saying the decision was calculated, as Zack Moss had the “hot hand” after halftime.
That’s fair. Moss was playing well and really found a groove. But it’s hard to believe Taylor couldn’t have positively impacted the game even more. I mean, if you pay someone $42 million, it’s fair to assume they are a focal point of the offense. Right?
JT is talented enough as a pass catcher and blocker to play with Moss on some snaps. One touch in the second half for arguably the best running back in the AFC? Inexcusable.
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