The Indianapolis Colts entered Week 10 with a 4-5 record, hoping to seize a victory and climb back to .500. To do so, a trip to Germany against the New England Patriots stood in the way. After what is best described as a “strugglefest”, the good guys ended up on top, as Indy held on for a 10-6 win.
The Colts offense never quite got things going, at least not consistently. Quarterback Gardner Minshew found his receivers for a few awe-inspiring connections, but just as often, the veteran signal-caller outright missed his targets. Or even worse, the receivers failed to haul in multiple well-placed balls from Minshew.
The defense, to its credit, was lights out all afternoon. Granted, the Patriots are not exactly a juggernaut offense, ranking near the bottom in several offensive categories in 2023. It got so bad that starting quarterback Mac Jones was benched for the final drive of the game, thrusting backup Bailey Zappe into the spotlight.
As you’d imagine, the inexperienced Zappe failed to muster up any magic. With under two minutes remaining, the Western Kentucky product logged a couple of first downs, but after a botched fake-spike attempt, the Colts were able to force a game-sealing turnover. Rodney Thomas II intercepted a pass into triple coverage and the rest is history.
Let’s take a deeper dive into the Colts-Patriots overseas showdown. In our weekly recap special here at The Blue Stable, it is time to zero in on the good, the bad, and the ugly from Indy’s matchup with its once-hated rival.
The Good Stuff From Sunday’s Victory
No. 1: The Colts Defense Did Its Job
Allowing only six points in 60 minutes of play is quite the accomplishment against any offense in the NFL. Sure, the Patriots boast one of the worst units in the league, but the Colts still had to show up and make plays. They are all professional athletes, after all; not to mention the jet lag that comes with such a long flight.
Zaire Franklin, after missing his first football game since high school, returned to the lineup and led the team in tackles on Sunday. Shocker, I know. Franklin’s 15 tackles expanded his gap as the league’s leader in that category, even while missing a full game.
The secondary was impressive and tormented Mac Jones and the Patriot pass catchers all day. Both safeties, Julian Blackmon and Rodney Thomas II recorded an interception. That makes back-to-back contests with multiple interceptions. Not bad for a defensive back room that caught flack during the Colts’ three-game skid.
Last but certainly not least, former second-round pick Dayo Odeyingbo had a career day. The gifted defender brought Mac Jones down three times and also chipped in three more tackles for loss. To say Hurricane Dayo wreaked havoc against the Patriots would be a vast understatement.
No. 2: Jonathan Taylor’s Usage Is Promising
Jonathan Taylor didn’t produce the type of elite stat line that accompanied him in his last matchup with New England. But still, the fact that head coach Shane Steichen unleashed a full workload on Taylor in Week 10 is promising nonetheless. His 23 carries are the most in a single contest since Week 1 of the 2022 campaign.
Fans will want to see more efficiency as Taylor continues finding his footing behind a constantly injured offensive line, as the Wisconsin alum posted a paltry 3.0 yards per carry on Sunday. That’s alright, though, because JT’s trip to the end zone marked the only touchdown score of the day on either side — essentially winning the game himself.
The Patriots, despite being in a down year, have droves of talent on the defensive front. Running lanes should open up for Taylor and Co. as better matchups come their way. All in all, the usage rate of JT was a positive sign for this football team heading into an important stretch of the schedule.
No. 3: The Colts Wide Receivers Are Really, Really Good…
Michael Pittman Jr. led the way with eight receptions and 84 yards against the Patriots. He was a measly yard away from being the lone touchdown scorer of the game after a tough 10-yard snag put him down at the one-yard line. Pittman Jr. deserves a new contract this offseason, and if this level of play continues, it will be quite a lucrative payday for the USC alum.
Rookie star Josh Downs showcased his talent with a couple of catches, even without appearing in practice all week. He was clearly hobbled by injury, but Downs still hauled in a miraculous, drive-extending pass from Gardner Minshew midway through the contest. And he came a few fingertips short of doing it again later on.
Assuming the Colts extend Pittman Jr. in the offseason, the duo of MPJ and Downs is a lethal combination for quarterback Anthony Richardson. Another high-end pass catcher, potentially via the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft, would catapult Indy toward the top of any “best wide receiving corps in the NFL” list.
The Bad From Colts vs. Patriots
No. 4: Gardner Minshew Did Enough, But Is That Actually Enough?
The Colts signed Gardner Minshew in the offseason with the hopes that he’d be on the sideline as a mentor all year. Unfortunately, due to a season-ending shoulder injury to Richardson, Minshew has been tasked with serving as the QB1 for the remainder of 2023.
In Richardson’s absence, the Washington State product has been “good enough” at times and downright awful at other times. He is proving why he’s not a full-time starter, but let’s not be too harsh — wins are wins. Minshew must play better and take care of the football down the stretch. Mediocre play will lead to a mediocre record at the end of the day.
The Ugly From Week 10
No. 5: Zero Touchdowns After The Opening Drive
The Colts got off to a hot start with a surgical, 14-play opening drive. With seven points on the board early, the hope was Minshew’s crew could continue putting up points the rest of the way, at least another touchdown or two with some field goals sprinkled in. Alas, that would be the only touchdown the packed Germany crowd would see.
Matt Gay hit a field goal and missed one on Sunday, both from 50+ yards out. While a kicker with the highest price tag in the history of the sport should be expected to hit lengthy field goals, it’s never an easy feat to connect from that far away. But it still highlights three points that were left on the board.
Simply put, 10 points won’t be enough to win on most weeks. The Patriots are a complete mess on offense, however, helping the Colts maintain a lead from the first quarter on. The team must find ways to move the football and take pressure off the defense. Until then, ugly wins will be the only ones to come Indy’s way.
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