INDIANAPOLIS – What a difference a week makes.
The Colts defensive unit went from looking like they carried over their late-season regression in 2019 to making the Minnesota Vikings offense look like it was playing its first preseason game together.
The Colts intercepted Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins three times and had Minnesota's offense bottled up throughout in their 28-11 victory at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.
Indianapolis held the Vikings to 175 yards of offense, limiting Cousins to just 11-of-26 for 113 yards while also sacking him three times. At one point in the second half, Cousins had a 0.0 rating.
The Colts needed a game like Sunday to avoid having questions continue to arise about a unit that was supposed to take a step forward with the addition of defensive lineman DeForest Buckner along with return of their starting linebacker group led by Darius Leonard.
Sunday’s performance was drastically different from Week 1, when Jacksonville quarterback Gardner Minshew only threw one incomplete pass in their loss to the Jaguars.
The Colts will put themselves in position for the playoffs if the defense continues to get off the field quickly so that the offense can control the clock like it did Sunday by having the ball nearly 17 more minutes than Minnesota.
Buy on a breakout performance: Tight end Mo Alie-Cox finished with five catches for 111 yards after a dropped ball resulted in an interception. Alie-Cox’s bounce-back from that drop showed that quarterback Philip Rivers didn’t lose confidence in his tight end, who is a former college basketball player at VCU. The 111 yards receiving was more than the 93 yards Alie-Cox had in all 16 games that he played in last season. The Colts may continue to lean on Alie-Cox because there’s no timetable on when Jack Doyle will return, and Trey Burton, Doyle’s backup, is still on the injured reserve list.
Promising trend: Rookie running back Jonathan Taylor made his first NFL start in place of the injured Marlon Mack (Achilles), rushing for 101 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries as the Colts’ new No. 1 running back. The Colts showed their commitment to get Taylor the ball on their opening drive. His 12 touches from scrimmages – 11 rushes and a reception – are the most touches by any player on a team’s opening drive in the past 20 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
The Colts’ best chance at winning isn’t by having the 38-year-old Rivers throw the ball 40-plus times like he did against Jacksonville in Week 1. It’s by leaning more on the running game behind one of the NFL’s best offensive lines. The Colts had 40 rushing attempts, 18 more than they attempted against the Jaguars.
Silver lining: The Colts lost starting safety Malik Hooker to an Achilles injury late in the first half. Hooker’s loss allowed rookie Julian Blackmon to have a strong debut. Blackmon broke up what would have a big gain by Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. and then he deflected a pass down the field that ended up being intercepted by fellow safety Khari Willis. The most substantial part about Blackmon’s performance is that he was back on the field nine months after tearing his ACL while playing in the Pac-12 championship game while at the University of Utah in December 2019.