INDIANAPOLIS -- It was the type of performance that was envisioned when the Indianapolis Colts added players to their roster in the offseason.
Have quarterback Philip Rivers use his right arm to throw when necessary. Pound the ball on the ground behind one of the NFL’s best offensive lines. And rely on the defense, which is anchored by DeForest Buckner in the middle of the line and linebacker Darius Leonard, to do its part to slow down the opposing offense.
“There’s no question that this is a blueprint to what we want to look like,” Colts coach Frank Reich said. “Defensively, we played such a good game on defense. I can’t say enough about how they played and how the defensive staff coached it and how we played it. Credit to them. On offense, we wanted to reestablish the run. We still need to clean some stuff up on offense. We want to be a great situational team. But overall, it was really solid in all three areas.”
The Colts ran the ball 40 times, Rivers attempted only 25 passes and they forced the Vikings into three turnovers. What the Colts did against Minnesota was completely opposite of what they did against the Jacksonville Jaguars in their Week 1 loss.
The Colts' defense didn’t force any turnovers, and Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II was 19-of-20. Offensively, Indianapolis threw the ball 46 times -- with two interceptions -- and ran it just 22 times.
Playing that way might work every now and then, but it doesn't play to their strengths.
“I just think that’s what everyone wants everywhere [to have balance], but I do think we are built to be able to be that more often than not,” Rivers said. “... There are a few things we can clean up in the pass game, but when we are efficient and we don’t turn it over and we run it 30-plus times and our defense plays like that, we have a chance to win a lot of games.”
Rivers’ 17-year NFL résumé includes 59,848 yards and 399 touchdowns, but at this point of his career and with the talent surrounding him on the offensive line and at running back -- even though Marlon Mack is out for the season (Achilles) -- it's clear the Colts should lean more on the ground game. Rookie Jonathan Taylor rushed for 101 yards in his first start as Mack’s replacement. The Colts currently are allowing the fewest yards per game in the NFL, at 208 yards, which is nearly 100 fewer yards than Baltimore and Pittsburgh's 305 yards a game.
The difference between runs and passes -- 18 -- might make it seem as if Rivers is more of a game manager.
“I’ve always felt like the term 'game manger' is seen as a negative. I don’t think it’s a negative,” Rivers said. “Sometimes I think that is whatever the quarterback’s job is. Sometimes a quarterback’s job is to sink it and throw it all over the field and find a way to lead a two-minute drive. Sometimes it’s to hand it off and not turn it over and get everyone lined up and handle motions and make a few checks here and there. If that’s the term ‘game manager,’ and that’s what [Sunday] was, it was a heck of a lot of fun.
“So, I think it’s being able to do that, be in that mode, and if we have the capabilities to do it week to week, both personnel-wise and how the game is going, then heck yeah. We will all take [Sunday's result] each and every week, from an outcome standpoint. I think we just have to be ready to adapt and find a way, whatever that is, and be committed to that and ready to adjust as the game goes week to week.”