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3 Takeaways from Colts’ Week 10 Win

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    The Indianapolis Colts have taken over first place in the AFC South. And they’ve done so in impressive fashion.

    On Thursday night, the Colts made a loud statement, going on the road and beating the division-rival Tennessee Titans 34-17. Both teams are now 6-3, but Indianapolis is in first place with the head-to-head victory.

    It was a competitive game early, but the Colts broke things open in the second half. Beginning with Rodrigo Blankenship’s 43-yard field goal as time expired to end the second quarter, Indianapolis scored 24 unanswered points, getting into the end zone three times in the final 17 minutes, 51 seconds of the game.

    The Colts did everything well in this one, getting standout performances on offense, defense and special teams. And they bounced back in a big way after losing at home to the Baltimore Ravens this past Sunday.

    Here are three takeaways from Indianapolis’ Thursday night victory.

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    Brett Carlsen/Associated Press

    Philip Rivers’ numbers may not be the flashiest this season, but he’s doing a solid job leading the Colts’ offense. And he had one of his most efficient and cleanest performances of the year on Thursday night.

    The 38-year-old went 29-for-39 for 308 yards and a touchdown, as his 74.4 percent completion percentage was his best since Week 3.

    It may have been the seventh time in nine games that he had less than two touchdown passes in a game, but he also didn’t throw any interceptions. He has only one interception over the past three weeks, which is a marked improvement from earlier in the season.

    Not only did Rivers help the Colts amass 430 total yards while primarily working out of a no-huddle offense, but he also made some history. He passed Dan Marino for fifth on the NFL‘s all-time passing yards list, as he has now thrown for 61,666 yards in his 17-year career (all of which had been with the Chargers before this season).

    “He’s just really good in that [no-huddle] mode,” Indianapolis head coach Frank Reich said, per Teresa M. Walker of the Associated Press. “Very accurate, good checks in the run game, he was really in it tonight.”

    The only other quarterbacks with more career passing yards than Rivers are Drew Brees (79,536), Tom Brady (76,969), Peyton Manning (71,940) and Brett Favre (71,838).

    However, the North Carolina State product is the only one among those five to have never won a Super Bowl. He’s going to look to change that this season, and his consistent play could be a key reason why the Colts make a deep playoff run at the end of the year.

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Have yourself a birthday, Nyheim Hines. On the day the Colts running back turned 24, he rushed for 70 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries while also hauling in five passes for 45 yards and a score.

    His rushing touchdown was the go-ahead score that put Indianapolis ahead 20-17 with 2:51 to go in the third quarter.

    “I’ve never had a game like this on my birthday, so my 24th birthday is going to be one I’m always going to remember,” Hines said, per Walker. “I knew one thing: I didn’t want to settle for average, I wanted to play great.”

    The North Carolina State product has been involved in the Colts’ passing game most of the year, but this was easily his biggest workload on the ground.

    His 12 carries were a season high and came after he had only 10 total carries over Indianapolis’ previous four games. He entered the night with only 107 rushing yards on the season and hadn’t scored a touchdown on the ground since Week 1.

    The Colts needed that type of production from Hines, as rookie Jonathan Taylor (seven carries for 12 yards) and Jordan Wilkins (eight carries for 28 yards) struggled to get anything going in the running game.

    At times this season, Indianapolis hasn’t gotten much from some of its expected top offensive playmakers. So if Hines can keep this going and emerge as a consistent contributor out of the backfield moving forward, it could provide a big boost to this offense.

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Looking back at some of the early games on the Colts’ schedule, several of their top defensive performances came against teams with weaker offenses (such as the New York Jets and Chicago Bears). But that’s not the reason Indianapolis is playing well on defense.

    The primary reason was that this Colts defense is a really strong unit, and it’s continuing to prove that while going up against some more challenging offenses.

    Indianapolis didn’t force any turnovers at Tennessee. Instead, it just shut down the Titans’ offense, allowing only 294 total yards (including just 147 through the air by quarterback Ryan Tannehill). The Colts also came up with big stops, holding the Titans to 3-for-10 on third-down attempts and 0-for-1 on fourth-down tries.

    Tennessee running back Derrick Henry had 103 yards on 19 carries, but he didn’t score a touchdown. And considering he’s one of the NFL’s leading rushers and is capable of monster performances, Indianapolis has to be pleased with barely letting him eclipse the 100-yard mark on the ground.

    In the next few weeks, the Colts’ defense will have more opportunities to impress while taking on strong offenses. They host the Green Bay Packers in Week 11 and then play the Titans at home in Week 12.

    It could be a crucial stretch not just for the defense, but also for Indianapolis as a whole as it looks to strengthen its hold on the AFC South race and continue to make a push toward a potential playoff berth.

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