The Journal Gazette
 
 
Tuesday, December 07, 2021 1:00 am

Analysis

Colts preparing for a tough 3-game stretch

MICHAEL MAROT | Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts again topped the 200-yard mark on the ground and scored 30 points for the seventh time in eight games. Defensively, they forced forced two more turnovers, allowed 14 yards and pitched a road shutout for the first time since December 1992. The 31-0 victory at struggling Houston also put the Colts above .500 for the second time this season, keeping them in the middle of the AFC playoff hunt.

Now comes the hard part: maintaining that momentum when Indy returns from its long-awaited bye-week break.

“We know what's at stake,” quarterback Carson Wentz said Sunday. “We know where we're at and we know who's coming in, all those things. But once it's December, it's go time. It's crunch time, so it'll be a fun one.”

Wentz and his teammates know making the postseason remains an uphill battle with little margin for error. Tennessee swept the season series with Indianapolis and also holds a two-game lead in the AFC South, essentially giving the Titans a three-game gap with a month to go.

The Colts also are one of nine AFC teams with six or seven wins vying for the final three playoff spots. And after the bye, Indy faces a daunting three-game run against AFC East-leading New England, NFC West-leading Arizona on Christmas night and another playoff contender, Las Vegas, before finishing the season at Jacksonville.

Still, this was a team that started 1-5.

What will it take for the Colts to complete another remarkable comeback to make the playoffs? Maintaining focus and energy, staying healthy and replicating their most recent performance.

“We've got to win every week. It's kind of a playoff game every week,” Reich said. “I think our guys have been tested, and I think that's a good thing. We've had a really good schedule as far as we've played a lot of good playoff teams, and hopefully we're learning and getting better from each of those contests.”

What's working?

Converting turnovers into scores. Indy forced turnovers on Houston's first two possessions, capitalizing on the first with a touchdown before missing a short field goal following the second. The Colts lead the league in takeaways (29), turnover margin (plus-13) and points off turnovers (112).

What needs help?

Deep passing. The Colts reverted to their run-first philosophy and it worked wonders as they played efficiently while burning the clock. What's been lacking over the past several weeks, though, are the deep throws and penalties Indy accrued earlier this season. Instead, Wentz has relied primarily on short and intermediate throws.

Stock up

Kenny Moore II. The fifth-year cornerback solidified his Pro Bowl case Sunday by intercepting Tyrod Taylor on the first play and forcing a fumble on Houston's fifth play. Moore leads the Colts with four interceptions.

Stock down

T.Y. Hilton. Injuries have made it difficult for the four-time Pro Bowler to have a significant impact. Sunday, against a team he's toyed with through the years, he caught just two passes for 22 yards.


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