After a week filled with pontification, the Indianapolis Colts hit the field on Sunday under new head coach Jeff Saturday.
It wasn’t a disaster. By no means.
Playing under a new head coach and 30-year-old offensive coordinator who never called an NFL game in Parks Frazier, the Colts put on one of their best offensive performances of the season with a 25-20 road victory. Las Vegas Raiders. They did so after an unexpected quarterback change before the game.
Saturday’s first game day was the reinstatement of Matt Ryan, who was replaced by fired coach Frank Reich with Sam Elinger. The decision paid off as Ryan played well, throwing two touchdowns and never dropping the ball. Meanwhile, Jonathan Taylor posted his first 100-yard rush since week one, and the Colts’ blackened offensive line allowed for a single sack.
Despite all the heat generated by his decision to hire an interim head coach who has never worked for a college or NFL side, Colts owner Jim Irsay should feel good about the early return.
Colts strike first, late
The Colts were first on the board when Ryan completed a 70-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown. They scored in three of their first five possessions and took a 13-7 lead at half-time. As they conceded a touchdown lead to Josh Jacobs, the Colts responded with a 66-yard touchdown from Taylor to regain a 19–14 lead in the third quarter.
The Raiders took the lead again on a Davante Adams 48-yard touchdown off Derek Carr.
When the Colts got the ball back, the unthinkable happened. Ryan set up the game-winning touchdown with his feet. Facing third and third in a game-playing fourth quarter, Ryan avoided pressure and rumbled down the right touchline for 39 yards.
That run was a long career one for the 15-year NFL veteran who averaged 3 yards per carry over his career. He provided a 35-yard touchdown pass to Parris Campbell that gave the Colts the lead forever.
The Raiders failed to find the end zone on their last drive, and Saturday walked away from his NFL debut in a 1-0 win.
Can the Colts cash in on the win on Saturday?
The Colts entered Sunday with one of the worst offenses in the NFL, finishing 26th in yards (315.1) and 31st in points (14.7) per game. They comfortably surpassed both marks, passing the Raiders on offense: 415 yards to 309.
Ryan, who was written off the bench, completed 21 of 28 passes for 222 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. Taylor looked like the 2021 rushing champion with 147 yards and a 22-carry touchdown after averaging 77 yards in six previous games.
It’s not for getting carried away. It’s only one game, and the Colts have beaten a poor team, the Raiders, who fell to 2-7 due to Sunday’s loss. But it could have been much worse for Saturday, whose hiring was heavily criticized when he took over the Colts’ locker room straight from the ESPN studio.
Now he’s bringing victory to his first full week as an NFL head coach. And at 4-5-1, his Colts don’t fall out of the playoff picture.