What we saw: The very best of Colts and Andrew Luck too much for Jets
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – What caught our eye from the Indianapolis Colts’ 41-10 rout of the New York Jets Monday night at MetLife Stadium. The Colts moved to 6-6 and created a three-team logjam atop the AFC South. The Jets fell to 3-9 – they looked so much worse – and were officially eliminated for the playoffs.
As good as it gets: Andrew Luck was back under center after missing one game with a concussion, and neither he nor the Colts offense had ever been better. They built a 41-3 lead one play into the fourth quarter with an incredible efficiency. Their first nine possessions: five touchdowns, two Adam Vinatieri field goals, one punt and one lost fumble. And let’s remind everyone the fumble was at the hands of an overly-aggressive Jack Doyle, who lost control of the football as he stretched for the pylon late in the second quarter.
Luck’s night was over after Robert Turbin’s 5-yard TD run gave the Colts their 38-point lead on the first play of the fourth quarter. But, my, what a night it was: 22-of-28, 278 yards, four TDs, a career-best 147.6 passer rating. He also scrambled three times for 26 yards.
Luck’s four TD passes gave him 124 for his four-plus-year career and moved him past Bert Jones (122) for third-most in team history. He trails Peyton Manning (399) and John Unitas (287).
Luck was the catalyst as the Colts’ 31-point win marked the second-largest win of the Chuck Pagano/Luck era. They routed Jacksonville 37-3 in ’13.
“It was good to get a rhythm going,’’ Luck said. “Thought we did some really good things, but by no means was it perfect. Not perfect, but something to build on.
“We’re doing a lot of things better, but still have to improve. What a great team effort. Winning is obviously the best metric.’’
Tons of support: As crisp as Luck was – his offensive line gave him ample time and allowed just one sack – he had plenty of help. Tight end Dwayne Allen had four catches for 72 yards and three TDs; wideout T.Y. Hilton had nine catches for 146 yards; and running back Frank Gore finished with 79 yards on 20 carries.
Allen’s three TDs tied a club record and joined Jim Mutscheller, Ken Dilger and Dallas Clark as the only Colts’ tight ends with three in a game. Hilton pushed his season total to 1,088 yards, cracking the 1,000-yard mark for a fourth straight season. The only other Colts to manage that: Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. Nice company.
Like so many front-liners, Gore was given the fourth quarter off. But not before moving past Tony Dorsett (12,739) into the No. 8 slot on the NFL’s career rushing list.
Here’s where we remind you the Jets brought the NFL’s 12th-ranked defense into the game. A 4th-ranked run defense that had allowed just 85.9 yards per game and 3.6 yards per attempt was gouged for 139 yards.
“It’s never easy,’’ Chuck Pagano said. “You can never take your foot off the gas. It’s hard to win games in the National Football League.
“We had one goal and one goal only, and that was to be 1-0 (in December). To be in the hunt you have to win football games.’’
Defense chimes in: A sparse MetLife Stadium crowd arrived angry, and spent much of the game booing the Jets. Credit the Colts defense for amping up the angst.
The Jets managed only 115 total yards and six first downs on 25 first-half plays. Ryan Fitzpatrick, No. 1 on the crowd’s hit list, was benched at halftime after completing 5-of-12 passes for 81 yards, one interception and a 30.2 passer rating.
The Colts were without three starters – linebacker Robert Mathis, cornerback Patrick Robinson and safety Clayton Geathers – but did anyone notice? Darryl Morris, Darius Butler and Mike Adams came up with interceptions; the Colts had three in the first 11 games. Nose tackle David Parry had a sack and linebacker Edwin Jackson an unofficial team-high seven tackles.
The Jets finished with 250 total yards, the fewest allowed by the Colts this season.
“For the first time this year, we got our ass handed to us,’’ Jets coach Todd Bowles said. “It’s very troubling to get your ass kicked.’’
Divisional dead heat: The AFC South has been reduced to a four-game mad dash. The Colts created a three-way tie at 6-6 atop the division with Houston and Tennessee. For history buffs, it’s just the second time since the 1970 merger three teams have shared a division lead at 6-6 this late in a season. The previous: The 1988 AFC West with Denver, the Los Angeles Raiders and Seattle.
Now it’s up to the Colts to build on the win over the Jets, and that means atoning for their Oct. 16 meltdown at Houston when the Texans visit Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday. You remember Oct. 16, right? The Colts led 23-9 midway through the fourth quarter before their defense allowed two TDs in the final 3 minutes en route to a numbing overtime loss.
“It’s one-game playoffs every weekend,’’ Luck said. “This was a playoff game for us this weekend and next weekend is the next playoff game.’’
Added Pagano: “Nothing matters unless we respond. We control our own destiny.”
Medical update: Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson and guard Denzelle Good left the game with concussions. Each is in the NFL’s concussion protocol.