INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – There’s no question the Indianapolis Colts’ defense performed at a rare level. It posted the franchise’s first shutout since 2014, forced high-powered Dallas to deal with its first shutout loss in 15 seasons and took another significant step in announcing itself to the rest of the NFL.
But let’s not forget the impact of the offense in Sunday’s 23-0 dismantling of the Cowboys. And let’s not shrug off the impact of the way it doubled up at the expense of Dallas.
After having time to reflect on arguably his team’s most complete outing of the season, Frank Reich once again heaped praise on his opportunistic defense. Dallas penetrated Indy territory on each of its seven possessions, but was denied time after time.
“Defense was incredible,’’ Reich said.
Virtually every time a play needed to be made, someone made it. The Cowboys converted just 4-of-12 third-down situations and were 1-of-5 on fourth down. That included Margus Hunt, Matthew Adams and Pierre Desir combining to stop Ezekiel Elliott on a fourth-and-1 at the Indy 3 early in the second quarter.
But about that Andrew Luck-led offense.
“Really good control of the game in the second half,’’ Reich said. “Of big importance was situational football, two-minute drive. We call it double-dipping, scoring at the end of the half and then to start the second half where their offense doesn’t get to take the field and we score 10 points.
“That’s a huge momentum swing.’’
And that’s why the Colts, and so many teams across the NFL, opt to defer when they win the coin toss. Instead of winning the toss and immediately putting Luck on the field, Reich has chosen to kick off so he’ll receive the second-half kick.
That’s been the case in every Colts game this season. Whichever team has won the toss has deferred. The Colts have done it six times.
According to Reich, who uses analytics and statistics to guide his decision-making, statistics have shown a team that kicks off to start a game has a better chance of getting possession at the end of the first half. The bonus is receiving the kickoff to start the third quarter.
“I don’t remember the exact numbers off the top of my head,’’ Reich said. “(But) I’ve been in this camp for a long time. I’m certainly not the one who invented it. There’s a lot of studies that have been done on it.
“It just shows that it’s a very high probability that you’re going to get that last drive of the half and if you do and you can execute the double-dip, then your percentages of winning the game, it’s a big enough contrast that it’s worth doing.’’
Sunday, it worked to perfection thanks to the defense coming up with a stop late in the second quarter. Rookie Tyquan Lewis’ sack of Dak Prescott on third-and-9 at the Indy 37 forced a Dallas punt at the 2-minute warning.
Luck engineered a nifty beat-the-clock drive that began at his own 16. The Colts clicked off 11 plays that navigated 59 yards, drained all 113 seconds off the clock and resulted in Adam Vinatieri’s 43-yard field goal as time expired.
With the second-half kick, the Colts kept it up. An 8-play, 75-yard drive led to Marlon Mack’s 6-yard TD.
What was a 7-0 lead in the second quarter mushroomed to 17-0 in the third quarter after Indy’s successful double-dipping.
It was the third time that’s happened in a Colts game this season, but the first time Reich has cashed in. Jacksonville battled back from a 29-13 second quarter deficit at Lucas Oil Stadium to pull to within 29-23 by a field goal/touchdown flurry. The Colts held on 29-26.
The New York Jets’ 42-34 win in week 6 included a double-dip with Jason Myers’ 32-yard field goal to end the first half and Sam Darnold’s 32-yard touchdown pass to Chris Herndon to start the second half. A 20-13 Colts’ deficit bounced to 30-13.
Rarity for Colts
Don’t look now, but the Colts are one of three teams to feature an offense and defense that rank in the top-10 (based on yards allowed per game). Their offense is 8th while the defense has moved up to 10th on the heels of Sunday’s dominant outing at the expense of Dallas.
The only other teams with top-10 offenses and defenses: Pittsburgh and the Los Angeles Chargers.
If you’re not impressed, you should be even though things can change over the final two games.
The Colts have had a top-10 offense and defense in the same season only twice since 1969: 2007 and ’02.
The Colts remain one of the NFL’s most disruptive defenses. It ranks second in the NFL with 84 tackles for loss and is the only unit with four players in the top 25: Margus Hunt (13), Jabaal Sheard (13), Denico Autry (12) and Darius Leonard (12).
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.