INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Jacoby Brissett had never been better. Shoot, for a long stretch he was perfect.
“You can’t play quarterback much better than he played today,’’ Frank Reich said.
In his third start since Andrew Luck’s sudden retirement and 20th of his career, Brissett was the undeniable catalyst to the Indianapolis Colts’ 27-24 win over the Atlanta Falcons Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. He completed his first 16 passes – tied for the fifth-longest stretch in team history – and finished 28-of-37 for 310 yards and touchdowns to T.Y. Hilton and Zach Pascal.
In his first two games, Brissett passed for 336 yards while the Colts leaned heavily on their Marlon Mack-led ground game (370 yards).
“Just like when we’re running it and we’re gaining yards every time we call a run, when the quarterback gets hot like that, we’ve got to have the flexibility as an offense to ride the hot hand and this week it was Jacoby,’’ Frank Reich said.
At the end of the first quarter, the Colts led 10-0. Brissett was 9-for-9 for 96 yards and an 18-yard touchdown to Pascal. He stretched his completion streak to 16 before misfiring late in the second quarter.
Brissett’s 28 completions were a career best while his 310 yards were 4 shy of his personal best (314 versus San Francisco in 2017).
“As great as he played today, this is one game,’’ Reich said. “This is the standard. Not that you can play this great every week, but this is what you expect, and he delivered.’’
The Colts award game balls on Monday, and one already has been earmarked.
“I can tell you right now,’’ Reich said, “Jacoby’s getting a game ball. He played unreal.’’
In three games, Brissett has completed 66-of-92 passes (71.7 percent) for 646 yards with seven TDs, one interception and a 112.00 rating.
Vinatieri back on track
Adam Vinatieri put his recent troubles behind him. The NFL’s career scoring leader converted 49- and 21-yard field goals along with three PATs.
In his previous thee games, Vinatieri had missed seven kicks: three field goals and four PATs.
“I felt like I hit the ball pretty well today, even the first one that drew a little bit at the end,’’ he said.
The 49-yarder was a knuckleball that glanced off the left upright.
“For me it was just about getting back out there, doing your job and doing what’s expected out of you,’’ he said. “It’s a hard-fought game and we needed every single point that we got. The guys played hard and I’m happy that I got to contribute a little bit.’’
The Colts took measures last week in case Vinatieri’s troubles continued. General manager Chris Ballard put six kickers through a workout.
“I mean that’s part of the game,’’ Vinatieri said. “If you’re not doing your job well, they need to find other things. I didn’t think about it too terribly much one way or another.
“It’s all about me doing my job well, you know what I mean? If you don’t do your job, it speaks for itself.’’
Hilton was en route to a ultra-productive afternoon before aggravating a quad injury late in the second quarter. In the first two quarters, he had eight receptions for 65 yards and a 4-yard touchdown on 10 targets.
Hilton said he aggravated the injury a few plays before his 4-yard TD.
“I failed us. I wanted to keep playing,’’ he said. “When we came back in (the locker room), the doctors re-examined it and said there was no need for me to go back out there and probably tear it. They shut me down.’’
More medical matters
Along with Hilton, defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis was unable to finish the game. He suffered an injury to his right ankle in the second quarter and spent the second half on the sideline with his foot encased in a protective boot.
Defensive linemen Denico Autry (eye) and Al-Quadin Muhammad (stinger) exited in the second quarter, but returned.
Brissett spread his 28 completions among nine different receivers. That included Zach Pascal.
After not being targeted in the first two games, Pascal had two catches for 53 yards and one touchdown on three targets. His reputation as a blocker aided his 18-yard TD in the first quarter.
On first-and-10 at the Atlanta 18, running back Nyheim Hines drew the attention of the Falcons’ defense by flowing out to the right. Pascal, lined up to the right, floated along the right sideline and was wide open.
“I was open because I’m always blocking,’’ he said. “I’m always blocking most of the time, so when they see me in there – when the defense sees 14 in there – they’re thinking ‘Run, run, run’ or I’m blocking for a screen.
“Nyheim came out in motion and all of the attention is going there.’’
More from Julio Jones
Julio Jones is 3-for-3 against the Colts’ defense.
The Falcons’ standout wideout continued to excel against Indy, finishing with eight catches for 128 yards and one TD. In his two previous appearances against the Colts, Jones had three catches for 131 yards and two TDs and 9 catches for 160 yards.
Falcons running back Devonta Freeman had 88 yards on 16 carries, and gashed the Colts for 28- and 24-yard runs.
Matt Ryan passed for 304 yards and three TDs – two to tight end Austin Hooper, one to Jones – and suffered one interception to Clayton Geathers.
This and that
The Colts are off to their first 2-1 start since 2013. The last time they opened 3-1 was in 2009. . . . Linebacker Anthony Walker led the defense with a career-best 14 tackles. Rookie Bobby Okereke had eight in his first career start.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.