INDIANAPOLIS — A good portion of the 72,301 fans at Bank of America Stadium were hushed by what had taken place.
But a small section was bouncing and screaming and losing its collective mind.
Kenny Moore II knew where his family was situated and shared his historic moments. There were three sisters — two made the trip from Atlanta, the other from Savannah — along with his niece and a close friend from Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Ga.
After the Indianapolis Colts’ veteran nickel cornerback returned a Bryce Young interception for 49 yards and a touchdown late in the second quarter Sunday, and Moore pointed to his family in the stands and went into his celebration dance. As Moore headed to the bench, he held the football in his left hand, again pointed to that special place and tapped his heart with his right hand.
Rinse and repeat early in the fourth quarter.
“As a defensive back, you just want to get those turnovers, yes, but you want to get in the end zone as well,’’ Moore said after the Colt’s 27-13 win over Carolina. “It was great being able to do that tonight.’’
Moore’s second pick-6 covered 66 yards — Young overthrew running back Miles Sanders to his left and Moore outran Sanders down the sideline — and gave the Colts a 27-10 lead and carried him into the record books.
Moore is the first player in Colts history with two pick-6s in a game. He’s just the 28th player in NFL history to do so, and the ninth since 2000. His 115 return yards are the most by a Colt since at least 1960.
Julian Blackmon’s reaction?
“I was like, ‘He literally does this in practice,’’’ the veteran safety said. “Those are things I expect him to do, so it wasn’t a surprise to me.
“It was more like, ‘That is Kenny Alexander Moore the second. That is what he does.’’’
Added wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr.: “Honestly, I’m just sitting back just in awe. What he did today was crazy, and there is a reason that that hasn’t been done yet in our franchise history . . . because that’s not normal.’’
Yes, abnormal moments by one of the longest-tenured Colts — Moore was claimed off waivers from New England on Sept. 3, 2017 — at a pivotal time. The win against the Panthers and former coach Frank Reich snapped a three-game losing streak and moved them to 4-5 heading into next Sunday’s meeting with the Patriots in Frankfurt, Germany.
Moore noted his twin sister probably considers herself “a good luck charm.’’
“Maybe she is,’’ he smiled.
Maybe the whole group is.
“Maybe they’ve got to go to Germany or something,’’ he said.
Moore was the undeniable catalyst as the defense came out of its three-game funk — three straight losses yielding at least 37 points, remember? — and carried the day as the offense never got untracked.
The Gardner Minshew II-led unit finished with 198 total yards, including only 27 in the second half. That’s the Colts’ fifth-fewest yards in a win since 1984, and the fewest since managing 215 in an unsightly 10-6 victory at Cleveland in 2008.
“Kenny Moore won the game today,’’ Minshew said. “You know, 14-13, really if you look at it.’’
Moore and the defense harassed Young, the No. 1 overall pick in April’s draft, from the outset. The Colts had three interceptions — a career-high two from Moore and the first of linebacker Segun Olubi’s career — along with four sacks, four tackles for loss and eight passes defended.
The Panthers outgained the Colts 275-198, but were limited to 62 yards and five first downs in the first half. They did their statistical damage in the second half as Indy was protecting a 20-3 halftime lead.
Tackle DeForest Buckner set the disruptive tone with a tackle for loss and sack on Carolina’s first two possessions. He finished with 1 sack, two tackles for loss and a pair of batted Young passes.
Then, Moore took over. Of course he did.
“To be honest, there’s no surprise there,’’ Shane Steichen said. “The way he practices, the way he shows up to work. He watches tape. He does it the right way.
“When you do it the right way, you’re going to make plays on Sunday and that’s what he did for us. It was huge. I mean, 14 points by him was phenomenal.
“You get a pick-6, you can feel the whole stadium, the crowd, the sidelines. I mean, it’s a huge deal.’’
Moore endured a difficult season in 2022 as he was getting acclimated to coordinator Gus Bradley’s defense.
But he’s regained the form that earned him a 2021 Pro Bowl nod, and represents, along with Buckner and injured linebacker Zaire Franklin, one of Bradley’s cornerstones. Moore’s instincts have helped make him one of the NFL’s premier nickel corners.
“The best players in the league have great instincts,’’ Steichen said. “You coach ‘em as hard as you want, but the guys who are really good with ball skills and good instincts, sometimes that takes over.
“He’s got a great feel for that position inside there at the nickel position and he just continues to show up and make plays.’’
On his first pick-6, Moore stepped in front of running back Chuba Hubbard. Young was under heavy duress.
On the second, he benefitted from Young’s high delivery to Sanders.
“Obviously, the second one, could have gotten tackled,’’ Moore said of Sanders’ pursuit. “I’m not sure, but I felt somebody behind me. Just try to run through it.’’
He leads the Colts with three interceptions and upped his career total to 17.
After the game, Moore pointed to his resilience and consistency.
“Just trying to be a great teammate, being in the right spot,’’ he said. “A guy that they can trust and lean on.’’
While everyone was focused on Moore’s historical performance against the Panthers, he looked at a bigger picture. Since being claimed off waivers at the start of the ’17 season, he’s appeared in 96 games with 83 starts.
He signed with New England as an undrafted free agent.
From “Who’s he?’’ to “Oh, that’s who he is.’’
“I think every moment that I’ve experience along the journey has been a historical moment for me,’’ Moore said. “It wasn’t just tonight and what they put in the record books.
“Going to New England, making it out of there to here, being a special teamer, getting my foot in the door, working each day to be who I envision myself being and obviously being at this point right now in my seventh year.
“Every year is something that I’m jotting down in my history, and it’s something that I’ll never take for granted, something that I’m thankful for.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter/X at @mchappell51.