INDIANAPOLIS – The play of the game Sunday at Ford Field wasn’t Nyheim Hines’ 22-yard catch-and-run-and-spin-and-dive for a touchdown in the second quarter. Or his encore, a 29-yarder later in the period.
And it wasn’t Philip Rivers’ 7-yard TD to Jack Doyle or Jordan Wilkins’ 1-yard run early in the fourth quarter that staked the Indianapolis Colts to a 28-14 lead over the Detroit Lions. Or Trey Burton’s 2-yard wildcat TD.
On an afternoon Indy smacked the scoreboard with 40-plus for the first time since week 8 of the 2018 season, the defense earned the honors.
Take a bow, Kenny Moore II.
On the first play after Wilkins’ first TD of the season gave the Colts a 14-point lead, Moore added to it. He lined up in his normal position – opposite the Lions’ slot receiver, this time to the left in Indy’s zone – and drifted to his left as quarterback Matthew Stafford stared down Marvin Jones Jr.
Moore undercut the route, intercepted Stafford’s pass and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown. It was the first pick-6 of Moore’s career and the third by the Colts this season.
Just that like, it was Colts 35, Lions 14. More than 13 minutes remained, but the deficit proved too much for Detroit to seriously threaten. The Colts finished it 41-21.
“Certainly there was a lot of ball left, but that won the football game, to me,’’ Rivers said. “That situation, where the game was and for him to go out there the first snap (after Wilkins’ TD) . . . that’s huge.’’
“The ball’s just in the air,’’ Moore said. “I’m thinking, ‘Is he going to throw it? I guess (Jones) had a hitch and I was able to get underneath it.’’
Moore indicated coordinator Matt Eberflus might have confused Stafford and the Lions with the play call.
“We didn’t really run that play much at all,’’ he said. “It was just a good play call for what they were going to try to do on that down and distance.
“Sometimes they’re not thinking we’re going to be in a certain call or a certain pressure. When they throw it up, you’ve gotta go get it.’’
The Colts entered the day with an NFL-high 10 interceptions, and they continue to be adept at doing something once they get their hands on one. Moore’s pick-6 was Indy’s third of the season. Xavier Rhodes and T.J. Carrie each had one in the week 3 blowout of the New York Jets.
“Trying to make a good play great,’’ Moore said. “We just want to put our offense in the best position to win. We just want to make those turnovers into points.’’
That also was the case on Detroit’s previous possession.
Linebacker Darius Leonard, back after missing two games with a groin injury, blitzed and forced a fumble while sacking Stafford. Justin Houston recovered it at the Indy 40 and that led to Wilkins’ 1-yard TD.
It was the first fumble recovery of the season for the Colts and the first fumble and lost fumble by the Lions.
“I like chasing quarterbacks because I talk trash,’’ Leonard said. “I’m going to get in their head. I’m going to say something to them. That’s me.
“I’m going to get the ball out of their hand. Me as a linebacker, I should take the ball out of the quarterback’s hand 95% of the time I get to them.’’
It was that type of afternoon for the defense. It finished with a season-high 5 sacks as Denico Autry and Tyquan Lewis had 2 each in support of Leonard.
The last time the Colts had two players with 2 sacks in the same game: Dwight Freeney and Raheem Brock in week 13 of 2004.
Defense, Part II
Although the Stafford-led Lions finished with 326 total yards, they had no luck running into the Colts’ defensive front. Detroit finished with 29 yards on 13 attempts. It’s the second time in seven games Indy has limited an opponent to less than 30 yards on the ground – the Chicago Bears had 28 on 16 carries in week 4.
“We have to earn the right to rush the passer,’’ Moore said. “We have to earn the right to stop the pass. In order to do that, you’ve got to make them one-dimensional.’’
In their 5-2 start, the Colts’ run defense is allowing rush averages of 79.9 yards per game and 3.4 yards per attempt.
Rivers efficient, again
Rivers authored his second straight efficient outing after his subpar game at Cleveland. He completed 23-of-33 passes for 262 yards and three TDs. That’s a 123.5 passer rating.
Consider his last two games: 52-of-77 (67.5%), 633 yards, six TDs, one interception, a 113.2 rating.
Against the Lions, Rivers spread his 23 completions among 11 different receivers. Hines, Zach Pascal, Mo Alie-Cox and Trey Burton had three each.
Rivers, Part II
Speaking of efficient, Rivers has owned the second quarter against the Bengals and Lions. He’s directed six possessions that have resulted in six TDs.
Rivers’ second-quarter antics the last two games: 23-of-32 (71.9%), 371 yards, five TDs, a 149.9 rating.
The Colts and Rivers also had another solid day in impactful situations. They converted 7-of-14 times on third down and 1-of-1 on fourth down, and were 3-for-3 in the red zone.
After going 2-for-8 in the red zone against Cleveland and Chicago, they’re 7-for-7.
Somewhat overshadowed by the victory was a subpar outing by special teams.
Rigoberto Sanchez had his second punt of the game blocked, and that led to Detroit’s first score, a 25-yard Stafford TD pass to Jones.
Also, rookie Rodrigo Blankenship missed two PATs after entering the game 15-for-15.
Tight end Jack Doyle had two receptions for 18 yards, including a 7-yard TD. The TD was the 20th of his career, moving him into 4th in team history among tight ends. Still ahead of him: Dallas Clark (46), John Mackey (38) and Marcus Pollard (35).
Two for Trey
Burton seemingly has mastered coach Frank Reich’s “wildcat’’ formation. He’s now 2-for-2.
Sunday, on second-and-goal at the 2, Rivers shifted out to the left and Burton moved into the shotgun formation behind center Ryan Kelly. He headed right and cut upfield for his second rushing TD in as many games. He also scored on a 1-yarder against the Bengals.
Not impressed? You should be.
Burton is just the third tight end in NFL history and the first since 1968 to produced rushing TDs in consecutive games. The others: Jackie Smith and Jacque MacKinnon.
The Colts lost Pro Bowl wideout T.Y. Hilton with a groin injury. He had two catches for 9 yards and did not play in the second half.
Wideout Ashton Dulin exited the game in the fourth quarter with a knee injury and cornerback Rock Ya-Sin was evaluated after the game for a concussion.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.