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Philip Rivers and the Indianapolis Colts were looking to make a major statement to open Week 10 on “Thursday Night Football” against the first-place Tennessee Titans.
Indianapolis was coming off a 24-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens and stood at 5-3. Despite the Titans’ two-game losing streak heading in, they were a game ahead of Indy in the AFC South.
What we saw Thursday in Nashville was rather stunning. After seeing Tennessee take a 17-10 lead, the Colts ran off 24 consecutive points. That included a blocked punt for a touchdown and an impressive drive by a quarterback in Rivers who had struggled to an extent in his first season with the Colts.
By virtue of their 34-17 win on Thursday night, the Indianapolis Colts sit at 6-3 on the season. They also now have to be taken seriously as a Super Bowl contender. Here’s why.
Indianapolis Colts defense is elite
Indy entered Week 10 having yielded the third-fewest points in the NFL. Its defense had registered 20 sacks in eight games and had limited opposing quarterbacks to 10 passing touchdowns compared to 11 interceptions. More than anything, the addition of former Minnesota Vikings Pro Bowl cornerback Xavier Rhodes has played a major role here.
What we saw against a well-balanced Titans offensive attack on Thursday added another layer to this. The Colts held MVP candidate Ryan Tannehill to 15-of-27 passing for 147 yards. While Derrick Henry performed at his usual high clip, the Colts made Tennessee one dimensional. It’s something we’ve seen all season and has this team as a legit Super Bowl contender.
Indianapolis Colts offensive line wins consistently
The Kansas City Chiefs are flashy. The Green Bay Packers are flashy. This is a brand of football that prior to last season really didn’t have a tremendous amount of success in the playoffs. Instead, it’s been all about trench warfare in the past. If that comes to fruition in January, these Colts will be in a great position.
Quenton Nelson, in only his third NFL season, is on a Hall of Fame trajectory. The guard is already the best player at his position in the league. His performance on Thursday helped the Colts gain 133 rushing yards on 29 attempts. Meanwhile, Rivers was sacked one time in 40 drop backs. He’s gone down just nine times in as many games this season. That’s a testament to the performances of tackles Anthony Castonzo and Braden Smith. Simply put, this unit has been dominating all season.
Philip Rivers’ experience speaks volumes
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Rivers started a total of 11 playoff games in his 16 seasons with the Chargers. However, that’s primarily due to the Chargers’ front office struggles and inability to provide the 38-year-old Rivers with a talented supporting cast. This is not an issue with the Colts.
What we saw from Rivers prior to Thursday’s game included some struggles transitioning to Indianapolis. In fact, he threw 10 touchdowns compared to seven interceptions in his first eight starts.
This changed big time in the Colts’ 17-point win over Tennessee. Rivers completed 29-of-39 passes for 308 yards with one touchdown and zero interceptions in his best performance as a member of the team. He’s also found a tremendous connection with rookie wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr., who recorded seven receptions for 101 yards.
Rivers has the experience to succeed when it counts the most. Don’t overlook this when checking in on top Super Bowl contenders in the AFC.