KRAVITZ: Yeah, so it was Buffalo; still, it was the Colts' best, most dominant performance of the season

(Photo: Indianapolis Colts/Twitter)
Colts vs. Bills
Colts beat the Bills 37 to 5
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Updated:
Bob Kravitz

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) – OK, so the opponent was the Buffalo Bills, who were operating without their starting quarterback, Josh Allen, and lost their stud running back, LeSean McCoy, early in Sunday's game. OK, so the Bills stink, and they were particularly noxious in this game, a 37-5 Colts' walkover when even the Buffalo defense, so stout throughout the season, got gashed repeatedly. OK, so this was a game the Colts were supposed to win, a game they had to win in order to avoid a tsunami of criticism from the media and the masses.

Still…

It was impressive, a nice respite from the general drudgery of this early portion of the season, a nearly perfect performance save for Adam Vinatieri's missed kicks and a botched shotgun snap that resulted in a safety. On a day when the Colts absolutely had to win, if only to maintain their confidence and sanity, they didn't commit turnovers, they ran the ball for more yards than they did passing (just the second time that's happened in Andrew Luck's career) and defensively shut down Buffalo while forcing five turnovers.

Are we going to start drawing up the parade route? No.

Are we going to give them credit for doing what they were supposed to do, what they needed to do? Absolutely, yes.

And listen, in an AFC South where nobody looks interested in seizing the division title, a victory – even against an undermanned Buffalo team – will keep you in the race, or at least on the very periphery of the race. Suddenly, the Colts are getting healthy, and after a trip next weekend to Oakland, they play five of their final eight games at home, with five of them against divisional opponents. So what I'm saying is, there's a chance. Not a huge chance, but a chance despite the miserable 1-5 start to the season.

If nothing else, the Colts showed themselves and their fans what they can accomplish when they don't beat themselves with turnovers and penalties. Crazy concept, huh? But that's what Luck has been saying for weeks, about having to learn how not to lose before learning how to win. Again, no turnovers. Just four penalties. And a whole lot of smart, efficient, complementary football, a bit reminiscent of their only other victory this year, the one at Washington.

"We needed to feel a game like that to understand how it feels,'' Luck said.

Mike Mitchell, the veteran safety who was smartly signed to replace Clayton Geathers and Matthias Farley, was asked if this victory was a sign of things to come. He didn't respond with the usual answer. Instead, he responded with the smart, sober, realistic answer.

"It's the sign of a good day,'' he said after forcing a fumble and securing an interception Sunday. "Now we need a bunch more good days like this.''

The Colts won easily by doing things the Colts rarely do. They ran the ball 37 times for 220 yards, a 5.9 average, against one of the best defenses in the league. Marlon Mack, who is improving after an injury-plagued rookie season and another injury early this year, ran for 126 yards on 19 carries, a healthy 6.6 yards-per-carry average. In the process, he became just the third Colts running back to go for more than 100 yards during Luck's tenure, the others being Frank Gore (twice) and Vick Ballard. For the first time in way too long, Luck had the luxury of handing off and enjoying the view.

"Let's keep running it,'' Luck kept telling head coach Frank Reich when he came to the sidelines. "Let's keep running.''

Reich didn't need much in the way of persuasion. He saw what we all saw: The Colts offensive line, which has improved by leaps and bounds in recent weeks, was winning its one-on-one matchups. Nothing empowers an offensive line like run-blocking an opponent into submission. When the big guys are imposing their will on a defense, it completely alters the emotional trajectory of a football game. By late in the blowout, Buffalo looked like it wanted to pack up and head home.

"It gives you a feeling of physical power and dominance,'' Reich said. "And that was against a really good defense…The O-line was unbelievable. The defense got us going with the (Mitchell) interception and the (Kemoko) Turay strip sack. We checked all the boxes. I think we were good in every area.''

They weren't just good; they were smart, especially the once-reckless quarterback. On a double reverse to Nyheim Hines, Luck was in a position to block and appeared poised to throw one, then hit the brakes and said, "Nah.'' Later, he scrambled left and was heading toward the end zone when he saw some Buffalo defenders closing the gap. In previous years, he would have lowered his shoulder and tried to bull his way into the endzone. Again, he said, "Nah,'' and tiptoed out of bounds at the Buffalo 1-yard line.

Self-preservation is a good thing.

"It's hard, especially for a guy like Andrew, right?'' Reich said. "In years past, he would have put his head down, and I don't know if he would have got in or not, but he certainly would have tried. Maturation: That's what we like to see.''

Said Luck: "Yeah, it's weird, but I'm happy I did what I did in those two instances. It's more important to be on the field as a quarterback. Situationally, you'll take hits, and I'd like to think that in the fourth quarter of a tight game that I would have put my shoulder down to get in the end zone, but in the context of this game…it wasn't worth it.''

One week after a horrific defensive performance against the Jets, the Colts came out and played their best defensive game of the young season, maybe their most complete defensive game in years. The usual suspects made plays – Darius Leonard had a mere 17 tackles, 12 solo – but the player who's made a huge impact has been Mitchell. A few weeks earlier, the long-time safety was back in Miami, working out and trying to stay ready for this kind of opportunity. When the Colts followed up on earlier phone calls and requested his services, he was ready. He hasn't been just a stop-gap emergency fill-in. Truth is, he's been exceptional in his two games here in Indy.

Remind anybody of Mike Adams?

"That's why I worked out wearing a weighted vest at 1 in the afternoon in the Miami heat,'' Mitchell said. "So I'd be ready for a chance like this.''

The schedule served the Buffalo Bills up on a platter, and the Colts feasted. Again, we know, the Bills stink, and without Allen, without McCoy, without a blizzard, they had almost no chance. But after a slow offensive start, the Colts brought down the hammer and never stopped. It was a good day, a great day, but for now, that's all it was. Talk to us after the game in Oakland next Sunday, OK?

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