How it unfolded: Colts vs Broncos scores, highlights, updates in NFL Week 5 action
Well, that was something. For anyone watching and especially for those of us in the stadium, we will never forget the game these two teams played, often for the wrong reasons. Two starting quarterbacks both played, with no weather, and the result was a game with zero touchdowns, in the year 2022. So much weirdness was involved, from referees running into players and calling teams "San Diego" to boneheaded penalties, big plays at the most random moments on defense and special teams... and yet the Colts came back and won. Credit Matt Ryan for his poise, and Chase McLaughlin for his leg, and Alec Pierce for his tough catches, and Deon Jackson for his tough runs... but mostly credit Stephon Gilmore for two superstar plays with the defense's backs against the wall, first with the interception in the end zone late in the fourth quarter and then for the pass breakup on fourth down in the end zone in overtime to seal it. He's the Colts' MVP this season, most responsible for both of their wins, and he's managed to save this season from going off the rails. For now. What a player and what a signing he continues to be.
The Colts decided to switch up their offensive line again, this time moving Matt Pryor from left tackle to right tackle, Braden Smith from right tackle to right guard and Bernhard Raimann in at left tackle. It's a look they tinkered with in training camp and saved as an emergency-glass option, and that's where we're at. I do think this line opened up some better rushing holes, particularly along the right side, where Pryor and Smith have a little built-in continuity from last season. The pass blocking continued to be atrocious, especially around the edges, where Bradley Chubb had his way with Pryor and Bernhard Raimann had a tough starting debut. I guess it's progress, but it's still adding to the toll on Matt Ryan, who suffered through six more sacks and 12 more hits. It's just not sustainable when he's playing at 37 years old.
Raimann struggled from the jump, with three holding penalties, though the one on Ryan's scramble outside the pocket should not have been called. He also false started, which happens to young players when they're getting beat by speed. It was a tough spot for a rookie to start, on the road with a loud crowd, on a short coming off an injury that limited his practice time to essentially just walkthroughs the past couple of weeks. It underscores what we've heard since camp, which was that he had a long way to go on the details, and confidence overall isn't high on this line. They need to express patience with a third-round rookie who has only played offensive line for a couple years, as difficult as that is. The Colts have tried so much with so little success that this might just be the combination to live with while hoping Raimann makes strides with each game.
This was a brutal game to watch just for pure entertainment purposes. Two offenses that can't get out of their own way meet for a Thursday game in a brutal league where both lost their bell-cow running backs the previous Sunday and had a couple of walkthrough practices to adjust the game plans. Maybe the offenses would always have been bad, but both teams should have a bye week before a Thursday game if the NFL was as calculated about quality of play and player safety as it pretends to be. Amazon Prime paid lots of money for these games, but it's hard to see the experience getting that much better until they fix the schedule.
Colts special teams kept them in this game as their offense self-destructed, and that's now two of the past three games where that has been the case. Chase McLaughlin hit two field goals of more than 50 yards and two more money kicks to tie the score and then take the lead in overtime. Grover Stewart blocked a field goal at a critical time in a game where points were at such a premium. This unit will probably have some off games with the changes in the kicking game, but it helps to know that Bubba Ventrone's guys can come up with big plays with some regularity. The Colts need it from somewhere.
I have to give props again to Rodney Thomas II. This was the third straight start for the seventh-round rookie as the single-high safety in place of Julian Blackmon. It was another one he aced, starting with the fourth-quarter interception where he played centerfield on Wilson. He also had sound pursuit angles and tackling in the run game and another fantastic play in coverage to get a hand in the ball on a deep pass, just like he did against the Chiefs. It looked as if he was going to track down another deep ball, but he ran into the referee, allowing Courtland Sutton to haul it in for 51 yards. Thomas II continues to show the ball skills, range, length and confidence to play in this league, and it's looking like another good Day 3 find for Chris Ballard.
Ryan clearly doesn't trust the protection, and it's hard to blame him, but the result is that too much of the smart and safe quarterback has disappeared. He threw two interceptions on late decisions right to defenders he should have seen over the middle, giving him 10 turnovers through just five games. I still think the fix is better pass protection, but if that fix is as far away as it seems, then Ryan is going to have to get safer with these decisions late in the down. I will credit him for throwing the ball away on other downs that were dead in the water early, and he stepped up nicely to avoid edge rushes and find receivers over the middle. I wish we could see what he looks like with even an average offensive line, but you have to wonder now if he'll get that again before he retires.
I had been wondering if the Colts would start to use Mo Alie-Cox more exclusively as a blocker after Reich spoke this week about how much the offense is missing Jack Doyle, and how poorly the Colts have responded to that loss with involving Kylen Granson on those plays when he's built as a receiver. That seemed to be the focus tonight, and it worked for a better run game, as a run game led by Phillip Lindsay and Deon Jackson averaged 4.1 yards per carry. That's a huge improvement on the 2.7 yards per carry Jonathan Taylor had averaged the past two weeks. As a result, though, the Colts did not build on the strong receiving efforts of the tight ends from the past two weeks. The group finished with two catches and 23 yards on five targets. This group is young and is going to have some up-and-down performances, which puts all the more stress on avoiding sacks and generating a run game to steady production. This continues to be Ballard's most glaring offseason miss along with kicker.
The Colts defense really held in this one, staying strong in the red zone, covering the deep ball, pressuring Wilson and giving their offense a chance. DeForest Buckner, Grover Stewart, Stephon Gilmore and Kenny Moore II all played very solid games. It comes with a caveat of all the Broncos' struggles on offense, but this is how the Colts defense has played all season, with solid overall play that lacks the buzzy turnovers. The Broncos finally started to gash them in the run game in the final five minutes, but that's what happens to a traveling defense on a Thursday when it's on the field constantly because its offense can't do anything. Credit Gilmore for making the play they had to make to make this possible. A fantastic effort from that group when they had to have it.
Kwity Paye suffered a lower-leg injury that was bad enough to keep him down and to bring out the cart. We'll find out the severity in the coming days, but it looked bad and is just the hardest part of watching these Thursday games. It comes in a quiet breakout campaign for the second-year, first-round pick in which he had three sacks in five games, putting him on pace for 10 if he had been able to play 17 games. Paye has flashed some new pass rush moves and more than enough play strength as the "big end" opposite Yannick Ngakoue, and I was interested to see how the pass rush would come together once Ngakoue and Buckner could get a little healthier. Let's hope for the best with Paye because a serious injury is a major momentum halt. This could set up a big-time role for Dayo Odeyingbo, who is surging at the right time.
Contact Colts insider Nate Atkins at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NateAtkins_.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Colts vs. Broncos: 10 thoughts on a 12-9 overtime win