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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Cody Manning

5 takeaways from Colts’ 27-20 win over the Bucs

The Indianapolis Colts (6-5) are now on a three-game winning streak after beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7) in a game that came down to the final minutes of the fourth quarter.

Indy never gave up the lead once they scored their first touchdown of the game. Despite having control of this contest, a second-quarter Gardner Minshew interception got the Bucs back in this game and they were within arm’s distance heading into the fourth quarter.

The crucial play of the game came on a fourth-and-inches call by Shane Steichen in the fourth quarter. With Zaire Franklin in at fullback, the Colts sold a run to Jonathan Taylor which allowed Mo-Alie Cox to slip open for a 30-yard completion.

Indianapolis would end up scoring a touchdown to make it a 27-17 game with 7:3- left in the game. Tampa did fight back and had a chance to tie it in the final two minutes but Samson Ebukam was able to get his hands on a strip-sack to help close out this win for the Colts.

Here are five takeaways from Indy’s victory:

Jonathan Taylor and Zack Moss take on Tampa's rush defense

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

The Colts’ rushing attack had a tough matchup against one of the best rush defenses in the league but they were able to have one of the better performances on the ground by a team versus the Bucs this season. This was despite Shane Steichen going with a pass-heavy passing attack in the first half.

By halftime, Jonathan Taylor only had four touches but he was efficient when he had the ball in his hands. On the first touchdown drive, he took two straight carries for 21 yards and punched it in from the four-yard line.

After a quiet first half, Taylor and Zack Moss finally got more work. Both backs were chain movers in the final two quarters and it was Taylor that helped put the game out of reach.

After the Mo-Alie Cox fourth down conversion, Taylor had three straight runs for 19 yards and got his second touchdown of the game from the one-yard line.

Taylor finished the 91 rushing yards on 15 attempts and two touchdowns. Moss had 10 touches for a total of 70 yards. Both players combined for 146 rushing yards and averaged 6.34 YPC.

The backfield is what will carry this offense for the rest of this season and having a day like this against a top rush defense should build confidence in the offense going forward.

Heck of a day for Samson Ebukam

Jenna Watson/IndyStar

There wasn’t much of an expectation for Samson Ebukam to make an impact heading into this game. Over his last four games, he had zero sacks and only registered one QB hit. Plus, he had a tough matchup against one of the better tackles in the game Tristan Wirfs.

But today, he was a difference-maker for the Indy defense. He got things started at the beginning of the second quarter with his first sack of the game to force a three-and-out.

Ebukam took on Wirfs with a bull rush to get his hands on Baker Mayfield.

His second sack of the game came at the right time. Ebukam beat Wirfs with a rip move to get the strip-sack in the final two minutes of the game.

That sack was big for two reasons. Not only did it help seal the victory for the Colts, but Ebukam also set a career-high with six sacks in his first season with the franchise.

He finished his day with four tackles (three solo), one TFL, two sacks, two QB hits, and a forced fumble. Ebukam now has six games to get to double-digit sacks.

Mr. Reliable: Michael Pittman Jr.

(Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

It wasn’t a flashy performance by Michael Pittman Jr. but he was who Shane Steichen needed him to be today. Mr. Reliable in the passing attack. He was Gardner Minshew’s go-to guy and was snagging balls throughout the afternoon with his great catch radius and strong hands.

His first big play of the game came after the Ronnie Harrison Jr. interception. He got a 17-yard reception that put the offense at the 21-yard line which set up the first touchdown of the game.

On the following series for the offense, MPJ came up with a 24-yard gain on a fourth-and-one to keep the drive alive and also had a 12-yard reception that got the offense inside the red zone. Indy would end up scoring their second touchdown of the game.

To cap off his great first half, Pittman Jr. picked up another first down on a fourth-and-three to give Matt Gay a chance to kick a field goal heading into halftime but Gay missed his 58-yard attempt.

MPJ finished the game with 10 receptions for 107 yards on 13 targets. His 10 catches were a season-high and he is currently on pace to set a career-high in receptions and receiving yards.

He now has four games in a row with at least eight receptions. The Colts are 5-3 in games this season when Pittman Jr. catches at least eight balls.

MPJ is setting himself up with a nice payday in the upcoming offseason. It’s too early for that chatter but it will be interesting to see how his future in Indianapolis plays out in the coming months.

Rush defense is still a problem

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

It’s been very apparent that the Colts desperately miss Grover Stewart heading into this contest and that feeling remains. Surprisingly, the Bucs didn’t lean too much into their rushing attack in this matchup with their backfield finishing the game with 16 touches.

Rachaad White averaged 6.7 YPC on 15 carries. Chase Edmonds got the other touch from their backfield and he gained 11 yards. Both backs combined for 111 rushing yards.

Removing rushing yards from quarterbacks, this was the second game in a row when the opponent’s backfield finished over 100 rushing yards. The good thing for the Colts was that they were able to find a way to win both of those contests.

The good news is that Stewart has one more game left on his suspension but the bad news is that the Indy defense faces Derrick Henry next Sunday.

Gutsy calls on fourth downs

Jenna Watson/IndyStar

On a day when the offense struggled to convert third downs, Shane Steichen’s unit was able to deliver on fourth downs. The Colts were 2-of-11 on third downs but finished 3-of-4 on fourth downs. Two of the fourth-down conversions were responsible for two of the three touchdown drives by Indianapolis.

As I mentioned, Michael Pittman Jr. was responsible for two of them in the first half. The one that set up the second touchdown came at the Indy 47-yard, which could have given the Bucs great field position.

The one missed fourth down almost shouldn’t have happened. On the third down play, there was a bad snap by Wesley French which forced a quick throw by Gardner Minshew, and the bad ball placement led to a rare drop by Josh Downs.

If there was a cleaner snap, Minshew ideally would have had better ball placement but it still was a ball that Downs could’ve come down with. He would have moved the sticks with a catch.

The biggest fourth-down conversion was the crucial play of the game. On fourth-and-inches on Tampa’s 49-yard line in a 23-20 game with 9:11 left in the fourth quarter, Steichen came up with the perfect call.

With Zaire Franklin in at fullback, the offense sells the run hard which allowed Mo-Alie Cox to slip open for the 30-yard gain.

Alie-Cox did a great job selling his fake block to force the Tampa defense’s eyes to focus on Jonathan Taylor. The Colts would go on to score a touchdown to make it a 27-17 game.

No matter how the offense is playing, Steichen isn’t afraid to go for it on fourth downs and today, it paid off for the team’s sixth win of the season.

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