» ‘SPECIAL’ ONCE AGAIN: Whether it’s terrific coverage, blocked kicks or timely touchdowns, the Colts’ special teams units have shown a knack for clutch plays so far through the first five games of the season. It was the latter on Sunday against the Browns, as rookie Isaiah Rodgers gave the Colts a much-needed spark when he logged a 101-yard kickoff return for a touchdown early in the third quarter, finding the end zone just after Cleveland seemed to have started to run away with the ballgame after the aforementioned pick-six by safety Ronnie Harrison Jr. Special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone said entering the season that he was hoping to find ways to incorporate the lightning-fast Rodgers into some returning opportunities, and with terrific blocking downfield, coupled with the UMass product’s blazing 4.28 40-yard dash speed that allowed him to pull away down the stretch, Rodgers was able to take advantage on Sunday. He became the sixth rookie in franchise history to log a kickoff return for a touchdown, and the first since Dominic Rhodes in 2001.
» OFF THE MARK: Entering Sunday’s games, NFL teams were 277-90-5 (.751) all-time in games in which they logged two takeaways, had a kick return for a touchdown and led at some point in the ballgame. The Colts checked all three of those boxes against the Browns, but weren’t able to come away with the victory. So what was missing? While Indy’s offense got off to a solid start on Sunday, its inconsistent play the rest of the way, matched with a couple untimely turnovers and an avoidable safety, seemingly made the difference. The Colts had just 68 rushing yards and averaged 3.8 yards per carry on the day; they were 4-of-11 on third downs (36 percent) and scored a touchdown on just 1-of-4 red zone trips; they had the ball for 25:15 compared to 34:45 for the Browns and Rivers threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown, and he was also called for intentional grounding in the end zone, which resulted in a safety for Cleveland. It wasn’t the effort the Colts’ offense was hoping for against the league’s 25th-ranked defense coming in. “There are certain points where I think that we are really gelling and coming off the ball. We are really playing 11 as one. There are other times where maybe just one guy here or there and we just do not execute,” Colts center Ryan Kelly said. “Those, unfortunately, are the untimely plays that we are making when the defense needs us the most, when they get us the ball back. Not executing in the red zone has been such a burden for us right now. Not going down there and getting six is hurting us. That is obviously something we need to get better at. Look, we are 3-2. There is next week. It is a long season. We will be fine.”
» RELATIVELY UNSCATHED: The Colts have had more than their fair share of serious injuries to this point of the season, as starting running back Marlon Mack and starting safety Malik Hooker have each been lost for the year due to ruptured Achilles, while wide receivers Parris Campbell (knee) and Michael Pittman Jr. (calf) and linebacker/key special teams contributor Matthew Adams (ankle) are all on injured reserve and considered to be out indefinitely. Starting cornerback Rock Ya-Sin also missed two games with a non-football illness that required a procedure, while key tight end Trey Burton missed the first three weeks of the season with a calf injury. On Friday, Indy’s injury woes increased when left tackle Anthony Castonzo (rib) and All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard (groin), two of the Colts’ more indispensable players, were ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Browns. Indy greatly needed as injury-free a game as possible in this one, and that’s basically what they got, barring any bumps and bruises that evolve into something more serious later this week. Safety Julian Blackmon (groin) and defensive tackle/end Denico Autry (ankle) were the only Colts players to battle injury situations throughout the game, and both eventually returned. Center Ryan Kelly also got rolled up on early in the second quarter, but stayed in the game and told reporters afterwards he’s fine. While we’ll wait for Reich’s weekly Monday media conference call for any other updates, Indy finally seems to have been spared heading into this Sunday’s Week 6 home matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals, which is followed by the Colts’ bye week.
» NOTES OF INTEREST:
— The Colts held the Browns to a field goal on their opening drive. Indianapolis has not allowed an opening-drive touchdown in 17 straight games, which is the NFL’s longest active streak.
— Isaiah Rodgers’ 212 kickoff return yards were the third-most by a player in a single game in franchise history.
Click here to check out more stats and notes from Sunday’s loss to the Browns, courtesy of Colts Communications.