INDIANAPOLIS — Perhaps it was fitting on a Sunday when the Indianapolis Colts decided to stick to basics and play blue-collar football that they relied upon rookie running back Jonathan Taylor.
The second-round selection must have thought he was back in college as the Wisconsin workhorse had 18 carries for 55 yards by halftime, scored his first NFL touchdown on a 5-yard rush, and was instrumental in the Colts’ 28-11 home win over the Minnesota Vikings at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Taylor finished with 101 yards on 26 carries, as well as two catches for nine yards. By late in the third quarter, he had more rushing yards than the Colts managed in Week 1. And the Colts were more than happy to stick with the ground game and run clock with a double-digit lead in the second half.
That’s because this day also belonged to a Colts defense that showed dramatic improvement from an opening 27-20 loss at Jacksonville. Rookie safety Julian Blackmon, who underwent ACL surgery in December and was drafted in the third round, completed a remarkably quick return to health with a series of clutch plays, including tipping one pass to safety Khari Willis for an interception.
Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner had a sack safety of Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Tyquan Lewis and Justin Houston also had sacks. Cornerbacks Kenny Moore and T.J. Carrie also had interceptions.
It’s the Colts’ sixth consecutive win over the Vikings, dating back to 1997.
The Colts (1-1) bounced back from obvious defensive breakdowns with three TD passes allowed to open receivers in the opener. From the outset, this defensive scheme called for contesting pass-catchers more aggressively.
The Vikings (0-2) have now struggled to generate offense in back-to-back weeks — they trailed 18-3 entering the fourth quarter of this game and trailed 29-10 entering the fourth quarter of a 43-34 opening loss at home to Green Bay.
Cousins had a disastrous day as he completed just 11-of-26 passes for 113 yards with the three interceptions. This week’s version of too little, too late, was a Dalvin Cook 3-yard TD rush and 2-point run with 5:20 remaining.
Colts quarterback Philip Rivers completed 19-of-25 passes for 214 yards with a 2-yard TD pass to Zach Pascal. A lone interception wasn’t his fault — tight end Mo Alie-Cox bobbled away an on-target pass to a linebacker. Alie-Cox, starting for injured Pro Bowl tight end Jack Doyle, atoned with a team-high five receptions for 111 yards.
Colts rookie wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. had four catches for 37 yards, including one grab of a pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage, then he tipped to himself. Two of his catches contributed to the scoring drive that culminated in the Taylor scoring rush to make it 7-3 in the second quarter.
Undrafted rookie kicker Rodrigo Blankenship converted field goals from 44, twice from 38, and 28 yards.
The Colts monopolized time of possession from the start, taking more than 10 minutes off the clock without scoring on their opening drive, and the Vikings had lousy field position when they did get the ball. By halftime, the Colts’ 15-3 margin seemed larger.
The news wasn’t all good for the home team. Second-year wide receiver Parris Campbell suffered a left knee injury after an end around on the Colts' second offensive play, and didn’t return. The former second-round draft pick endured three surgeries that limited his rookie season to seven games.
Safety Malik Hooker limped off before halftime with an Achilles injury. Linebacker Matthew Adams also exited early after being shaken up with an ankle injury after a special-teams play.
Before the game, starting cornerback Rock Ya-Sin was listed among the inactives due to an illness that led to him being taken to a local hospital. It was not COVID-19, but rather a stomach ailment.
(Phillip B. Wilson has covered the Indianapolis Colts for more than two decades and authored the 2013 book 100 Things Colts Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. He’s on Twitter @pwilson24, on Facebook at @allcoltswithphilb and @100thingscoltsfans, and his email is email@example.com.)