The game turned into a defensive struggle as both offenses failed to pull away. The Colts used a vicious pass rush combined with making opportune plays on the defensive of the ball to secure the win and get back to .500 as they head into their bye.
According to the grades from Pro Football Focus, numerous players performed at a high level in the Colts' win. However, the highest-graded player may come as a surprise. Let's dissect the five players who graded out the highest for the Colts on Sunday and analyze their performances.
Note: The player must have played at least 25% of the snaps to be eligible.
Gardner Minshew struggled to move the ball against the Patriots defense on Sunday. The Colts quarterback finished 18-of-28 (64.2%) for 194 yards and an interception, as he seemed to feel pressure early and failed to connect on throws. But the graders at PFF saw things a bit differently.
Minshew received the highest overall grade of any player on the Colts for Sunday's performance at 83.9. His passing grade of 83.6 was the best mark Minshew has had all season. Minshew also accounted for zero turnover-worthy plays despite the interception as the ball was tipped.
The film shows the grade does not match the performance by Minshew. The Colts were able to get the victory, and the graders seemed pleased, but Minshew will need to play with better poise and precision after the bye if the Colts want to make a run at a playoff berth.
Despite the game turning into a defensive slugfest, only one defender made the top five highest-graded list for the Colts. That would be Julian Blackmon, the safety who continues to have a career season. Blackmon tallied four tackles, two passes defended, and an interception in the victory.
Blackmon was the second-highest-graded Colt ,with an overall grade of 82.5. The safety had a coverage grade of 82.3, third-best on the team, as he allowed just one reception on four targets and a passer rating of 0.0. Blackmon also had the best tackling grade on the Colts at 81.6, with three of his four tackles qualifying as a defensive stop.
The position switch from free safety to strong safety has revitalized Blackmon. The 2020 third-round pick is currently the No.8 ranked safety in the NFL, continuing to make plays every week. Blackmon may be playing himself into a nice payday this spring.
Coming into the game against the Patriots, Josh Downs was dealing with a knee injury that kept him out of practice all week. Downs was limited in his snaps on Sunday but still came through to make big plays in the clutch. The rookie wide receiver hauled in two catches for 40 yards in just over 25% of the Colts offensive snaps.
The impact Downs had on the game was loud and clear, as he finished with an 82.3 overall grade. His 79.1 receiving grade was the best of any Colts player, catching two of his three targets with an average depth of target of 19 yards. Downs also produced a 109.7 QB rating when targeted, the second-highest on the team.
Downs continues to impress as a rookie, making crucial plays in big moments. If you have yet to jump on the Downs bandwagon, now is the time to do so.
Sunday was a homecoming of sorts for Bernhard Raimann. The Austrian-born player had 18 family members in attendance, most of whom were watching him play for the very first time. Raimann had extra motivation to play well against the Patriots and did not disappoint.
The second-year left tackle played his best game of 2023 with an overall grade of 82.2. Raimann had the second-best pass blocking grade on the team at 86.5 after allowing just one pressure in 28 pass blocking reps. His run blocking grade of 75.7 was the third-best mark on the Colts, signifying another solid outing.
Raimann continues to climb the rankings among offensive tackles. He now sits as the No.5 offensive tackle by PFF and may ascend even higher over the final seven games of the season. We are seeing Raimann become a star right before our eyes.
The top five is rounded out by the other tackle on the Colts offensive line. Braden Smith returned after missing four weeks due to hip and wrist injuries. But the right tackle for the Colts had no issue picking up where he left off.
Smith had himself a day, grading out at 80.8 overall. He finished with the highest run blocking grade on the team with 80.1, mauling Patriots defenders in the ground game. Smith was no slouch in the passing game either, turning in the fifth-best pass blocking grade of 76.8 after allowing just one pressure in 28 pass plays.
While Raimann ranks as the No.5 offensive tackle in the NFL, Smith ranks as the No.10 offensive tackle in football. The Colts quickly have one of the best offensive tackle tandems in football as offensive line greatness is beginning to return in Indy.
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