NDIANAPOLIS — To fully appreciate what transpired across the pond Sunday, consider what the Indianapolis Colts are as they head into their bye.
And that would be 5-5, which is one more victory than they mustered during their chaotic 2022.
And, just like that, the Colts are one of those teams lurking in the still-developing AFC playoff hunt.
Their 10-6 survivor’s act against the New England Patriots in Frankfurt, Germany, involved the esthetics of a pile up on the interstate.
The only real casualty? The Patriots, who fell to 2-8 for the first time since 2000 — Bill Belichick’s first season in Foxboro.
But that’s Robert Kraft’s problem, one he’ll undoubtedly address that during the offseason, if not sooner.
The Colts reached 5-5 for the first time since their week 10 win over Jacksonville in 2021, and anything’s possible.
“Everything’s in front of us,’’ veteran tackle DeForest Buckner said after the game. “It’s just a confidence factor knowing that we have a realistic push to make a playoff run.’’
The Colts undoubtedly enjoyed the nine-hour return flight to Indy because again, the NFL is a bottom-line business. The fact they won for just the 18th time since 1984 scoring 10 points or fewer and the first time since a 10-6 street fight at Cleveland in 2008 is interesting, nothing more.
“It’s huge,’’ Shane Steichen said in his post-game press conference. “I mean, it’s huge to get to .500 before the bye, get these guys a week off, get them some rest, then come back and hit the ground running.’’
That was his message in the locker room.
“It’s, ‘Hey, get healthy and let’s go make go make a run at this thing. We got seven more games left. We’re right in the thick of it, and let’s go play our best football in November and December,’’’ Steichen said.
And no one should lose sight of the fact the Colts have been without Anthony Richardson since their dynamic rookie quarterback suffered a season-ending shoulder injury against Tennessee in week 5.
The offense is going wherever Gardner Minshew II takes it, and that’s not been encouraging. During this two-game winning streak, the Colts whipped Carolina with 198 total yards and followed that up with 264 against Belichick’s Patriots.
Indy countered New England’s game-opening field goal drive with a 14-play, 75-yard possession that Jonathan Taylor capped with a 1-yard run on fourth-and-goal at the 1 for a 7-3 lead.
The Colts’ next eight possessions netted 190 yards on 39 plays and featured five Rigoberto Sanchez punts, an awful interception by Minshew to open the third quarter and a pair of Matt Gay field-goal attempts. Gay left a 57-yarder about 1 yard short to end the first half but atoned with a 51-yarder in the fourth quarter that forced New England into touchdown-or-bust on its final two possessions.
Each ended with interceptions.
“There’s always going to be some opportunities you want back,’’ Steichen said. “But we found a way to get it done.
“That’s the name of the game.’’
Credit the defense.
The Patriots bullied the Colts on the ground — 167 yards on 36 attempts (4.6) — but were sabotaged by poor quarterback play. First it was Mac Jones, then Bailey Zappe.
Jones suffered a critical interception on second-and-12 at the Colts 15-yard line with 4:25 remaining and the Patriots trailing, 10-6. Safety Julian Blackmon accepted the poor throw at the 1-yard line.
Belichick turned to backup Bailey Zappe with 1:52 remaining, and things ended oddly. On first-and-10 at the 40-yard line and the clock ticking under 36 seconds, he faked a spike and delivered a pass down the middle that safety Rodney Thomas II intercepted.
It was fitting the defense rose up. It finished with 5 sacks, including a career-high three from Dayo Odeyingo in the game’s first 18 minutes, to go along with six tackles for loss and the two interceptions. The Patriots were 0-of-4 in the red zone.
“They played awesome the entire game,’’ Steichen said. “To hold a team like that to six points, any team in the National Football League to hold them to six points is phenomenal.
“It’s always going to give your team a chance to win.’’
Much was made about left tackle Bernhard Raimann, an Austrian native, playing in front of 18 family and friends.
As it turns out, Odeyingbo had a following of 13 family members at Frankfurt Stadium.
“This is the most family I’ve had at a game probably my whole life,’’ he said. “Just so happy to be able to go out there and be able to give them a show. A lot of them are watching their first football game at any level.
“Shoot, I mean, like I said, just having that much family in the building, I kind of felt like it was a little personal and it meant a little bit more today.’’
It should have meant more to the Colts en masse.
Getting to .500, especially with an inconsistent offense, should bolster everyone’s spirits.
There’s still time to get Minshew to show more poise in what was a relatively quiet pocket — no sacks allowed for a second time this season, just one QB hit — and to get the Jonathan Taylor-led run game untracked. He finished with just 69 yards on 23 carries after gouging the Patriots for 31 yards and a 1-yard TD on nine attempts on the opening drive.
“It’s not going to get any easier at all,’’ Taylor said. “But being able to go into this bye week 5-5, two wins in a row, now we can start stacking day-by-day, week-by-week.’’
“I think you start playing your best football in November and December, and you start climbing,’’ he said. “You kind of find out about teams late second half of the season.’’
Minshew was upbeat after finishing 18-of-28 for 194 yards, one interception and a 69.6 rating.
He benefitted from tough catches by his receivers. Michael Pittman Jr. finished with eight catches for 84 yards while Alec Pierce’s 21-yarder was a contested catch on the sideline. And rookie Josh Downs, who didn’t practice all week because of a knee injury, had two catches for 40 yards. His diving 28-yarder on third-and-5 at the Indy 10-yard line with 2:52 remaining ensured the Patriots would have a long field to navigate on their closing drive.
Remember, it’s a bottom-line business, and right now business is good.
“We’re fired up, man. Fired up,’’ Minshew said. “Got some free time coming. We’re 5-5. We have everything in front of us.
“I just want to win, however we can do that. Let’s get in the playoffs and give ourselves a chance.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.