Winless Colts, Vikings eager for mulligan
One game into the 2020 season, the Indianapolis Colts and Minnesota Vikings are eager to prove Week 1 losses were an aberration.
The Colts coughed up an early lead at Jacksonville and lost to the Jaguars, 27-20. The Vikings were easily handled by a division rival, too, in a 43-34 home defeat at the hands of the Green Bay Packers.
Minnesota travels to Lucas Oil Stadium to face the Colts on Sunday in Philip Rivers’ first home game as Indy’s quarterback. He’s already down a starting backfield mate. Marlon Mack, playing in a contract year, tore his Achilles in Jacksonville, which elevated rookie Jonathan Taylor to a spotlight role earlier than expected.
Rivers found the silver lining in his debut with the Colts. Indianapolis generated 445 yards in total offense but Rivers threw two interceptions, overshadowing his 36-of-46 passing day with 363 yards and a touchdown. After taking in film sessions this week, Rivers couldn’t temper his frustration.
“I’m still a little aggravated about last week,” Rivers said on Wednesday.
The Vikings are preaching pass rush after Aaron Rodgers and the Packers lit up the secondary with relative ease in Week 1. Minus injured left end Danielle Hunter, the Vikings remain determined to get to the quarterback without sending extra pressure. Rodgers had four touchdown passes and threw for 364 yards. At least one other big play for a touchdown was avoided thanks to a drop by Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
Mike Hughes and Holton Hill started at cornerback last week for the Vikings and were exposed without a significant pass rush. Rodgers attempted a Week 1-high 10 deep passes. They’ll be targets again Sunday, but safety Harrison Smith said the Vikings are unbowed and unwilling to point fingers.
“Our young guys are going to be really good players, and they are good players,” Smith said, crediting some of the breakdowns to jitters in the opener. “Playing in your first game against one of the best quarterbacks in the league, one of the best receivers in the league, good offense. We’ve definitely got to get better, but I like the guys we’ve got.”
Rivers gave Jacksonville’s young cornerbacks multiple chances to make plays last week, and the Jaguars came away with two picks.
Rivers has 13 interceptions in his past eight games, dating to the 2019 season with the Los Angeles Chargers. He said he’s not thinking about turnovers.
“It is part of life in the NFL. You hope there’s just not very many,” Rivers said. “There’s been more than I would have liked the past handful of years, but overall, it’s not been an issue in my career.”
The Vikings last faced Rivers in a regular-season game in 2015. They’ve never seen Taylor, who had six receptions for 67 yards and nine carries for 22 yards in Week 1.
In three seasons at Wisconsin, Taylor eclipsed 2,000 rushing yards twice and finished his Badgers career with 6,174 running yards and 50 touchdowns on the ground. The Colts selected him with the No. 41 overall pick in the draft in April.
Rivers said Taylor reminds him of former Chargers teammate Michael Turner, a LaDainian Tomlinson backup with the Chargers whose production exploded once he became a starter with the Atlanta Falcons.
“Similar in size and people forget how fast Michael Turner was, but he could really run — same with Jonathan,” Rivers said. “They are similar in that regard. That’s who he reminds me of.”
Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota offense will take aim at one of the Vikings’ former cornerbacks, Xavier Rhodes. He’s on the other side of the field Sunday. Head coach Mike Zimmer said he hopes Rhodes, released in the offseason by the Vikings, is staying safe and healthy.
“I love Xavier, he’s a great kid, good competitor,” Zimmer said. “We had a lot of good times together.”
–Field Level Media