DETROIT — Philip Rivers picked apart Detroit's defence with short and accurate passes after it shut down the Indianapolis Colts on the ground early in the game.
Rivers threw three touchdown passes in the second quarter to help the Colts surge past Detroit for a 41-21 victory Sunday following a first quarter in which they averaged a little more than 1 yard rushing on 10 carries.
Rivers completed 23 of 33 attempts, mostly short passes to the outside or over the middle, for 262 yards. The 38-year-old quarterback also showed he still has some arm strength to go along with his savvy touch, perfectly throwing a 29-yard pass to Nyheim Hines late in the first half.
Indy (5-2) has won two straight while the Tennessee Titans have lost two in a row, putting them in a first-place tie in the AFC South.
“We’re in a position where we have a chance," Rivers said.
Rivers threw passes to 11 teammates.
“It’s unusual, but we have such a variety of skill players,” he said. “It makes us tougher to defend because you don’t know where the ball is going.”
The Colts were healthy and looked rested and ready to roll after being idle last week and improved to 3-0 after a bye under coach Frank Reich.
Hines had so much energy he celebrated each of his two touchdowns in the second quarter with moves that would make a gymnast proud, pulling off roundoffs into full twists in the end zone. The first acrobatic feat was particularly impressive because Hines went in motion to the left, reversed field to make a short catch, sprinted up the sideline and spun to break a tackle to score.
Hines said he learned how to do flips about 10 years ago, starting on a trampolines before defying gravity off the ground.
“I've been saying I’m going to do it since my rookie year,” the third-year running back said.
The Lions (3-4) lost a seventh straight home game, dating to last season, and missed an opportunity to win three in a row and to have a winning record in November for the first time with coach Matt Patricia.
“They were able to capitalize on some of the mistakes that we made,” Patricia said. “Certainly, took control of the game and just kept that all the way through the second half.”
Matthew Stafford was 24 of 42 for 336 yards with three touchdowns, two to Marvin Jones. He also had two costly turnovers, including the team's first fumble this season.
“Two plays that I can’t make for us to have a chance to win, especially in a game like that where we’re going to have to score a bunch of points,” Stafford said.
Detroit scored first, as it has in every game this season, after blocking a punt that set up Stafford's 25-yard pass to Jones late in the first quarter. Stafford's second touchdown pass helped the Lions pull within six points early in the third quarter, but he turned the ball twice to let Indy pull away.
Colts linebacker Darius Leonard, returning from a two-game absence because of a groin injury, forced Stafford to fumble. Jordan Wilkins took advantage with a 1-yard run and 2-point conversion to restore Indy's double-digit lead early in the fourth quarter.
On Stafford's next snap, he threw the ball directly to defensive back Kenny Moore and he returned the interception 29 yards for a score. Suddenly, the Colts were ahead 35-14.
“I didn’t see him," Stafford acknowledged. “Obviously, that is pretty evident when you watch it.”
Hines and Wilkins back up rookie running back Jonathan Taylor, but both made the most of opportunities in the Motor City. Taylor had 11 carries and was held to 22 yards rushing, matching a season low, and gained 9 yards receiving on two catches.
Wilkins, meanwhile, had career highs with 20 carries, 89 yards rushing and scored for the first time this season. Hines had two touchdowns in a game for the second time in his career, scoring on two of his three receptions for 54 yards.
“You can’t count the plays,” Hines said. “You’ve got make them count.”
Indy's backfield depth is especially impressive, considering starter Marlon Mack ruptured his right Achilles tendon in Week 1.
Detroit defensive tackle Danny Shelton was called for unnecessary roughness for bringing down Rivers after the whistle was blown on a sack. The flag gave Indy a first down instead of a fourth-and-10 at the Detroit 41. Three plays later, Rivers threw a 7-yard, tiebreaking touchdown pass to Jack Doyle.
Colts: CB Rock Ya-Sin (concussion protocol), WR T.Y. Hilton (groin) and WR Ashton Dulin (knee) were hurt during the game.
Lions: WR Kenny Golladay (hip), WR Jamal Agnew (ribs) and OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai (foot) left the game.
Colts: host Baltimore in a matchup of AFC teams with winning records.
Lions: play at Minnesota in a matchup of the bottom two teams in the NFC North.
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Larry Lage, The Associated Press