INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indianapolis Colts defense got battered for three weeks.
A spate of injuries decimated their starting lineup just as they faced a daunting stretch of games. On Sunday, the Colts fought back.
Indy forced five turnovers, had two sacks and allowed no touchdowns as it snapped a four-game losing streak with the franchise's most lopsided win in five years: 37-5 over the Buffalo Bills.
"The defense got us going with the turnovers," coach Frank Reich said. "Mike Mitchell on the interception , (Kemoko) Turay had the sack-fumble. They got us going. I think we were good in every area."
It was a major turnaround for a defense that started the season with three promising games before allowing nearly 40 points per game over the next three. Part of the explanation for the dramatic changes is injuries.
Indy (2-5) found itself playing musical chairs in the front seven for a few weeks. Losing safety Clayton Geathers with a neck injury against New England added another complication. Along the way, the Colts lost four straight.
But against the Bills (2-5), who have a league-low 81 points through seven games, the Colts found their early season form.
Mitchell, Kenny Moore II and Corey Moore intercepted 35-year-old Derek Anderson, who made his first start since December 2016. Mitchell also forced a fumble.
Rookie linebacker Darius Leonard recorded a team-high 12 tackles and recovered a fumble. Margus Hunt batted down a ball at the line of scrimmage and the Colts (2-5) consistently kept the pressure on Buffalo (2-5).
As a result, the Bills' defense scored nearly as many points as the offense — thanks to a third-quarter safety that cut the deficit to 24-5.
"They beat us in every phase," coach Sean McDermott said. "There wasn't one good moment other than some moving the ball."
Buffalo's No. 3-ranked defense also struggled.
Andrew Luck threw four touchdowns for the second straight game — three in the second quarter when the Colts turned a scoreless game into a 24-0 blowout.
The only scoring by the Bills' offense came courtesy of a 34-yard field goal midway through the third quarter.
Otherwise, the defense kept the Colts in control.
"It's a sign of a good day," Mitchell said. "We need to have a bunch more good days."
Marlon Mack missed four of the Colts' first five games because of a hamstring injury. But over the last two games, he looks healthy.
Mack followed up his 12-carry, 89-yard game against the New York Jets with a 19-carry, 126-yard game — the first 100-yard game of his two-year career. He also caught a 29-yard TD pass.
"It feels great," Mack said after playing only his third game ever with Luck. "When Andrew can just sit in the pocket and we can run the ball, it's lovely."
McDermott benched the turnover-prone Nathan Peterman after last week's loss to Houston.
Yet Anderson struggled just as much in the fourth quarter when the Bills were forced into desperation mode as they attempted to rally. He was 20 of 31 with 175 yards and the four turnovers, which the Colts converted into 24 points. Could there be another change coming?
McDermott wouldn't say after the game.
"You have to be realistic and try to put players in a position to be successful," he said. "He's only been here two weeks. That's part of it, but that's not an excuse. We can't use that as an excuse."
Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton returned after a two-game absence because of a hamstring injury and helped Luck get in sync, too.
While the numbers didn't jump out — four catches, 25 yards — Hilton's 5-yard TD catch late in the first half made it 21-0. His 1-yard catch, as Luck scrambled toward the sideline, gave the Colts a 31-5 lead early in the fourth to seal the win.
After scoring five points Sunday, kicker Adam Vinatieri needs five more to break Morten Andersen's NFL career scoring record. Andersen has held the mark since December 2006.
But it wasn't a sterling day for Vinatieri, who missed two extra points wide right — the first time he's ever missed two extra points in a game during his 23-year career.
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