Darius Leonard's return puts Colts back on track, in first place

Welcome back, Darius Leonard, and welcome back to being in first place in the AFC South for the Indianapolis Colts.

Leonard stopped what could have been a momentum-changing drive for the Detroit Lions by stripping the ball from quarterback Matthew Stafford to swing the game back in Indianapolis’ favor in its 41-21 victory on Sunday.

The Colts' victory, coupled with the Tennessee Titans' loss to Cincinnati, has both teams sitting atop the AFC South with identical 5-2 records. The two teams will play twice in the next four weeks. This is the second straight season Indianapolis has started 5-2.

The Colts appeared to be in control of the game with a 20-7 lead when the offense started to stall out with back-to-back three-and-out possessions. The Lions, trailing just 20-14, had the ball at the Indianapolis 25-yard line when Leonard came off the edge and stripped the ball from Stafford. Defensive end Justin Houston recovered the fumble.

Sunday was Leonard’s first game since injuring his groin in Week 4 against Chicago. His play on Stafford started a string in which the Colts' defense had a pick-six return for a touchdown by cornerback Kenny Moore and a sack by Denico Autry to turn what was a 20-14 game into a 35-14 lead.

After so many years when the Indianapolis offense led the way, it’s now the defense, especially the defensive line, that’s setting the tone.

The Colts, who went into Sunday ranked second in the NFL in yards allowed, held the Lions to 326 yards, including just 28 yards on the ground, and sacked Stafford five times while also hitting him seven times. Indianapolis had four sacks in the entire month of October. Most of Detroit's yards came when the Lions fell behind in the fourth quarter and were forced to throw.

Running back switch: The Colts have tried to stay patient with rookie running back Jonathan Taylor, but that patience might be running out. Taylor had only 11 carries for 22 yards. Jordan Wilkins was the team's primary running back in the second half. Wilkins, who has spent most of his career primarily as the third or fourth running back, had a career high in carries (20) and yards (89) to go with his touchdown. Taylor, who was picked in the second round of this year’s draft, became the starting running back after Marlon Mack was lost for the season to a torn Achilles in Week 1. But the former Wisconsin standout has struggled with consistency. He went into Sunday with 367 yards rushing.

Troubling trend: Rookie kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, who replaced future Hall of Famer Adam Vinatieri, went from being perfect on extra points on the season to missing two extra points on Sunday. Blankenship, the NFL’s leading scorer, missed both of his extra points after dealing with poor snaps from long-snapper Luke Rhodes.