The Indianapolis Colts continue a grueling October with a trip out west to face the San Diego Chargers. Despite their 2-3 record, the Chargers are a resilient team and should be a real test for the Colts (4-1) defense.
The Colts have played extremely well all season and it starts (and ends) with Andrew Luck. Indy’s success this season was going to be determined by what kind of leap Luck took as a passer. For the Colts to win the division and make the playoffs (and possibly a Super Bowl run) Luck had to become one of the top passers in the NFL.
Right now, he’s very close to that elite group. Honestly, there is no reason a quarterback in his second year in the NFL should be playing as well as Luck is.
- Pressure on the Defense. This Colts defense isn’t as good as its looked this season. They struggle to stop the run and no one is getting to the QB other than Robert Mathis. The Chargers and Philip Rivers are the second best passing team in the NFL right now. Rivers is playing beyond his ability and doing so with a bunch of random cast offs and Antonio Gates. The Colts have to get to Rivers to have success, and they need to do it without blitzing as he’s been tearing apart teams when they blitz. Rushing three or four and dropping the rest into coverage will put the pressure on a roster full of receivers who struggle to get open.
- The Breakout. San Diego is really bad at stopping the run (and worse against the pass). Its time for Trent Richardson to have a big game and prove he’s worthy of that first round draft pick. The Colts were more successful against Seattle when they ran without a fullback, and that was against the league’s best defense. The Colts will likely be able to run the ball however they want against the Chargers, but if Stanley Havili is left on the sideline and TY Hilton is in, the offense is much more dangerous. If Richardson struggles again, then it might be time to start questioning the trade.
- Pass. The. Ball. As much as we’d like to see Richardson finally have a big game, it’s far more important that the Colts pass the ball early and often. Indy’s best play makers are all receivers. TY Hilton and Reggie Wayne demand touches. Hilton especially (Wayne will get his) needs to be on the field more often as he really makes this passing attack dangerous. The good news is that the Chargers are the worst team in the league at stopping the pass, which explains their 2-3 record. The secondary is terrible and the pass rush was average before Dwight Freeney was placed on IR. Without Freeney, the Chargers are going to struggle to get pressure on Luck. If the offensive line can give him just a second or two, then Luck will pick apart the weaker secondary.
- The Shootout. The Chargers defense is putrid, and the Colts can struggle at times. With the way that Luck and Rivers are both playing, its likely that the team who has the ball last will win this game. I like the Colts chances with the ball and the game tied (or the Colts trailing) due to the Chargers bad defense and Luck’s comeback abilities. I also like the Colts chances if the Chargers have the ball as Rivers turns into Blaine Gabbert in the fourth quarter. OK, maybe not quite that bad, but his numbers plummet in the fourth and its a large reason why San Diego is below .500.
- The Warm Up. For once this season, the Colts won’t be facing a mobile quarterback. Rivers isn’t going to tuck the ball and run. He’s also playing very good football. Guess who else is playing very good football, doesn’t run the ball, and will be in Indianapolis in two weeks? That’s right, Peyton Manning. This is about as good a warm up match as the Colts could hope for before facing Manning and his unreal offense.
- The Philosophy. Chuck Pagano doesn’t seem to get it. On Wednesday during his press conference he stated that the two biggest indicators of winning were turnovers (absolutely) and which team had more rushing yards. If the latter were true, the Colts would be 3-2. Pagano has to learn at some point that running the ball isn’t nearly as important as the passing game. Why are the Colts winning? Because they are playing good pass defense and Luck has made a big leap as a quarterback. Also, Robert Mathis is playing out of his mind. This is a passing league and at some point, Pagano has to coach like it.
This will be Luck’s Monday Night debut. I’m sure Jon Gruden will come up with some annoying nickname for him and say something about Spider Two Y Banana (while crediting that play to every big play on the field).
The way the Colts have been playing lately, its hard not to like them in a game like this. This is a game that many teams would overlook with the Denver Manning’s coming to two, but Pagano is too good of a motivator to let that happen. Say what you will about his coaching tendencies, the man is amazing at motivating his team.
Colts win 28-21.
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