Five things to watch: Colts-49ers

September, 22, 2013
9/22/13
12:00
PM ET
Here are five things to watch for in Sunday’s game between the Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers:

1. Stop the read-option. That’s easier said than done for the Colts since their leading tackler, safety LaRon Landry (ankle), and middle linebacker Pat Angerer (knee) have already been ruled out for the game. Oakland's Terrelle Pryor has nothing on 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The Colts talked about everybody being on the same page on defense, but that will be a challenge if Kaepernick gets them guessing with some big runs early. Kaepernick passed for more than 400 yards in their Week 1 victory over Green Bay. Not there’s a good time to face the 49ers, but this really isn’t one of them. Not with all the Colts' injuries and not with San Francisco coming off a loss to Seattle.

2. Use Trent Richardson as much as possible. The sooner Richardson gets comfortable, the sooner Colts will be a better offensive team. Ahmad Bradshaw will likely start at running back, but the Colts plan to force feed Richardson as much as he can handle. Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said Friday that they run some of the same kind of schemes that Cleveland and the University of Alabama -- Richardson’s former team and college -- run.

3. It’s Fleener’s time. Tight end Coby Fleener has to step up in an attempt to soften the blow of Dwayne Allen’s season-ending injury. Fleener is a good pass-catcher, but the Colts also need him to block. He can't be a one-dimensional tight end. He has to be an all-around tight end.

4. Hugh time. Rookie guard Hugh Thornton is making his first start in place of the injured Donald Thomas. Thornton is being thrown into the fire against a San Francisco defense known for its physicality, but he believes using proper techniques will help him overcome his lack of experience. Quarterback Andrew Luck has already been sacked seven times in just two games.

5. Don’t get injured. You probably think that sounds crazy, but the Colts are a banged-up team. They already were underdogs heading the game before Landry was ruled out and Angerer was classified as doubtful. The Colts can’t afford to continue to have bodies go down, especially since they’ll be favored in the Sept. 29 game at Jacksonville.

Mike Wells

ESPN Indianapolis Colts reporter

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