Indianapolis Colts: Philip Rivers

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is headed into his third season. He has played in three playoff games -- winning one -- and has had two offensive coordinators in his first two seasons.

Luck also has 22 regular-season victories, an arm, mobility and the will the win. That is why ESPN NFL Insider Mike Sando, with the help of anonymous league insiders Insider, views the Colts’ franchise player as a top-five quarterback in the league.

Luck is ranked higher than fellow quarterbacks like Manning. No, not that Manning, but Eli Manning, Russell Wilson, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger.

The quarterbacks are broken up into four tiers. Luck is in Tier 1 with all future Hall of Fame quarterbacks. He joins Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers in that top tier. Impressive company for a third-year player.

Here is what Sando wrote about Luck:

"Luck doesn't have the track record of the other Tier 1 QBs, and there was a clear gap in the voting between him and the top four. But people in the league love him almost unconditionally, and 14 of the 26 voters insisted upon putting him in the top tier (each of the top four received 25 of 26 Tier 1 votes).

The evaluators think Luck has carried a subpar roster to a 22-10 record without much help. They see no limitations. They have zero doubt about his long-term stardom and felt strongly enough to give him 14 first-tier votes even while acknowledging he is below the Big Four at this early stage. Every other QB fell into the tier in which he received the most votes, and so shall Luck, even if his Tier 1 designation feels a bit premature."

The Colts' offensive line was atrocious Luck’s rookie season and only a little better last season. Luck didn’t have a reliable receiver to turn to outside of T.Y. Hilton after Reggie Wayne went down with a torn ACL in Week 7 last season. The running game? That was a problem, too.
INDIANPOLIS -- Former New York Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks has the Indianapolis Colts on his radar as a future team to play for.

Nicks mentioned the Colts, Carolina and San Diego to ESPN's Josina Anderson as teams that intrigue him.

"Ideally this is what I want: I want to go to a team where I'm the missing link. There are a number of teams that I have my eye on once I hit the market. I know if I went to a place like Indianapolis I would be dangerous with a quarterback like Andrew Luck. I can see myself catching passes from Cam Newton or even Philip Rivers. Players have already started to reach out to me from other teams saying they would love for me to come join them. I just want to make it clear that I want a long-term deal and I want to be happy. I'm excited about talking to teams and making it work."

This won't be the last time that a receiver talks about playing with Luck.

Why would it be?

Luck is one of the premier young quarterbacks in the league. The Colts will be a playoff team, even a Super Bowl contender at some point, as long as Luck continues to get better -- which will happen -- and they keep talent around him.

The Colts are in need of a veteran receiver to go with T.Y. Hilton and Reggie Wayne. Wayne is working his way back from a torn ACL, so a player like Nicks fits the veteran description.

But there's an “if” when it comes to Nicks.

The “if” is if Nicks can stay healthy.

He dealt with foot and knee problems during his final two seasons with the Giants. ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Saturday that Nicks started circulating medical assurance from a specialist that past injury problems won't impact him next season.

Nicks caught 79 passes for 1,052 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2010. He followed it up with 76 catches for 1,192 yards and seven touchdowns. Nicks only had 56 catches for 896 yards and no touchdowns last season.

Pro Bowl selections: Indianapolis Colts

December, 27, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS -- Robert Mathis entered the season wanting to prove that he could be successful without playing alongside Dwight Freeney.

Mathis picked up his 100th career sack and led the league in that category most of the season. He set the Colts’ single-season and franchise record for sacks earlier this month. He’s a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.

And now he’s a Pro Bowler.

Mathis was selected to his sixth straight Pro Bowl on Friday night. He has 53 tackles and is second in the league in sacks with 17.5. Mathis was named AFC Defensive Player of the Month for October.

The Pro Bowl draft will be held on Jan. 22.

The Colts are 10-5 and won the AFC South, but Mathis is the lone Colts player to be selected to the Pro Bowl.

An argument could be made that quarterback Andrew Luck and special-teams ace Sergio Brown should have made the team.

Justin Bethel of Arizona and Matthew Slater of New England were the two special-teams players taken over Brown.

Here’s the breakdown of the quarterbacks taken over Luck:

Luck's completion percentage doesn't help his cause. He could be named to the team as an alternate.

Click here for the complete Pro Bowl roster.

Andrew Luck moves up in the MVP race

October, 23, 2013
As I mentioned in QB Watch on Wednesday morning, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck isn’t putting up eye-popping numbers this season. But the Colts are winning and that's all that matters. They are 5-2 and a victory over the undefeated Denver Broncos has moved Luck into Dan Graziano’s MVP Watch.

Luck is actually up near the top. He's ahead of New Orleans’ Drew Brees, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, San Diego’s Philip Rivers and Kansas City’s Tamba Hali. The only player standing in Luck’s way is Denver’s Peyton Manning.

Shocking, I know.

Depending on how many records Manning plans to break, Luck could end up passing his predecessor because he’ll be the reason the Colts are able to maintain things without receiver Reggie Wayne (knee) in the lineup the rest of the season.

Here’s a snippet of what Graziano said about Luck: “He throws for first downs. He runs for first downs. He’s sipping an Arnold Palmer with his feet propped on a desk in the middle of Manning’s shadow without a care in the world.”

Here’s Graziano’s top five:
  1. Manning
  2. Luck
  3. Brees
  4. Rivers
  5. Hali

Check out Graziano’s top-10 list with his comments here. Feel free to behind your own comments.

Upon Further Review: Colts Week 6

October, 15, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS -- A review of four hot issues from the Indianapolis Colts' 19-9 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

The Peyton factor: A legitimate argument can be made that the Colts were looking past the Chargers and ahead to this week's showdown against the undefeated Denver Broncos. I didn't think that would be the case after several players declined to talk about Denver when I asked them last week while trying to work ahead on some stories. San Diego was the only thing they would talk about. But how else can you explain the Colts' stinking worse than a baby's diaper while playing in the national spotlight of "Monday Night Football"? They had way too many self-inflicted wounds. Dropped passes. Missed tackles. Penalties at the wrong time. The Colts beat themselves against the Chargers.

[+] EnlargeTrent Richardson
AP Photo/Denis PoroyTrent Richardson, playing in his fourth game for the Colts, only had 10 carries for 40 yards in the loss at San Diego on Monday night.
No running: Indianapolis arrived at Qualcomm Stadium as the fourth-best rushing team in the league. The Colts walked out of there not only with a loss, but they also dropped to sixth (the same spot they’re at in this week’s Power Rankings) in rushing at 130.7 yards a game. The 72 yards gained on the ground are a season low for them. The Trent Richardson show in the backfield continues to remain in neutral. The running back led the Colts in rushing, but it was nothing you can get excited about because he only gained 40 yards on 10 carries. Richardson is now four games in with the Colts, and it’s time for him to get rolling. "We came in averaging [142 rushing yards] per game," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "And today they held us under 100. We didn't get ourselves in enough third-and-manageables. We popped ourselves a few, but we were inconsistent.”

Harvey steps in: Let’s quickly get the good news out of the way with linebacker Mario Harvey. He led the Colts with a career-high 10 tackles (nine solo) while stepping in for Jerrell Freeman, who sat out the second half with a concussion. Now the bad news. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers constantly picked on Harvey, who had a difficult time keeping up with San Diego’s tight ends and receivers when matched up against them. The Colts needed Freeman because he’s more athletic than Harvey. “When I first got out there, I didn’t have a feel for them because I just came out at halftime,” Harvey said. “I started picking it up once I got a feel.” The Colts better hope Freeman can pass the league’s concussion protocol, because Denver's Peyton Manning will pick on Harvey every chance he gets -- and there will be a lot of opportunities -- in Sunday's game.

Case of the drops: Not that any time is a good time to have a case of the drops, but the Colts picked a brutal time to have multiple players get hit with the bug. They had four drops, including a key one by tight end Coby Fleener. Indianapolis is the third team to have at least four drops in back-to-back games this season. That stat is alarming when you consider the Colts dropped only two passes total in their first four games. “I don’t know, just dropped the ball," receiver Reggie Wayne said. "That’s all I can tell you. Nobody wants to go out there and drop balls, miss blocks and make penalties. That is part of the game. We have to correct them. We know this was out of the norm for ourselves."

Colts defense fails to make the stops

October, 15, 2013
Keenan AllenDonald Miralle/Getty ImagesThe Indianapolis defense could not get off the field, as the Chargers controlled the ball for almost two-thirds of the game.
SAN DIEGO -- The Indianapolis Colts' defensive unit has been in a good mood inside the locker room after most games this season.

That wasn't the case at Qualcomm Stadium on Monday night.

There was lots of talking among each other with voices lowered more than 45 minutes after the Colts' 19-9 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

The Colts had pushed the “bend, but don’t break” mind frame most of this season. That style finally caught up to them against the Chargers, and they can only blame themselves.

Penalties to give the Chargers first downs. Quarterback Philip Rivers making the necessary throw to keep a drive going. Running back Ryan Mathews finding a crease in the defense to run for 15 yards.

“We were shooting ourselves in the foot,” Colts defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois said. “We were getting the looks we wanted in every area, but we weren’t executing. It was a good example of not executing against a good quarterback. You were only going to get a look one time, and once that one opportunity was gone, they were going with it.”

Controlling the line of scrimmage and getting off the field on third down to give quarterback Andrew Luck plenty of time on the field is what the Colts have talked about on a regular basis.

They failed to accomplish their goal.

The Chargers were 7-of-14 on third down and ran for 147 yards, including 102 from Mathews.

Stopping the run didn’t suddenly become a problem on Monday.

The Colts have allowed 246 yards rushing between the tackles in their past two games. That total is only a yard less than they allowed in the first four games of the season.

“The first thing we always say is control the line of scrimmage,” Colts safety Antoine Bethea said. “They were able to run, but as a unit we have to play better. That’s what it is. We set our standard high and we didn’t play up to that.”

Not making the necessary stops allowed San Diego to control the clock. The Chargers had possession for 38 minutes and 31 seconds, keeping Luck watching on the sideline. The Colts gave up first downs on plays of at least 10 yards on third down twice and were called for penalties on third down twice.

“We couldn’t get off the field,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “We held them to a touchdown and then forced the field goals, but time of possession, that just killed us.”

You knew the Colts were in for a long night when Rivers was being lauded.

[+] EnlargeRyan Mathews
AP Photo/Denis PoroyUntil Monday night, Ryan Mathews had not rushed for more than 100 yards since October 2011.
The San Diego quarterback isn’t mobile like Oakland’s Terrelle Pryor, San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick or Seattle’s Russell Wilson.

Rivers is a pocket-passer. That meant Robert Mathis should have been able to add several sacks to his total, right?


Mathis knew that. That’s why he spent most of last week talking about how dangerous Rivers is. The Chargers quarterback is now 4-0 against the Colts in the regular season.

Rivers kept the Colts off balance by constantly changing up his snap count, and he made quick throws against the sixth-best pass defense in the league.

Rivers was 22-of-33 for 237 yards and was sacked only twice. He didn’t even have to force the ball to tight end Antonio Gates. Receiver Keenan Allen was Rivers’ go-to target. He had nine catches for 107 yards.

“Philip Rivers strikes again,” Mathis said. “I’ve been around him long enough and I know that’s what he’s capable of. We weren’t able to get to him enough, and he converted those critical third downs. He has that clock that all good quarterbacks have. He was able to get it out there.”

Don’t worry, the Colts only have to face quarterback Peyton Manning on Sunday. Yes, the former Colt who is on pace to rewrite the record books this season.

“You have to make plays,” Jean Francois said. “If you don’t do it against quarterbacks like Rivers, and next week you know who we’re playing, they can jump on you. We were frustrated because we know we were doing it ourselves. They’re a good team, hats off to them.”

Rapid Reaction: Indianapolis Colts

October, 14, 2013

SAN DIEGO -- A few thoughts on the Indianapolis Colts' 19-9 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

What it means: The Colts hurt themselves, and you can't point the finger at quarterback Andrew Luck, either. It’s hard to keep drives going when the receivers aren’t catching passes. Receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey got it started when he dropped what should have been a touchdown pass down the right sideline. T.Y. Hilton then dropped a pass. It really became contagious after that. Tight end Coby Fleener had two drops, including one that he could have possibly scored on. You know things were going bad when Reggie Wayne, who caught his 1,000th pass, even dropped a pass that would have given the Colts a first down. That was only the offensive side of the ball. The defense had a difficult time getting Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers off the field. The Chargers had the ball for 38 minutes, 31 seconds and rushed for 147 yards.

Stock watch: The Colts suffered a major blow when linebacker Jerrell Freeman, the team’s leading tackler, left the game in the second half with a concussion. Freeman’s absence was notable because the Chargers wisely picked on Freeman’s replacement, Mario Harvey, time and time again. Freeman will have to pass the NFL’s concussion protocol test in order to be on the field against the Denver Broncos this weekend.

Silent rushing attack: The Colts entered the game as the league’s fourth-best rushing team. They didn’t look like it at Qualcomm Stadium, though. Indianapolis ran for only 74 yards, well below their season average of 142 yards a game. It’s not like the Colts were facing one of the top run defenses in the league, either. The Chargers entered the game giving up 117.2 yards a game on the ground.

What’s next: The biggest game of the NFL season will be at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis when Peyton Manning, a fixture in the Colts organization for 14 seasons, returns for the first time with the undefeated Denver Broncos (6-0).
INDIANAPOLIS -- San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said his team's success against the Indianapolis Colts -- 5-1 in the past six games -- can’t be taken into consideration anymore because the Chargers have a number of different faces on their roster now.

The roster might be different, but Rivers is still on it, and that’s all that matters.

Rivers has thrown for 577 yards and completed 71.8 percent of his pass attempts in three career meetings against the Colts.

[+] EnlargePhilip Rivers
Jeffrey G. Pittenger/USA TODAY SportsChargers QB Philip Rivers has passed for more than 400 yards three times this season.
“Trust me, I know what San Diego, especially Philip Rivers, is capable of,” Colts linebacker Robert Mathis said. “We’ve had a lot of battles over the years. Definitely not a team we’re sleeping on because they can beat you and they can beat you good. Everybody’s prepared, focused and has the task at hand.”

Playing a complete game has been a difficult task for the Chargers. That's part of the reason they're 2-3 this season. That hasn’t stopped Rivers from putting up very good statistics. Statistics so good that Colts coach Chuck Pagano basically had them memorized during his news conference earlier this week.

“Anytime you’re completing 73.8 percent of your passes and you’ve thrown for 1,610 yards, 13 touchdowns and five picks, you’re doing something right,” Pagano said. “He’s a game-wrecker. He’s a winner. He’s a Pro Bowler. He gives them a chance every single week to win.”

Not bad, Coach, you were nearly perfect. Rivers has actually completed 73.7 percent of his passes this season. That's still pretty impressive.

Pagano knowing Rivers’ statistics tells you how dangerous a quarterback he is.

“He’s done a great job of just managing the offense and running the system and believing in the system,” Chargers coach Mike McCoy said. “Take the short throw. Take the shot.”

Indianapolis has faced mobile quarterbacks in three of its first five games. Rivers is completely the opposite of Oakland’s Terrelle Pryor, San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick and Seattle’s Russell Wilson because he’s a pocket passer.

The Colts are sixth in the league against the pass (201.4 yards), and they’ve sacked the quarterback 15 times this season. But getting to Rivers might be a challenge because he likes to get rid of the ball quickly and the Chargers run a fast-paced offense. He has thrown for at least 401 yards three times this season.

“Regardless if he’s not the speed guy we’ve been going up against at the quarterback position, he’s still pretty dangerous,” Colts linebacker Jerrell Freeman said. “That arm is still as alive as it was when he first got in the league. He’s definitely slinging that thing around, got a lot of guys he’s starting to become comfortable with.”

Colts aim to fix slow starts

October, 10, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS -- It didn’t seem like scoring early in games would be a problem for the Indianapolis Colts at the start of the season. The Colts scored touchdowns on their first two drives against the Oakland Raiders in their season opener and followed that up by scoring 10 points and missing a field goal on their first three possessions against the Miami Dolphins the next week.

But that’s when things slowed down for the Colts.

They scored on their opening possession at San Francisco before gaining a total of 27 yards and punting three times on their next three possessions.

The trend continued at Jacksonville. The Colts punted twice and quarterback Andrew Luck threw an interception.

It doesn’t stop there.

The Colts fell behind 12-0 and opened the game with three straight three-and-out possessions.

Indianapolis is 4-1, but the slow starts are something it needs to fix.

“I don’t know if there’s a common thread,” Luck said. “A lot of times it’s mistakes by us on offense. You have to give credit to the defense. They put us in certain situations. We’ll work to fix it and move forward.”

The San Diego Chargers -- Monday’s opponent -- may have a losing record, but they’ve won five of the past six meetings against the Colts. Quarterback Philip Rivers is completing 73.7 percent of his pass attempts.

That’s why falling behind won’t be a good thing even if Luck is known for his fourth-quarter heroics.

Luck is 18-of-39 for 234 yards with one touchdown and an interception in the first half of the past two games.

“We know we need to start fast if we’re going to have a chance in games,” Luck said. “We can’t survive our mistakes forever. If you can start the game with a touchdown on the first drive or get points on the first drive as an offense that really helps. As much as starting fast is important, finishing fast is as well. We’ll put a focus on starting fast this week.”

Injury update:

-- Safety LaRon Landry, who has missed the past three games, did not practice Thursday. Coach Chuck Pagano said he's day-to-day.

-- Linebacker Erik Walden also didn’t practice because of an elbow injury. He’s wearing a brace on his elbow.

-- Defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois returned to practice and is expected to return to the lineup against the Chargers after missing the past two games with a groin injury.