Indianapolis Colts: Terrelle Pryor

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.”

Andrew Luck runs like a linebacker

October, 4, 2013
10/04/13
8:00
AM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck runs with the aggression of a middle linebacker chasing down a running back when he tucks the ball and takes off downfield.

And at a time when talk centers around mobile quarterbacks like Oakland’s Terrelle Pryor, San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick and Sunday’s opposing quarterback, Seattle’s Russell Wilson, Luck could easily be mentioned in the same breath as those players when it comes to mobility.

Or maybe not.

Luck has rushed for only 5 fewer yards than Wilson on 11 fewer carries this season.

But that’s not what the Colts want from Luck, who is still trying to master the art of sliding when he takes off running. Coach Chuck Pagano’s heart is racing when his franchise player is on the run.

“He understands he can’t play the game like a linebacker,” Pagano said. “Maybe a few years ago he could, but certainly not now. There’s too much at stake. He knows that.

“He needs to get the cobwebs knocked out or whatever. I told [quarterbacks coach] Clyde [Christensen] to slap him in the face or get somebody else to butt heads [with him] on the sideline. He knows what he has to do to stay healthy.”

Luck is second on the team in rushing with 126 yards on just 16 carries this season. You could call him the team’s leading rusher, since the real rushing leader -- Ahmad Bradshaw -- could be out awhile.

The Colts need Luck to remain healthy, but the second-year quarterback also doesn’t mind getting hit.

“I think there’s a little part of most football players who enjoy the aspect of getting hit,” he said, laughing. “I know in games, sometimes it’s good to get that first hit and say, ‘OK, now you’re in a football game.’ After that, no.”

Colts send a message against 49ers

September, 22, 2013
9/22/13
11:20
PM ET
Ahmad Bradshaw Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesAhmad Bradshaw led the Colts' running attack with 19 carries for 95 yards and one touchdown.
SAN FRANCISCO -- Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano's opening statement after his team’s 27-7 victory over the San Francisco 49ers was about how the win could be one the Colts talk about five or six years from now.

Then Pagano backtracked.

“Maybe one of those wins that propel you to do great things,” he said.

The hype surrounding the Andrew Luck-Jim Harbaugh reunion took a backseat to the type of performance general manager Ryan Grigson envisioned when he put the team together during the offseason.

The Colts took the first step in removing the finesse label that has lingered since the Peyton Manning years of throwing the ball around the field to Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. On Sunday, the Colts imposed their will, taking the physical 49ers out back for an old-school beating.

“If you want to go finesse, open it up with five wide [receivers], we can do that,” Colts linebacker Robert Mathis said. “You want to go smash-mouth football, we can do that. We have two backs that can get it done and an O-line that can open up gaping holes.”

The Colts’ victory sends a message to Manning and the Denver Broncos, who appear to be the odds-on favorites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.

“All the good things we did today, we can keep building on so we can keep having performances like this,” defensive lineman Cory Redding said.

Indianapolis felt disrespected before it boarded its cross-country flight Saturday afternoon. The oddsmakers had the 49ers favored by 10 points, understandable with the Colts to play without six starters.

Pagano and his staff had to shuffle things around on the offensive line so the unit could open holes for the newly acquired Trent Richardson and for Ahmad Bradshaw and for for Luck to have time to pass.

The Colts had a rookie starting at left guard, the starting right guard slid to center and a player who opened the season third on the depth started started at right guard.

With all the shuffling, the Colts still rushed for 179 yards and Luck was sacked only once.

“I think we were very disrespected,” said Mike McGlynn, who started at center for the injured Samson Satele. “We knew nobody in the country picked us and it doesn’t matter.”

Luck’s passing ability has been well documented, but the Colts also need a running game to complement their franchise quarterback.

That's why offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, Luck's coordinator at Stanford, has spent the entire season talking about establishing a power-running game.

The odds of having it all season became reality Friday, when Grigson acquired Richardson from Cleveland to go with Bradshaw.

Sunday was the first time the Colts had more rushing yards (179) than passing (157) since Dec. 18, 2011, against Tennessee.

Richardson and Bradshaw allow the Colts to chew up the clock and not put pressure on Luck to throw the ball 45 times a game like he had to last season.

The Colts clinched the game in the fourth quarter with an 11-play, 80-yard drive, including nine runs for 54 yards, using more than seven minutes of the clock.

After setting the 49ers up by pounding the ball with Bradshaw and Richardson during the drive, Hamilton called the perfect play with Luck faking a handoff to Bradshaw and rolling to his left for a 6-yard TD.

Grigson couldn’t control himself in the press box after Luck’s touchdown and spike. He pumped his fist, grabbed vice president of football operations Jimmy Raye and started shaking him by his shoulders in excitement.

“We’re pretty dangerous and it is hard to tell what is going to come at you,” Richardson said about teaming with Bradshaw. “It is kind of tough to know what is going to come at you.”

The long drives -- the Colts had the ball almost 13 minutes longer than the 49ers -- kept Indianapolis’ defense fresh, which in turn played a factor in them locking up San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the read-option offense. Kaepernick had only 20 yards on seven carries.

The Colts went from playing “hero ball” against Oakland’s Terrelle Pryor to believing in their teammates and the scheme defensive coordinator Greg Manusky put together.

Indianapolis held the 49ers to 254 yards, with 91 of those on San Francisco’s only scoring drive. The Colts forced two turnovers, including a strip by linebacker Jerrell Freeman deep in San Francisco territory.

“That was a heavyweight fight right there,” Pagano said. “That was a 15-round slugfest. That was exactly what we thought it was going to be. It’s what we prepared.”

It was also a beat-down by the Colts, the kind they believe will keep them moving forward this season.

Colts prepare to face 49ers' read-option

September, 20, 2013
9/20/13
8:30
AM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- Two weeks ago, the Colts faced Terrelle Pryor, who is a running quarterback but more in the improvising kind of way.

On Sunday, they are set to face a real read-option quarterback: the 49ers' Colin Kaepernick.

“You’ve got to be disciplined,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “You’ve got to be focused. You’ve got to be on the same page. You’ve got to communicate. Guys got to be in the right spots.”

Kaepernick is a better passer than Pryor, who threw for 217 yards to go with 112 rushing yards against the Colts. Kaepernick threw for a career-high 412 yards in Week 1 against the Green Bay Packers; he averaged 6.6 yards per rush last season.

Kaepernick struggled last week against Seattle, throwing for only 127 yards on 13-of-28 passing, with three interceptions, in the loss.

“Just make sure he’s not comfortable,” defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois, a teammate of Kaepernick’s last season in San Francisco, said of Indianapolis' approach. “Make sure you get him off his point. If you let him stay on his point, as you can see with the Green Bay game, he can get to rolling. Then if you let him add his legs, you know he’s got the most ridiculous stride, almost like he’s Usain Bolt running.”

That’s the right strategy to have, but it’ll be difficult for the Colts to pull off if they’re missing key defensive players.

Starting linebacker Pat Angerer (knee) and safeties Antoine Bethea (toe) and LaRon Landry (ankle) didn’t practice Thursday. Landry already has two touchdown-saving tackles this season. He leads the league in tackles with 26. Bethea is tied for 15th with 18.

“All 11 guys have to be on the same page, and all 11 guys got to be doing their job,” Pagano said. “You can go back to when I was playing -- it was wishbone; you take care of the dive, then you take care of the quarterback, then you take care of the pitch. You don’t see as much of the pitch, obviously, in pro football right now with the read-option. But you got to have guys in place, and sometimes more than just one assigned to any aspect of the option.”

Colts secondary to face first real test

September, 13, 2013
9/13/13
8:00
AM ET
INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts have gone from facing a mobile, do-whatever-it-takes-to-make-a-play quarterback in Oakland’s Terrelle Pryor in Week 1 to the Week 2 prospect of a more traditional quarterback in Miami’s Ryan Tannehill.

Tannehill
“(Tannehill) can still run,” Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. “He’s a guy that still feels the pocket. He has a good pocket sense. I didn’t know (Pryor) was that dang big. He was fast, too.”

Tannehill, who is trying to close the gap between him and some of the rest of the quarterbacks drafted in 2012, has the ability to create with his feet when he has to, but he beat the Cleveland Browns with his arm last weekend. He was 24-of-38 for 272 yards and a touchdown.

“He has the arm to make all the throws,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “He’s got some skill guys around obviously that can make plays. Given time, he can burn you.”

All the Colts have to do is look back at last season's game against the Dolphins if they need a reminder about Tannehill. The then-rookie passed for 290 yards and a touchdown in Miami’s loss to the Colts.

“He’s more of a pro-style quarterback,” Colts cornerback Vontae Davis said. “So right now we got our hands full against a good Miami team that’s coming into Indy.”

Davis and Greg Toler will get their first test of the season against receivers Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline.

You can expect Miami to try to get the ball to the speedy Wallace at receiver. My ESPN.com colleague James Walker, who covers the Dolphins, wrote in our “Double Coverage” breakdown Thursday that Wallace will be the fastest player on the field. Wallace was a hot topic after he got frustrated and whined over only catching one pass against Cleveland. He cleared up his comments to the Miami media Monday.

“Mike Wallace, he’s a stretch-the-field guy,” Toler said. “He wants that deep ball a lot, so we have to keep him from that. He doesn’t want short passes, pretty much.”

Hartline was Tannehill’s favorite target last week. He caught nine passes for 114 yards and a touchdown against the Browns.

“Everybody knows Mike can run,” Davis said. “He’s a fast guy, got a lot of ability and I’m pretty sure they’re looking forward to using Mike to make different mismatches. We got a challenge ahead of us with Mike Wallace and also Brian Hartline.”

Double Coverage: Dolphins at Colts

September, 12, 2013
9/12/13
12:01
PM ET
Luck-Tannehill Getty ImagesSecond-year quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Ryan Tannehill face off in Indianapolis on Sunday.

The Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts are two undefeated teams trying to establish themselves in the AFC. Both have young quarterbacks with promise and solid second-year head coaches.

Indianapolis beat Miami last year, 23-20, in an exciting matchup in which quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Ryan Tannehill both played well.

But who will win this season’s matchup? ESPN.com Colts reporter Mike Wells and ESPN.com Dolphins reporter James Walker weigh in.

Wells: Sunday will come down to which quarterback from the Class of 2012 -- Luck or Tannehill -- can limit his mistakes. And I’m sure we’ll talk about them before we end this conversation, but before that, James, we have to address the Mike Wallace situation. It seems like Wallace was being selfish by making Sunday’s win over Cleveland all about him because he only had one catch. For a Dolphins team that’s had only one winning season since 2006, Sunday should have been about getting a nice road victory to open the season. Not about Wallace. I know Wallace cleared up his comments Monday, but it shouldn’t have gotten to that point. Is that a sign of things to come out of Wallace, the $60-million man?

Walker: The situation was not ideal, but I thought the Dolphins did a masterful job putting the Wallace issue to bed during the week. Miami’s coaches supported Wallace’s competitiveness and desire to make an impact. Wallace also clarified that he was more upset at himself, and I expect he will be extra motivated to have a big game. Speed kills in domes, and I don’t think there will be a faster player in Sunday’s game than Wallace. Look for Miami to find more creative ways to get him the football in the event the Colts consistently double Wallace, which was Cleveland’s strategy. Speaking of strategy, I was surprised to see how much Indianapolis struggled last week with the Oakland Raiders. The Colts trailed Oakland at home with less than 6 minutes left in the game. Was this first-game jitters and what needs to be fixed?

Wells: You weren’t the only one surprised. I think most people were, especially when you look back at the Colts’ first two offensive series. They scored with ease and all indications pointed to Luck having a special day after he started 11-of-11 with two touchdowns. But you have to give credit to Oakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor. He did an excellent job creating with his feet. He kept the Colts off balance and his team in the game until Luck became the hero. Tannehill is a more traditional quarterback. Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson are the quarterbacks everybody talks about from 2012 -- and they should be talked about after they led their teams to the playoffs -- but do you get a sense down there in South Florida that Tannehill has the tools and work ethic to close gap on the three QBs I just mentioned?

Walker: I really like Tannehill’s tools, Mike. He can make all the throws, has good mobility and feet as a former college wide receiver, and he doesn’t get rattled often. Those are all qualities you want in a quarterback. He looks the part, but I still need to see him win consistently. What was interesting about last week’s win over Cleveland is Tannehill took over the game in the third and fourth quarters. Last year Tannehill played not to lose games. Last week Tannehill went out and won the game. That’s probably the biggest thing that separates Tannehill from Luck and other members you mentioned from the 2012 quarterback draft class. Tannehill can certainly learn from Luck and his fourth-quarter comebacks. Mike, where is Luck in his development in Year 2?

Wells: Everybody talks about sophomore slumps with players. You should go ahead and look elsewhere because that won’t be the case with Luck. He refuses to settle. The only thing he wants to talk about is getting better. That’s what you like to hear from your franchise player. Luck likely won’t pass for as many as yards this season because the Colts are putting an emphasis on the running game with Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw. Those two players should take a significant load off Luck’s shoulders. But it won’t be easy for Luck this weekend. Miami’s defense looked pretty good last week against the Browns. Six sacks and three interceptions. What makes the defense so dangerous?

Walker: The Dolphins focused in the offseason and training camp on forcing turnovers and pressuring the quarterback. The work clearly paid off with the stats you mentioned. But perhaps the most impressive stat is Miami hit Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden 16 times, which included the six sacks. The Dolphins’ front seven is both fast and physical. They have a deep rotation on the defensive line. For example, No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan is a backup who only gets limited snaps. Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle has done a good job and really likes the group he has. I think the best way for Miami to beat the Colts is the rattle Luck, force turnovers and try to make it a low-scoring game.

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts' strong suit this season will be the offense.

They shouldn't have any problems putting points on the board with the offensive weapons quarterback Andrew Luck has around him.

That, of course, is if the Colts can get their offense on the field.

That wasn't the case in their season opener against the Oakland Raiders.

The Colts tied the Raiders and Carolina for the fewest offensive possessions in the league with only eight in Week 1. One possession was the final one of the game when the Colts took two knees.

Baltimore had the most drives with 17, followed by Peyton Manning and Denver with 16 drives in Week 1.

The league average in Week 1 was 12 offensive possessions.

It’s difficult to get more possessions when the defense can’t force the opposition to punt the ball or turn it over. The Raiders were 7-of-13 on third down against the Colts. The Colts picked off quarterback Terrelle Pryor twice.

“We wanted more [possessions],” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said about their offensive possessions. “Part of that is us. You get turnovers, but if you get off the field better on third down, get off the field and get the ball back to our offense, we’ll get more.”

Here are the teams other than Baltimore and Denver that had more than 12 offensive possessions in Week 1.
  • New England: 15
  • Jacksonville: 15
  • Philadelphia: 14
  • Giants: 14
  • Minnesota: 14
  • Kansas City: 14
  • Detroit: 14
  • Buffalo: 14

Power Rankings: No. 12 Indianapolis Colts

September, 10, 2013
9/10/13
1:50
PM ET
A weekly examination of the Colts’ ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 10 | Last Week: 11 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

The Colts dropped a spot after needing quarterback Andrew Luck to bail them out (I know that’s not shocking news) by running for a 19-yard touchdown with about five minutes left to beat Oakland in Week 1. You can’t blame the panel of voters for dropping the Colts down a spot. I would have done the same. There were many people -- myself included -- who thought the Colts would have an easy time against the rebuilding Raiders. But quarterback Terrelle Pryor deserves credit for giving the Raiders a chance to steal the game on the road.

Luck’s touchdown run and Antoine Bethea’s interception of Pryor in the final 30 seconds kept the Colts from likely taking a significant tumble in the rankings.

ESPN analyst Herm Edwards said on the air Monday that he’d choose Luck to lead a team on a game-winning drive over Seattle’s Russell Wilson, Washington’s Robert Griffin III and San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick. Luck already has eight game-winning drives during his 17-game career. And that’s why the Colts will always be in the mix to be a top-10 team all season.

You probably shouldn’t pay too much attention to the overall rankings. A bigger emphasis should be put on where the Colts sit compared to the other AFC teams. Denver, New England, Houston, Cincinnati and Baltimore are ranked higher than the Colts.

Those are the six teams I picked to represent the AFC in the playoffs, with the Colts being the final team to make it. The next closest AFC team in the rankings is Miami at No. 17. The Colts and Dolphins play each other Sunday in Indianapolis.

One great feature about the Power Rankings is that you have an opportunity to rank the teams. Click here and have at it.

RTC: Too early to pass judgment

September, 10, 2013
9/10/13
10:30
AM ET
Here’s your Tuesday edition of Reading the Coverage.

• Stephen Holder of the Indy Star writes that it’s too early to judge the Colts defense after Oakland’s Terrelle Pryor had his way against them, rushing for 112 yards (which led the league until Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy ran for 184 yards against Washington on Monday night) and passing for another 217 yards.

Pryor just created things on his own. Not many of his runs were by design. So I agree with Holder, give the defense a little bit more time before passing judgment on the unit.

• Conrad Brunner of 1070TheFan is skipping right past this week’s opponent Miami and looking ahead to the Sept. 22 game against the San Francisco 49ers. The reason? The Colts will face 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the read option. Then they get Seattle’s Russell Wilson, another read-option quarterback.

• Colts.com gives its take on five things learned from the Colts-Raiders game Sunday.
INDIANAPOLIS -- For so long, the Indianapolis Colts would elect to receive the ball when they won the toss because they had Peyton Manning at quarterback. Manning often led the Colts on opening-scoring drives, putting pressure on the opponent to counter the score.

Those days are numbered as long as Chuck Pagano is the coach.

Pagano, a defensive-minded coach, prefers to defer so that his defense is on the field first and the Colts get the ball at the start of the second half.

“I’m a defensive coach, defensive mindset, can’t help it,” Pagano said. “I know what our offense can do, I know what the quarterback can do, but we like to defer. We like sending our defense out there.”

The Colts won the toss and deferred to Oakland on Sunday.

The defense allowed quarterback Terrelle Pryor and the rest of Oakland’s offense to get down to the Colts’ 32 –yard line before cornerback Greg Toler picked off Pryor’s pass in the end zone. Luck marched the Colts down the field and scored on a touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne.

When asked if he runs the decision to defer by offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, Pagano smirked and brought out some laughs in the media group because he knows he gets the final say on things.

Upon Further Review: Colts Week 1

September, 9, 2013
9/09/13
12:30
PM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- An examination of four hot issues from the Indianapolis Colts' 21-17 win against the Oakland Raiders:

[+] EnlargeVick Ballard
AP Photo/Doug McSchoolerThe Colts' running game, led by Vick Ballard, showed promise against Oakland.
Maybe the Colts can run after all: What was lost in the all the talk of the Colts' fourth-quarter comeback and Terrelle Pryor's creativity was Indianapolis' ability to run the ball, and I’m not talking about quarterback Andrew Luck's 19-yard touchdown run to win the game. The Colts, who talked about a balanced attack all preseason, rushed 26 times and attempted 23 passes. That likely won’t happen too many times this season. Vick Ballard gained 4.8 yards a carry on his 13 rushes. Ahmad Bradshaw added 26 yards on seven attempts. Don’t be alarmed by Bradshaw’s yards and attempts. The plan all along was for him to get a limited number of snaps because he sat out the entire preseason rehabbing his foot from offseason surgery. He’ll get better as the season progresses. “We blocked up some things and Vick hit some holes, and you saw what Ahmad can do in a limited amount of snaps and exposure,” coach Chuck Pagano said. “I know we probably left some yards out there and we had some times, some penetration that we’ve got to clean up, where we had some negative plays because of hits in the backfield.”

Luck throws under pressure: The Raiders were able to sack Luck four times. He faced five or more pass-rushers on 15 of his 31 drop backs -- the third-highest rate of his young career. Luck was on target when he was able to get the ball off. He was 11-of-12 for 99 yards and seven first downs when facing five pass-rushers. Luck completed only 50 percent of his attempts for seven touchdowns and five interceptions when facing at least five pass-rushers last season. Luck can expect more pressure this weekend against the Miami Dolphins; they had six sacks and three interceptions against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

Landry will make an impact: Some people made a big deal about Pryor giving Colts safety LaRon Landry a good stiff arm on his 26-yard run in the third quarter. That wasn’t a big deal. What was, though, was Landry having a presence all around the field. He had a game-high 15 tackles, including 10 unassisted. Landry’s best tackle came when he caught Raiders tight end Jeron Mastrud from behind on his 41-yard catch and run that could have put Oakland ahead in the final minutes of the game. The drive -- and any chance of the Raiders winning -- ended when Antoine Bethea intercepted Pryor with 31 seconds left.

Wayne still producing: As good as the offense could be this season -- and it should be really good with the weapons surrounding Luck -- one thing remains certain: Reggie Wayne will continue to be the primary target until he starts showing signs of slowing down. Wayne caught three passes on the Colts’ opening 10-play drive, which ended with his 12-yard touchdown catch on a perfectly thrown ball from Luck in the corner of the end zone. Wayne, who has caught at least one pass in 113 straight games, had five catches by the end of the Colts’ second drive, which put them ahead 14-0. He had only three more catches the rest of the game. One was a third-down grab on the Colts’ game-winning drive.

RTC: Colts living on the brink

September, 9, 2013
9/09/13
9:00
AM ET
Let’s get the Week 1 Reading the Coverage rolling this morning:

Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star writes that Andrew Luck leading the Colts to a come-from-behind victory isn’t anything new. He watched the second-year quarterback do it one, two, seven times last season. Luck picked up his eighth come-from-behind victory Sunday.

Mike Chappell, also of the Star, notes that Sunday marked the 113th straight game that future Hall of Fame receiver Reggie Wayne has caught at least one pass.

The Star’s Zak Keefer writes about how the Colts’ defense was grasping for air trying to stop Oakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Pryor ran for a Raiders franchise-record 112 yards and threw for another 217 yards.

Conrad Brunner notes that the Colts may have won the game, but they didn’t show much progress from last season. That’s not good after the front office went out and upgraded the roster. It’s also not good when you look at the schedule the Colts face, starting in two weeks in San Francisco.

Reggie Hayes of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel writes what a lot of people are probably are thinking: “The Colts have me confused. Are they the offensive juggernaut of the first two and final possessions in a 21-17 win over the Oakland Raiders?….Or are they the porous, sack-vulnerable panicky unit of the other moments?”

Mike Lopresti wrote in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette that the Colts are going to pay one of these days if they continue to live on the brink of all these fourth-quarter comebacks.
INDIANAPOLIS -- No matter how much film -- little was available -- was watched or how many college coaches they talked to about the read-option offense, the Indianapolis Colts really didn’t know what they were getting into with Oakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

Pryor, making just the second start of his pro career, had the Colts guessing whether he would tuck the ball and run or use his arm to make something happen.

[+] EnlargeTerrelle Pryor
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsRaiders QB Terrelle Pryor rushed for more than a 100 yards against the Colts' defense in Week 1.
Pryor threw for 217 yards and rushed for 112 yards in Oakland’s 21-17 loss to the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.

“He’s a problem,” Colts linebacker Robert Mathis said. “He’s a very athletic guy. He can make you pay with his arm, too. We were able to get him under control at the very end, that’s all that matters.”

The Colts spent the week preparing for Pryor and the read option despite Raiders coach Dennis Allen playing games by not saying who would start at quarterback, whether Pryor or Matt Flynn.

The Raiders ran the read option some, but Pryor did a lot of improvising.

Think playing pickup football as a kid and doing whatever it takes to keep a drive going. Then throw in some video game moves, and that was Pryor for you.

A stiff-arm on Colts safety LaRon Landry. Some juke moves. A pump fake to get Cory Redding in the air to buy some more time.

“They did a nice job with their scheme," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “Those things are easier said than done. It’s hard, especially in the opener. You watch the tape and you watch the preseason, and it’s really hard to gauge and know exactly what you’re going to get. We knew we had a heck of a football player coming here, a talented guy, a great athlete.”

Every time it seemed like the Colts had a shot on Pryor, the young quarterback would find a way to keep the drive going.

That was the case when they forced the Raiders into a fourth-and-9, but Pryor found Denarius Moore for a 21-yard completion across the middle to keep hope alive for Oakland.

The Colts were frustrated, but they weren’t going to start pointing fingers at one another. That’s the last thing they needed to do.

“You have to shoot your guys on guys like that,” Redding said. “What I mean by that, you can’t rush him cautiously. You just have to shoot for the outside leg and make him cut back in and hope the pursuit is there. Everybody hung in there. We kept flying around. We knew he was going to make plays, and he’s a heck of an athlete. We just had to weather the storm and just keep stopping them as much as we could.”

The persistence finally paid off for the Colts when Mathis got their only sack of the game on Pryor with just over a minute left in the game -- a 16-yard loss that pushed the Raiders back to Indianapolis’ 24-yard line.

Two plays after that, the Colts were finally able to feel like they escaped Pryor when Antoine Bethea picked him off at their 6-yard line.

“Use all your bullets, throw the gun, throw the belt holder, too,” Mathis said about trying to defend Pryor.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Andrew Luck pulling off fourth-quarter heroics isn’t anything surprising. The Indianapolis Colts quarterback did it seven times during his impressive rookie season. So having Luck bail his team out in a 21-17 victory Sunday against the Oakland Raiders shouldn’t be eye-opening from that aspect.

But it really shouldn’t have come to Luck’s 19-yard touchdown run down the middle of the field that was as wide as nearby Interstate-70.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Luck
AP Photo/AJ MastAndrew Luck's touchdown run was the difference in the Colts' win against Oakland.
Not after the Colts went out and added three starters -- two offensive linemen and a receiver -- to go with another running back to complement Vick Ballard during the offseason. And not against an Oakland team that featured nine starters on defense.

Scoring shouldn’t have been a problem against the Raiders.

It didn’t seem like it would be that way with Luck sitting back in the pocket and picking apart the Raiders’ defense on his first 11 throws, Ballard giving hope of the Colts having a balanced offensive attack with some impressive runs early, and a 14-0 lead after their first two series.

But that’s when things changed for the Colts. Changed so much that you were left wondering if this was going to be the 2012 season all over again with Luck having to scramble for his life from the pressure. And -- with this being the most important part -- Luck coming through when necessary at the end of the game.

“We know it’s tough to get wins in the National Football League,” Luck said. “Obviously you don’t want it. You don't want to have to go down to the wire every game. Oakland, tough guys, tough team. Defensively, they did a great job.”

Tough is the last thing the Raiders were on Indianapolis’ first two drives.

The Colts ran five runs and five passes on their 89-yard opening drive that ended with tight coverage by cornerback Tracy Porter on receiver Reggie Wayne but an even better throw by Luck in the corner of the end zone.

The second drive was just as easy for Luck & Co.

It wasn’t until the final play of the drive -- a 20-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dwayne Allen -- that the Raiders finally got some legit pressure on Luck. He was able to get the pass off despite being clobbered by 305-pound Raiders defensive tackle Vance Walker just as he released the ball.

"Nothing crazy, out of the ordinary, but you got a guy like that, it sure makes you feel good," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said.

It was at that moment that you had to wonder whether Luck was going to have one of those magical afternoons.

Why wouldn’t you think it?

After the first two series, Luck was 8-of-8 for 113 yards and two touchdowns, and he'd had barely any pressure on him.

But it was then that the Raiders finally got after it defensively.

As quarterback Terrelle Pryor was causing havoc with his feet, the Raiders’ defense dialed in on Luck with pressure.

The Colts gained 62 yards on their four series leading up to their game-winning drive. Oakland got all four of its sacks during those four series. The Raiders’ best defensive stand came when the Colts went for it on fourth-and-1 at Oakland’s 43-yard line. Defensive end Jason Hunter was able to drag Luck down for a 13-yard loss.

It was only natural to start having flashbacks to last season, when Luck was sacked 41 times. The Raiders used the short field to score a touchdown and take a 17-14 lead.

“It’s self-inflicted wounds,” Pagano said. “You have negative plays. ... Credit them for making those plays, but it’s awful hard to stay ahead of the chains and stay on track.”

All was forgotten about six minutes later when Luck saw that Wayne was double-teamed and that the middle of the field was wide-open.

Luck tucked the ball, took off and, with the help of a Darrius Heyward-Bey block, broke left and into the end zone for yet another one of his come-from-behind victories.

“We went out there and he said, ‘This is going to be the drive, this is going to be the drive to win the game right here,’” Wayne said. “He is always confident, and he knows what he can do with his ability. He plays like he is a 15-year vet.”

But the Colts don't want to have to keep relying on Luck bailing them out in the fourth quarter the way he did Sunday.

Locker Room Buzz: Indianapolis Colts

September, 8, 2013
9/08/13
5:17
PM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- Observed in the locker room after the Colts’ 21-17 victory over Oakland.

Allen says he’s fine: Colts tight end Dwayne Allen, decked out in a tailored suit, said he injured his right hip when he landed awkwardly on a pass across the middle that ended up getting tipped by Raiders linebacker Kevin Burnett in the third quarter. Allen left the game and didn’t return. There was a lot of concern that Allen might have injured the same foot that caused him to miss the entire preseason. “I’ll be good to go; I’m not too worried,” said Allen, who scored a first-half touchdown.

A tired group: The Colts’ entire defensive unit talked about how tired it was from having to chase Raiders multidimensional quarterback Terrelle Pryor around the field all game. Pryor rushed for 112 yards and threw for 217 yards. “Use all your bullets, throw the gun, throw the belt holder, too,” Colts linebacker Robert Mathis said. “That’s what we did.”

Getting takeaways: The Colts' defense had only 18 interceptions last season. It emphasized improving in that area this season and got off to a good start Sunday. The Colts halted Oakland on its first drive when cornerback Greg Toler picked Pryor off in the end zone. And, of course, Antoine Bethea put an end to Pryor and the Raiders stealing the game from them when he intercepted the quarterback at Indianapolis’ 6-yard line with 31 seconds left in the game.

SPONSORED HEADLINES