In what should be one of the more hyped up and anticipated matchups in Indianapolis Colts history, Andrew Luck and the Colts travel to Denver to play former Colt great Peyton Manning and the Broncos. The Broncos finished the season at 12-4, and with their win against the Cincinnati Bengals last week, the Colts currently stand at 12-5. It’s shaping up to become one of the best games of the season.
It’s not always great to have high expectations going into a game. That’s what will happen for the Colts offense in this Broncos game. They’ll be expected to put up a lot of points against this tough Broncos defense on the road. They were able to put up 24 against them in the Week 1 matchup, and they have gotten better since that game. How do they put up points? By putting the ball in Andrew Luck’s hands, just like last week.
Luck and the passing offense are the lifeblood of this team. They will be expected to have a big day, and a big day will be needed if the Colts expect to win this game. Luck must have a similar game to the game he had against the Bengals last week. He must be efficient, not force any throws and make smart, appropriate decisions. He must also get more help from his receivers, especially TY Hilton. Hilton had too many drops last week and it stalled some potential scoring drives. He must have a good game if the Colts expect to win. The Luck-to-TY connection must be there in full force.
The gameplan should be a pass heavy one, but the running game, led by Boom Herron, should get a lot of attention especially as the game goes on. They do not want another one-yard performance like the one against the Dallas Cowboys. Herron will be relied upon to get some good yardage whenever he gets the ball, but more importantly to hold onto the football. He’ll also be important in the receiving game too and will be asked to receive several short passes.
The offensive line will need another big performance this week, and they will be facing a stiffer challenge. Instead of facing Wallace Gilberry and Carlos Dunlap, they’ll be facing Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. That’s quite the upgrade. Anthony Castonzo will have the tough task of going up against Ware, and Joe Reitz will have to face off against Miller. Limiting them to a couple of hits each would be an accomplishment. The interior linemen will have an easier challenge this week, but it’s not an easy task. They’ll need to open up the running game, and to do that, they should attack up the middle, so pulling guards and double-teaming one of the 3-tech defensive tackles will be important in this game. They’ll need to open up holes and limit Miller and Ware in order to have a positive day.
Because of the impact that Miller and Ware will probably have, the Colts will need to utilize a quick, short passing attack. With this type of offense, the Colts will get passes off quickly and avoid having a lot of pressure. Of course they cannot stick to those short passes all game; they’ll need to take some shots. When they take shots, if they feel they can’t get good protection, then they can bring in Dwayne Allen for blocking purposes or even bring in an extra lineman. The passing game needs to be hitting on all cylinders. In terms of running the ball, running it out of shotgun formation and out of draw plays would be smart and will keep the Broncos on their toes. Keeping things too obvious won’t work.
As for the defense…
In terms of beating the Broncos’ offensive line, the Colts will need to find the weak link along their line (in terms of pass blocking). They’ll need to rotate their three outside linebackers and mix things up. If they can get pressure on Manning, that will take them a long way. They’ll need to disguise their blitzes properly so that Manning won’t be able to spot them out. They’ll need to blitz a lot and make Denver’s star quarterback feel uncomfortable.
To stop Denver running back C.J. Anderson, they’ll need to bring up their linebackers a bit closer to the line and commit to a gap control system. They’ll need to control the line of scrimmage and bringing down the inside linebackers should help that, but it’s an aggressive move. They need to control the line of scrimmage in the passing game and in the running game. If they can get penetration from the defensive line, that will open up lanes for the linebackers to make their tackles. It’s a group effort and everyone needs to do their part in order to win.
How do you stop Manning? In short, there really isn’t a way to completely slow him down, but I’ve come up with these three keys that should limit his play.
1 – Attack Ryan Clady and Louis Vasquez, the two offensive tackles, by using speed rushers and bringing in outside blitzes. If it’s successful, Manning will receive a lot of pressure and could make mistakes.
2 – Take away Demaryius Thomas by shadowing him with Vontae Davis and playing primarily in man coverage. If Davis jams Thomas properly, he’ll have trouble getting separation off the line and he’ll be thrown off his route. This is a more aggressive route that has worked well for the Colts this year.
3 – Taking away the running game (as described before) and forcing Manning to throw the ball 45+ times. Manning is 2-4 when he throws the ball 44 or more times this season. They do not want to rely on him too much as his arm strength and overall strength will decrease dramatically as the game goes on.
If the Colts can properly execute this gameplan, they’ll be able to walk out of Denver with the win. It will be up to Chuck Pagano and the coaching staff to get these guys prepared, and having Ray Lewis in earlier in the week should help out a lot.