After last week’s Wild Card victory against the Cincinnati Bengals, I could play the old “the Bengals beat the Denver Broncos in week 16, therefore the Indianapolis Colts will beat the Broncos” game, but in the real world it doesn’t work that way.
If it did, the Colts would be given a pass to go straight to the AFC Championship game, but that’s not gonna happen. That being the case, there are things the Colts absolutely must focus on to win this game.
First – Eliminate costly turnovers on offense.
In Week 1 against the Broncos, Andrew Luck threw for 370 yards and two touchdowns, but he also threw two interceptions. The game was decided by one touchdown, and those two picks ended drives that could have been difference makers.
Boom Herron must hang on to the ball. He fumbled twice last week, but thankfully one was recovered and the other was not a momentum changer. The same goes for Luck, who has lost 6 of 13 fumbles this season. Putting the ball on the ground in this game is something the Colts cannot afford to do.
Second – Get every offensive target involved.
The Colts cannot make it easy for Denver. Luck needs to check down to Herron to help open up the receivers down-field. And some of those targets need to get a grip on the ball, because last week some really catchable throws were just plain dropped.
Every receiving target needs to end up with a least one catch during the game. Distributing the ball to a wide array of targets effectively will hopefully spread the defense thin and create favorable match-ups. T.Y. Hilton can’t do it all by himself, and some of those drops last week may have been him trying too hard to do just that.
I have no illusions about Herron scorching the Broncos’ defense in the run game, but any success in that area could keep the defense honest…or just honest enough.
Third – The Colts’ offensive line needs to win the fight at the line of scrimmage.
While the O-line did a great job of protecting Luck last Sunday, they are facing a different animal entirely this week. They will be facing a pass rush that accounted for 41 sacks this season, with 24 coming from Von Miller (14) and DeMarcus Ware (10) alone.
They must also not let this effect their timing on the snap count, thus giving up position on false start penalties. And even tough they may be trying to keep Luck from taking too many shots, they need to block cleanly and avoid holding calls.
It might also be nice if they provided running lanes, so that the running game has a fighting chance to get rolling.
Fourth – Get pressure on Peyton Manning…somehow!
Without Robert Mathis in the lineup this year, the Colts have struggled to mount a consistent pass rush. Yeah, they may have as many sacks as the Broncos, but nobody is a clear-cut threat or target for blocking double teams.
Greg Manusky does like to send the blitz, but it can be problematic and leave things open over the middle if the O-line and other blockers pick it up effectively. The defense needs, to hurry Manning, hit him, knock him down, and sack him – a lot. They can’t let him have time to sit back, get comfortable, and maintain control of the game. Make him hear footsteps fellas.
Fifth – Limit Manning’s Four Horseman
Demaryus Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Julius Thomas, and C.J. Anderson – enough said? Too bad, I’m going to say more anyway. These four players accounted for 289 of Manning’s 395 completions this season, as well as 34 of his 39 touchdowns.
Anderson also kick-started the Broncos run game, rushing for 764 yards and all eight of his rushing touchdowns in the last eight games of the season. I could probably find something else to throw in stat-wise, but I don’t want to dash every hope I may still have.
Granted I’m sure I’ve forgotten something that somebody will want to bring up. Maybe something like, “hey what about the Broncos’ secondary?” Again, I’m no analyst – just a fan who thinks that these are areas that need to be focused on. If the Colts address these points properly, they may have a fighting chance to go on to the AFC Championship game.
So fellow members of the “Blue Nation”, get your rally caps, jerseys, lucky trinkets, or what have you, and let’s see if the Colts can deliver us another playoff victory.