INDIANAPOLIS – Last Sunday against Minnesota, wide receiver Donnie Avery’s name went into Colts record books as the 55th player ever to produce a 100-yard reception game.
Avery had nine receptions for 111 yards, and he did it in the second game of his Colts career, and with a rookie quarterback in Andrew Luck who was playing in his second game ever.
It was a 20-yard reception in a two-minute attack engineered by Luck in the game’s final 31 seconds that pushed Avery over the century mark for the second time in his career.
More importantly, the catch moved Indianapolis closer to Minnesota territory and when the drive concluded, it was on a 53-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri that gave the Colts a 23-20 victory.
Avery had three receptions for 37 yards and a touchdown in the opener at Chicago, and his addition to the attack has been everything Head Coach Chuck Pagano envisioned when Indianapolis added the speedy receiver earlier this year.
“Since he got here, he’s been 100 miles per hour. He’s completely healed,” said Pagano. “I’ve been around guys, coached guys that have come off of major knee surgeries. In Baltimore I had a couple corners go down. It takes time. It takes more than a year. You may be back within a year but from a mental standpoint, confidence, running routes, driving, breaking, driving (it’s tough).
“From a (defensive back’s) perspective or a wide out’s perspective, he’s 100 percent. He’s looked that good in the offseason, OTAs, into training camp and preseason. I’m not surprised at all at the success he had last week.”
Avery is returning to full-time duty after a difficult period in his career. A former second-round choice of St. Louis in 2008, the 33rd player taken overall and the first receiver selected, Avery had 103 receptions for 1,308 yards and nine touchdowns in 39 career outings before joining Indianapolis.
Avery started 28 of 31 games with St. Louis during his first two seasons. He missed the 2010 season with a knee injury (ACL) that he helped recover from by working with Olympic track coach Alan Powell during last year’s lockout. He ran 100- and 200-yard dashes at full speed for a hopeful return to the level that saw him post a blistering 40-yard dash time (4.27) when coming out of college.
It was the notion of stretching the field that inclined the club to add Avery. He has paid dividends so far, and Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians believes Avery will continue to augment the attack very well.
“I loved Donnie coming out. I had him rated as the highest receiver coming out of the draft that year,” said Arians. “Sometimes hard luck hits a guy, injuries, he’s not in the right system, but ever since he’s been here his confidence has grown. His speed is back, he’s healthy. It hasn’t been a surprise to me, it might be a surprise to him. I think the sky is the limit for this guy. He’s still young. I think we’ve got a diamond.
“Since the first day he’s gotten here he’s continually grown into the offense, and he’s really supporting himself as the number two guy right now. His speed is back, his strength is back, everything about him. … I’m anxious to watch him grow.”
Like any quarterback, Luck likes a stocked cupboard of receivers. He was pleased to see Avery succeed in live action, and he hopes future production will assist Reggie Wayne.
“It doesn’t surprise me some of the plays he’s made. He’s very dynamic, fast, quick-twitch, can really stretch the field and get across the field fast on some crossing routes,” said Luck. “I’m glad to see that it’s showing up in the games because he’s been doing it in practice. … I think Reggie draws so much attention and Donnie realizes that and really took it upon himself from the start of the season to say, ‘Hey, I’m going to be there.’ ”
Avery is focusing on helping however possible.
“Any time opportunities come my way, I’m trying to capitalize on opportunities,” said Avery.
Cornerback Jerraud Powers has worked against Avery in practice and sees a gifted target.
“His talent jumped out quickly. It doesn’t take him long to get his speed going,” said Powers. “Donnie runs good routes. He catches the ball well. He does all the little things right. He’s definitely going to be a big-play guy for us.”
Wayne had a 100-yard effort in the opener, it was 39th of his regular-season career, second-most in Colts history. Wayne sees the chance for Avery to keep making impact on Sundays.
“Donnie is very important to our offense, so it’s always good to have him out there,” said Wayne. “He’s a guy that can stretch the field and make things happen. I’ve seen him at work through the years in the past. You see some big things, some big-play ability.”
COLTS FRIDAY NOTEBOOK (QUOTE-UNQUOTE): CHUCK PAGANO (On rushing average, what is good for this team) “Our goal is to never give up a 100-yard rusher, first and foremost. If you can hold people to three yards a carry, I think we go 3.2, 3.3, somewhere in there, you are going to be in the top 10, if not the top five, in rush defense every year . That’s kind of our benchmark, that’s our goal, that’s our number.” (On how much of a vocal leader is Robert Mathis) “You know, more than you think. It’s more by his play and what he does on the field. When he has to (speak), he’s kind of like E.F. Hutton. When he talks, everybody listens. I don’t know if anybody remembers who E.F. Hutton is. A few of us. I’m dating myself. I don’t even really know, I just kind of took a shot in the wind there. He quietly goes about his business and it’s probably more by example. When he has to, he’s the type of guy that can put his arm around a guy and whisper in a guy’s ear and they’re going to pay attention. They’re going to listen, and it’ll speak volumes.” (On Maurice Jones-Drew) “You can’t see him. You can’t find him. He’s like a rolling ball of butcher knives. He’s got legs like tree trunks, like two sequoias. I told our guys, ‘If you try to hit this guy high and don’t wrap up, you’ll bounce off him like BB’s off a tin can.’ We have to gang-tackle this guy, but he’s strong as heck. He breaks a ton of tackles. He’s quick. He’s got good vision. I said, ‘Basically, the one thing that’s the same size on all these (NFL) backs is their ankles. If you wrap him up, you slide down and get his ankles and you bring them together, you have a good chance of bringing this guy down.’ He’s just a physical, physical back. He’s got great talent, and he’s got great vision. We have another one this week we have to tend to and do a great job gang-tackling him.” (On how much penalty avoidance is preached) “All the time. It’s just discipline, playing within the framework of the rules. We have officials out at practice twice a week. We have a three-man crew that is local college officials, and they come out twice a week and they work our practices. They’re all the time talking to us and talking to our guys about the finer points of offense, defense, and special teams and what they’re looking for. We try to do our due diligence as far as that goes. Again, you don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot and you don’t want to have negative plays when it comes to penalties, because all that does is kill drives. Go back to when you look at it defensively when you give up, if you have a penalty or you give up a big play on defense, the percentage of scoring drives goes way up. When you don’t give up a big play and you don’t have a penalty (it helps). One year we did a stat in Baltimore out of 206 drives where we didn’t give up a big play and we didn’t have a penalty, and this is what I told the guys early on when I first got here and we started talking about this stuff, we gave up I think two touchdowns and five field goals out of 206 drives. It’s a major point of emphasis.” (On proper way to finish a game) “One of our goals on our stats sheet team goals is win the fourth quarter. You’ve got to finish in this league. If you let people hang around long enough in the NFL and you keep life there (it can get you).” (On importance of playing turnover-free football) “One of the major points of emphasis going into every week is win the turnover battle and ball security. When we go in on Wednesday mornings and we talk about the next opponent, the first thing we talk about on offense, you talk about ball security. Protecting the football is paramount. Forcing turnovers is paramount. We were plus-one (against Minnesota) and any time you’re plus-one, statistically you’re probably going to win I think 65 percent of the games. Plus-two or plus-three it gets into the 80s and 90s as far as win percentage. It was a great job by our guys on offense of protecting the football.” (On Luck during final drive against Minnesota) “We’ve all seen glimpses of what he’s capable of doing, through the offseason, certainly preseason, training camp. The guy is mature beyond his years. He’s a talented, talented guy. I don’t know going in if everybody would do that with their quarterback, but that’s just the trust and faith we have with the guys up front, even though we’re playing with a MASH unit, so to speak, the tight ends, the skilled players that are around him, the backs, the protection and certainly the quarterback making it all happen. It was one of those deals we talked about (that) we’re going to be aggressive. There was enough time on the clock. We’d just practiced the situation, so they were well-versed. We had two timeouts, and we said, ‘Let’s give this thing a run for the money.’ ” (On Robert Mathis) “It’s just mind-boggling how quick Robert Mathis has picked up this scheme, how well he’s adapted to the new position. I don’t what he’s weighing right now, but there are some collisions out there. He’s setting the edge on the tight end certainly, but there are times when they’re blocking down and running some gap schemes on us and he has some big offensive linemen, some 310-, 320-pound guards pulling on him. He’s stuffing them and sitting them right down in the hole at 240 pounds. He’s done a tremendous job.” (On Jerrell Freeman) “I have to go back and read his bio. Every time we get done, I look at the stat sheet, I see 13 tackles. I say, ‘Where’s this kid from again?’ Only Ryan Grigson can find those types of guys. Jerrell’s a guy who comes in and we talk about next man up and opportunity, (and a player) doing such a great job of studying and preparing so when the opportunity does show up, you can go in and be productive. He’s done that. He’s played a ton of plays in the first two ballgames. His hard work and preparation is showing up on the field. … He’s kind of ‘Johnny-on-the-spot.’ … He puts the time in. He does a great job not only on defense, but on special teams. The production is there, so you have a guy who definitely is laying it on the line every snap out there and doing a great job.” (On Cory Redding) “His energy, his enthusiasm, his passion, his knowledge, his leadership, his experience on the football field, he has so much to give. He’s a great player, but he’s a better teammate. He’s a better person. He’s a great father. He’s just a great role model. He helps in so many different areas. Just being able to come in here and help implement this defense and help Coach (Greg) Manusky and the rest of the guys with new scheme, new terminology, building trust and kind of echoing exactly what the coaches are saying behind the scenes, in the locker room, working with guys one-on-one, spending time in the film room (is invaluable). You don’t find a lot of veteran guys who are willing to give up the time he gives up. He gives up a ton of time doing all the other things he does, giving back to the community, his charities and things like that. Overall, he’s just a great, great person.” (On if he has fear that fame will go to Luck’s head) “Absolutely not. This is probably one of the most humble guys that I’ve ever been around, certainly on this football team. This guy understands the value of work ethic and team and passion and studying and being a pro, even at an early stage in his career. There is no way that would (happen). It’s just not in his DNA. It’s not how the kid’s wired. It’s not how he was raised. I have no worries. The guy won’t even do a commercial. I don’t know that he’s done one yet. I don’t worry about that.” ANTOINE BETHEA (On Maurice Jones-Drew) “(He’s) a short guy, low gravity to the ground, compact and he runs hard. He just runs with the type of tenacity that the good backs run (with). It’s going to take 11 hats to the ball. Like every time we play, they’re going to give him the ball and he’s going to try to make it happen. … It’s going to be fun.” (On Robert Mathis and his courage) “He’s undersized at his position but if you look at the stats and what he does, you could never tell. That’s why I say stats (obscure) your size. Sometimes the stats are over-rated. It’s what occurs and what’s in here (taps his heart) is what really matters most. Sometimes you could have bigger guys, but they don’t give you nothing on the field. Rob gives you everything he has out there.” ADAM VINATIERI (On if he developed the calmness during his career) “I think it’s something you can develop, trying to calm yourself down. I’ve never put a heart monitor or blood pressure thing on me to see if my heart rate increases, or any of that kind of stuff. If you can focus in on what you’re doing, rather than all the external stuff, I think it keeps you a little bit calmer. It’s an exciting time for everybody at that point. We all get excited.” JERRAUD POWERS (On the team’s first two games against the run) “For the most part (we have), but it can always be better. Nothing is as good as it seems just like nothing is as bad as it seems. Last week, I thought we did a decent job stopping Adrian Peterson, but I think we could have done even a better job after watching film. We’ll have another tough match with Maurice Jones-Drew. This week we’ll put in the preparation and game planning and try to execute on Sunday.” WINSTON JUSTICE (On being impressed with Andrew Luck’s pocket presence) “From day one, I was impressed with his poise and his confidence, even as a rookie. I think he proved it against Chicago, and I think he proved it last week, too. I think he is only to get better, and we just have to keep him clean.” ANDREW LUCK (On if underestimates Jacksonville) “Absolutely not. I think they are a lot better than their record shows. Defensively, they are very tough. They have a tough front seven. They play hard. You’re not going to get easy yards on them. As an offense, I think we know it’s going to be a dogfight. It’ll be a good game.” (On comfortable in two-minute offense) “(I) could always get better at it. I’ve practiced it a lot in training camp, minicamps and got a couple reps in the preseason. It’s nice to have some successful drives at it during this season, the regular season as well.” (On knowing importance of knowing when he has run enough before being hit) “Absolutely. I think I realized that one hit in the NFL is equivalent to about 10 in college. Try and minimize those. As a quarterback you don’t have to prove your toughness by trying to run people over. It’s much more important to take care of your body and slide.” CORY REDDING (On Robert Mathis) “He’s a man who says very little but when he does say something, gear up. He’s going to give you some words that kind of get you fired up. That’s him. He doesn’t really say much. He just works. He comes to work every day (and) claps hands. You can tell when he’s out on the field making plays.” (On effort of the home fans) “Every Monday after a home game, if you were a fan and you show up to work on Monday with a voice, you didn’t scream loud enough. You’ve got to have that voice box pretty mad at you because you were screaming your heart out on Sundays. I’m not saying they didn’t. They did, but that’s the kind of energy we have to possess here. That’s what I’m trying to change. That’s what I’m trying to bring. That’s what this unit, we thrive off that. When we’re in the practice, the energy level that we have at practice because we pump each other up, we need that on Sundays. That’s why I’m trying to get the crowd really behind us and just make this place crazy and frantic when people come to play us.” (On what Luck’s drive and Vinatieri’s kick meant for him to watch) “I saw (Luck) earlier today and I told him, ‘Great growth yesterday, great growth yesterday. Keep it up. Build off what you did yesterday.’ He knows what I’m talking about. He made some tremendous plays with his feet, got out of pressure, made unbelievable throws. Guys really stepped up and made tough catches for him when they need to get tough yards down the field, get in field goal range so Adam can go in there and do what he does best and get us into position to win. That’s all we can ask from those two individuals collective as a team to do.”