INDIANAPOLIS – Two games ago, Indianapolis was going to New England to face an offense that hummed like a top, gained yards easily and treated the scoreboard like a pinball machine.
History repeats on a second straight road game as the Colts visit Detroit (4-7) on Sunday.
The Lions own the league’s second overall offense (412.9 yards/game) and the leading passing attack (312.5).
The Colts’ defense will be under the gun with what Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians calls the NFL’s best passing tandem, Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson.
Stafford has thrown for 3,429 yards and with 488 attempts in 11 outings, is on a prolific seasonal pace. Johnson has 73 receptions for 1,257 yards, and he is gunning for a fifth straight 100-yard game.
“They’re pretty good,” said linebacker
Detroit has 46 completions of 20-plus yards, 25 on Johnson receptions. He had three of Detroit’s seven such plays on Thanksgiving against Houston.
“That’s one of those guys that you say, ‘Well, you just try and contain him.’ You try to stop him but if you can’t, just contain him. Obviously, he’s used to the attention now, and we are definitely focused on him a bunch,” said Freeney.
The Lions have gobbled multiple “chunk” plays (20-plus yards) in every game, a concern according to defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.
“Definitely. When you have those wide receivers and the tight ends and a quarterback that can throw the ball, we’ve got to eliminate those vertical threats,” said Manusky.
Detroit tops the league in passing first downs (192) and is the only team with a 300-yard average.
“(Matthew) Stafford having the strong arm and the weapons that he has, we’ve got to be very aware of not getting beat deep, keeping everything in front of us and making plays,” said
Manusky sees Stafford’s guile as he leads the attack.
“He does a great job of standing up in the pocket. His eyes are up all the time, he feels the pressure and slides left or right,” said Manusky. “He can make all the throws from a seven route to a seam route, underneath, intermediate route. When he feels that pressure, he’s kind of like Rich Gannon back in the day. I remember when Rich was slinging it from his left and right. He’s very similar to that. It’s going to be a tough situation trying to get after him, but we’re going to try everything we can.”
Freeney has felt the sting of opposing quarterbacks who throw quickly to avoid the rush. He says it’s business as usual this Sunday.
“It’s pretty much the same as every other week, you get after those guys,” said Freeney. “When you have the opportunity, hit ‘em (laughs). A lot of time, the ball’s gone quick. You just can’t get frustrated, just keep fighting. It’s a collective thing. Hopefully, we have (a) low-scoring game.”
Says Bethea as the Colts hope to move their road record to 3-3 and improve to 8-4, “they have a lot of talent on that team. They’ve had a lot of close games this year. We’ve had a lot as well. We’ve just come out on the other end.”