INDIANAPOLIS –Looking to get a faster start offensively last week, Indianapolis took a different approach when Houston won the coin toss and deferred.
The Colts stepped up the tempo by going no-huddle on the first drive, and Indianapolis zipped 80 yards on 11 plays for a quick 7-0 lead.
The drive featured three third-down conversions and ended when Andrew Luck threw a 14-yard strike to Griff Whalen.
The Colts had their first first-quarter touchdown in seven games and nearly had a second one on the ensuing possession until an interception at the Houston five halted a march that included more of the same up-tempo approach.
For those drives, the Colts gained 47 yards on eight rushes, while Luck hit seven-of-10 passes for 72 yards.
In the second quarter, Luck capped a four-play, 70-yard march by hitting both of his attempts for 50 yards, the final nine coming on a shovel pass to Trent Richardson.
The quick start helped the Colts open a 17-point halftime lead. In the previous six games, the club had been out-scored 49-9 in the first quarter and 114-24 in the first half.
On the three drives sprinkling in some no-huddle, Luck hit nine-of-12 passes for 122 yards with two touchdowns and one interception (111.8 rating).
To Luck, though, execution is the overarching key.
"No matter what tempo we're going at or what personnel is in the game, we know if we can execute we have a good chance of making positive plays," said Luck. "We do practice the no-huddle stuff, whether it's two-minute drills. Guys have a lot of experience at it. It worked.
"I think any tempo, any personnel, any situation, if we execute we have a good chance."
Luck hit two different receivers on the first scoring drive, then hit four different ones while going four-for-five on the drive ending with the turnover.
On the second touchdown drive, he hit two different receivers, but Luck does not feel the accelerated pace promotes a diversity of targets.
"I think our offense is designed to spread the ball around no matter what phase we're in," said Luck. "It's fun to get the ball to different guys. There are a lot of playmakers on this offense. It's good to get the ball around to those guys."
Indianapolis had labored with converting third downs in previous games, and Luck says doing so early helps establish a rhythm. The first-quarter rhythm last Sunday meant five-for-five third-down conversions and 141 net yards.
At Kansas City, the Colts will be facing a defense that has created league-high 35 takeaways. The Chiefs have 20 interceptions and have returned five for scores.
The opportunistic bunch has 43 sacks, but Chuck Pagano knows the value of the no-huddle approach should Indianapolis turn to it.
"It gives us an opportunity to get started, keep them in certain packages, keep them from substituting (personnel), however you want to look at it," said Pagano. "We'll factor in being on the road, crowd noise, communication. All those things factor in.
"It was good to see us get going first and foremost. However we got to get the job done, we'll utilize what we have to utilize."
The club's 4.7 rushing average on those three drives bears out Luck's contention that the no-huddle does not change the fundamental approach of an offense seeking ground success.
"You still want to run the ball at certain points," said Luck. "It's still focused on running the football, just from different formations, different ways. It worked out last week, which was good."
As for this week, Luck is not knee-deep in 'what-ifs' involving playoff seeding. His focus is on Sunday's 11-3 foe.
"I can speak for myself. I'm not quite sure of all the scenarios and what happens and where," said Luck. "I think you're sort of aware of it, about the different possibilities. That takes a backseat to this game this week and what it means.
"We understand we have to go out there and take care of business and other things will take care of themselves."
COLTS IN PRO BOWL FAN VOTING – Andrew Luck (6th-449,984; Peyton Manning, Den, 1,227,068; Drew Brees, NO, 1,049,811; Russell Wilson, Sea, 718,826; Tom Brady, NE, 585,109; Aaron Rodgers, GB, 450,757; OLB-Robert Mathis (2nd-279,080; Tamba Hali, KC, 293,303; K-Adam Vinatieri (9th-53,379; Stephen Gostkowski, NE, 193,069; Steven Hauschka, Sea, 159,938; Matt Prater, Den, 130,671; Nick Folk, NYJ, 104,307; Robbie Gould, Chi, 97,865; Justin Tucker, Bal, 78,869; Mason Crosby, GB, 75,265; Dan Bailey, Dal, 69,248).
Fan voting will continue online and on web-enabled mobile phones until 6:00 p.m. ET on Thursday, December 26 by going to www.NFL.com/probowl/ballot. Fans count as one-third of the process, with players and coaches providing the rest of the voting.
PRACTICE REPORT – Did not participate: DT-Ricky Jean Francois (foot), OT-Jeff Linkenbach (quad), FB-Stanley Havili (knee), S-Sergio Brown (groin), LB-Robert Mathis (rest), LB-Daniel Adongo (hamstring), OG-Joe Reitz (concussion), DT-Montori Hughes (knee), OG-Hugh Thornton (neck); Limited Participation: C-Samson Satele (elbow); Full Participation: RB-Donald Brown (neck), CB-Greg Toler (groin), WR-LaVon Brazill (foot).