INDIANAPOLIS – For the fifth time in the past four years, the Colts and Broncos will see each other on opposite sidelines this weekend.
It's a 10-day layoff for the Broncos after their season-opening victory. The Colts will be looking to avoid a third straight 0-2 start to the regular season.
What are the key ingredients to victory, presented by Papa Johns, when the Colts travel a couple time zones west to take on the Broncos?
1. Protection, Protection, Protection
-It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know how important protection around Andrew Luck is this weekend. The Broncos' defensive attack overwhelmed Carolina in Week One. In past meetings with Denver, the Colts have had tremendous success in keeping Luck upright (Luck has been sacked just once in his past 79 pass attempts against Denver). Can they continue that against a Broncos D that knows full well the success the Colts have had against them of late?
2. Offensive Rhythm
-Start like you finish. That's the message for the Colts in Week Two. To obtain any sort of early offensive rhythm, they must find more success on early downs, to avoid the third-and-long (to really long) situations. Is an up-tempo pace the answer or will the Colts be able to get Frank Gore going to slow down the pass rushing presence of Denver?
3. Trusty Tackling
-The Colts should not expect Denver to chuck it down field too often on Sunday. That means the onus is going to fall on the Colts breaking down and making tackles in open fields. Denver doesn't carry the same skill personnel as Detroit, but C.J. Anderson and Emmanuel Sanders have broken their fair share of tackles. The run after catch against the Colts was way too copious in Week One.
4. Mike Adams' Directing
-Mike Adams had to do his best Peyton Manning impression in gesturing pre-snap throughout the second half of Week One. Adams is going to have more different faces around him this weekend. Yes, Denver isn't likely to test the Colts too much vertically, but they aren't going to ignore the lack of cohesion this secondary has had over the past month.
5. Early Down Success
-To me, this is the biggest key in eliminating the slow starts. Against Detroit, the Colts faced a third-and-15, a third-and-eight, another third-and-eight and a third-and-21 on the game's first four drives. If those situations arise again in Denver, that pass rush will be licking their chops. The Colts must stay ahead of the chains, especially in that atmosphere.
6. Handle The Atmosphere
-Speaking of the atmosphere, Denver is one of the most difficult places to play in the NFL. Combine the crowd noise, the altitude, and the defense, and you got an environment that is not friendly to those playing a team that has also won the AFC West five straight years. Is the crowd noise going to hinder the Colts from using some no-huddle/quicker paced offense?
7. Rattle Trevor Siemian
-While Siemian had his struggles in Week One, the young quarterback did manage things pretty well. The Colts have to do a better job with their pressure up front. Siemian does have the ability to make plays with his feet, but if the Colts can move him off his spot than plays could be there for the secondary. Just like on offense, winning early downs, thus forcing Siemian into making big-time throws, has to be a definite focus for the defense.