INDIANAPOLIS – The test of Terrelle Pryor in the Oakland opener was a primer for dates against Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson in weeks three and five.
The Colts passed those rigorous tests while feeling pangs of competition and now face a more traditional task in San Diego's Philip Rivers.
"He's a great quarterback, a Pro Bowl quarterback. He's playing at a very, very high level right now," said Chuck Pagano.
Rivers has forged a 2-1 regular-season record against the Colts that is sweetened additionally with starting playoff wins after the 2007 and 2008 seasons. With a 75-46 career regular-season record despite this year's 2-3 mark, Rivers is churning.
"I think system-wise with (Mike) McCoy coming in and Wizzy (Ken Whisenhunt), (they) have done a great job with him," said Pagano. "Any time you're completing 73.8 percent of your passes and you've thrown for 1,610 yards, 13 touchdowns and five picks, you're doing something right.
"He's a game-wrecker, a winner. He gives them a chance every week to win. We got to do a great job against him both in the back end, up front, across the board."
Jerrell Freeman made big plays against Kaepernick and Wilson with his own mobility, including three key ones late last week to help nail down a 34-28 win against Seattle.
"If he's (Rivers) not the speed guy we've been going up against at quarterback, he's still dangerous," said Freeman. "That arm is as alive as it was when he first got in the league. He's definitely slinging."
Rivers' last four performances draw rapt attention. He has completed a minimum of 72.9 percent of this passes in that span while attempting at least 24 throws. Three times – Philadelphia, Dallas, Oakland – he had at least 42 attempts.
Rivers set a league record with an 83.3 completion percentage while throwing for 401 yards against Dallas, the most accurate mark in a game gaining that type of yardage.
In that game, he reached 200 career touchdown passes at the sixth-fastest NFL pace (120 games). His 411 yards last week at Oakland tied Dan Fouts' club record for a sixth such career performance, and doing it consecutively was a Chargers' first despite a franchise heritage that also includes John Hadl and Drew Brees.
Robert Mathis, the NFL's sack leader at 9.5, has stalked Rivers every step of the way. He saw Rivers end two Colts playoff quests and still sees the same level of competitor.
"Trust me, I know what Philip Rivers (is) capable of. We've had a lot of battles over the years," said Mathis. "He's playing his ball, he's being him. He's doing his job. I haven't seen anything different. He's still that guy (a gunslinger), and he still can make you pay if he can pick up what you're doing."
The repertoire is a full one with no-huddle and up-tempo, elements Indianapolis will see this Sunday, the next (Denver) and beyond.
As the Colts prepared for Pryor, Kaepernick and Wilson, they now gear up for substitution and coverage assignments to counteract Rivers' capabilities.
"That's what practice is for, coming up with all those scenarios and situations that you have to be ready for going into the game," said Mathis "No-huddle teams, they try to get you out there and keep you out there.
"(With his tempo) sometimes you got to force your hand or show your hand a little bit. If he knows what you're doing, it's a problem. You just have to not show your hand. They try to create matchups, and we got to be ready and well-conditioned for it."
McCoy joined San Diego this year after a four-year stint in Denver, where he coordinated a potent 2012 offense. His arrival meant new concepts for a veteran quarterback.
"Ken and the staff have done a great job of installing the system to the entire offense," said McCoy. "From the first day, Philip wanted to know more, 'What's the next step, what's the next option I have? Can I change this protection here? Can we change the backside combination routes?'
"He's done a great job, and it's going to expand even more. The package we have is something that evolves over time. Take the short throw. Take the shot. He's done a great job of managing the offense, running the system and believing in the system."