INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts under Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson never have lost consecutive games.
Last year's accomplishment in the first year of a program and with new faces that included a slew of rookies was one of the more noteworthy statistics in a statistics-heavy season.
To extend that streak, the Colts will need a road win against a franchise that lost the NFC title game in overtime at home two years ago before making the Super Bowl last year.
San Francisco has been at .500 or better through the first 34 games of Jim Harbaugh's tenure, a league first since Mike Tomlin did that at Pittsburgh.
The 49ers are a load anywhere, but particularly at home. Since 2012, the Niners have yielded only 13 TDs at home and rank in the NFL's top four defensively in five categories involving fewest yards gained, points scored and third downs converted.
Indianapolis is rallying back from the punch to the mid-section of losing three offensive starters for the season. In maintaining the blueprint, the club responded by swinging a major trade that will help ensure the stated goal of power rushing and rush:pass balance.
Both teams need to correct the ills of the previous weekend. There are 15 teams at 1-1 (eight in the AFC) and eight at 2-0 or better (five in the AFC). Early-season footing is nice. Indianapolis was able to do that last year and emerge from the pack at mid-season.
Getting to 2-1 is important for multiple reasons, and here are SEVEN THINGS NEEDED TO WIN:
BE ON POINT – Three penalties and 13 yards in penalties is a good number for almost every game, yet one for five yards cost the Colts four points last week in a game where points left on the field spelled a 24-20 loss. The officiating judgment on that play cost the Colts big-time. Playing away from home, be precise and do not place yourself within the purview of an official.
FOCUS ON INSTRUCTION – Sure there is familiarity among coaching staffs and players. Jim Harbaugh, Vic Fangio and Greg Roman have intelligence on the Colts and their personnel – Chuck Pagano, Andrew Luck, Pep Hamilton, Coby Fleener and a couple of others. The Colts have it, too, and it includes Greg Manusky and Ricky Jean Francois. Mid-week ruminations have been fun additions to the storyline. On Sunday for 60 minutes, block it out and focus – just do what you do.
STORM BY THE BAY – A young Colts team learned how to handle the road last year, upping a 1-2 and 2-3 start to a 4-4 finish. Road warriors? Not yet, but this team is more veteran now. San Francisco is potent at home. Where Sean Connery once welcomed mercenaries to "The Rock," Jim Harbaugh probably welcomes visitors to "The Stick (click here)." Seattle pinned a 29-3 defeat on the Niners last week. San Francisco handled Green Bay at home in the opener with a withering offensive assault. The Colts need to weather the early storm, execute off the bat and keep it a 60-minute game.
1-2 PUNCH – The Colts were knocked to the mat over the past 7-10 days with the loss of three offensive stalwarts. Indianapolis went into last week with Ahmad Bradshaw as the feature back, and he was out there 49-of-72 snaps. Ryan Grigson answered adversity with Trent Richardson. Richardson, a "study freak," is absorbing as much of the playbook as possible. He says there is carryover from what he knew in Cleveland. The Colts need the 1-2 punch of this tandem to keep a solid defense honest. A 5.1 rushing average looks good after two games. It would look outstanding after three games if backs can keep it inflated, and the club could rely less on Andrew Luck's jaunts.
MASH –* Without speculating too greatly on injuries, safeties Antoine Bethea (toe) and LaRon Landry (ankle) did not practice Wednesday or Thursday with injuries, nor did Pat Angerer (knee). Friday? Saturday, with a long flight as well? Maybe all will be well, but missing components in the middle of a defense never is a good thing. Last week was the first time that trio played together.
EYE ON C.K. –Two games ago, Terrelle Pryor became the first opposing quarterback ever to top 100 rushing yards in the Colts' 61 seasons. The Raiders' style was a bit more sandlot than read-option, but Colin Kaepernick nearly helped take San Francisco to a sixth Super Bowl title last year. He is undefeated at home with nine TD passes and three scores on the ground. "Lane integrity" was a term used this week by the Colts. Players say the know what to do and coaches say off-season read-option preparations have been made. Sunday is the time for implementation.
SECOND 30 – Observers around the club have noted the fast first halves and slower second halves over the first two games. The Colts have scored 31 of their 41 points in the first half, while gaining 471-of-722 net yards, getting 25-of-41 first downs and amassing 369-of-499 passing yards. Last week, Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton had 10 receptions (targeted 14 times) for 152 yards in the first half. The duo was targeted six times in the final half, and Wayne had the only reception (for 18 yards). It is a two-game sampling of the season, nothing more, but finishing strongly is important in the NFL.
QUOTE TO NOTE(Chuck Pagano on messages he has gotten from former colleagues after landing Trent Richardson in a trade from Cleveland)
"All I know is, I got a couple texts from some players I used to coach and it was 'Wow, congrats and thank you.' You know why they said thank you, because he's out of the division. That tells you right there. He's a game-wrecker."