INDIANAPOLIS – There are not many NFL teams that can say they've had success against the Denver Broncos over the past three years.
The Indianapolis Colts can say that though.
In case one forgot:
-October 2013: With Denver 6-0 and Peyton Manning returning to Indianapolis, all eyes were on Lucas Oil Stadium. In an electric atmosphere, the Colts won a 39-33 shootout over the Broncos. It was the first loss the Broncos suffered in 2013.
-January 2015: Denver won the AFC West for a fourth straight year and secured the No. 2 seed in the AFC Playoffs. After beating the Bengals to start the playoffs, the Colts kept things rolling in Denver. Thanks to Vontae Davis and a clean pocket all afternoon for Andrew Luck, the Colts ended the Broncos season with a 24-13 victory in the Divisional Round of the Playoffs.-November 2015: For the second time in three years, the Broncos arrived in Indy with an unblemished regular season record. They would once again leave with their first loss of the season. The Colts jumped out to a 17-0 lead and then hung on against the best defense in the NFL, capturing a 27-24 victory.
When Denver head coach Gary Kubiak looks back at last year's loss in Indy, he remembers vividly the play of Luck, who finished that game playing with a lacerated kidney in the fourth quarter.
"That's Andrew," Kubiak, the former Houston Texans head coach, says. "Obviously I know him well from being in Houston there for years and watching him grow up. Heck, I watched him in high school and that's what he stands for. He's a warrior. He plays the game hard and is going to be there all four quarters and that's something we're preaching to our guys this week.
"He's just keeps coming at you and we're going to have to play a good 60-minute football game."
This Colts/Broncos meeting is missing one very, very important figure though, that has meant so much to each franchise.
Peyton Manning will not be under the center of either team this weekend.
It's Trevor Siemian time in Denver.
The Colts will try and make Siemian, who is making his second career start, beat them on Sunday.
By contrast, the visiting team on Sunday will lean quite heavily on their gunslinger.
Luck has had some very efficient outings in past matchups with the Broncos.
To do it this weekend, it will have to come in a road environment, highlighted by the league's most attacking defense, plenty of crowd noise and some thin air.
"As players, you relish getting a chance to go into a hostile atmosphere," Luck says. "There are very few times in life when you get to go somewhere where 80,000 people want to call you bad names and stuff.
"It's cool. It's sort of special I think."
INTERESTING MATCHUPSDenver running back C.J. Anderson versus the Colts defense:With new quarterback Trevor Siemian still getting used to life as a starting quarterback, Anderson is a major part of the offense. Denver has not found a consistent backup yet for Anderson. In Week One they didn't need one, with Anderson piling up 139 total yards and two touchdowns. The Colts must show they can get Anderson down in the open field, something they struggled with in their season opener.
The Colts offensive line against Broncos edge rushers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware: The Week One film of Denver and Carolina showed that Miller and Ware are already in midseason form. Those two edge rushers destroyed things for the Carolina offense late in their comeback victory. Miller will be coming at right tackle Joe Reitz. Ware will be across from left tackle Anthony Castonzo. The Colts have done a very good job in the past two years against Denver's pass rush (Luck has been sacked one time in his past 79 pass attempts against the Broncos).
- The Colts have won three of their last four meetings against the Broncos.
- Last week, Andrew Luck reached the 15,000-yard mark, becoming the second fastest quarterback to ever pass for that many yards.
- Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton is averaging 16.2 yards per catch since 2014, which is the best mark in the NFL for receivers with at least 150 receptions.
- Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri has made 27 straight field goals, the longest current streak in the NFL.
- Broncos wide receiver DeMaryius Thomas is the only player in the NFL with at least 5,500 receiving yards and at least 40 plus touchdowns since 2012.
- In three career games against the Colts, Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller has yet to record a sack.
- Broncos outside linebacker DeMarucs Ware is the NFL's active leader in career sacks (136.0).
NOTABLE QUOTESColts Head Coach Chuck Pagano(on the concerns in facing Denver's defense):
"All 11 guys over there and the guys they bring in, the backups that they have. They've got a great front seven. We know that they can put a tremendous amount of pressure on your quarterback. We've got to do a great job in protection. They're stingy against the run. The back end, the second level and the third level, they've got speed, athleticism and they're very, very deep. Excellent on the outside at the two corner spots and the nickel spot. They'll play versus 11 personnel, they'll put 25 (Chris Harris Jr.) inside and they'll play 29 (Bradley Roby) and 21 (Aqib Talib) outside, and they're going to play tight coverage. Their two safeties are as good a tandem as there is in the league. (No.) 43 (T.J. Ward) is a fierce, fierce competitor and he's kind of their energy guy. He'll be in the box and he'll be in coverage. They fly around and they're physical. They do a great job. Wade (Phillips) does a great job with that group. It's by no chance that they're ranked where they are and where they finished last year. They can hurt you in a lot of different ways from all levels so we have to be on point."
Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano(on Andrew Luck's decision making against the Lions):
"The decisions that he made on Sunday kind of led you to believe that the guy has done some work in a lot of different areas. Not only in the fundamental and technical part of it, but in the decision making part of it. Coaches have done a great job. He's done a great job. Managed the game extremely well. Took what the defense gave us. Hit his check downs when he's supposed to check it down. Extended plays when the play was over – got out in space, got himself on the ground and didn't take an unnecessary hit so he's come a long was as far as that stuff goes. He's always been a great, great quarterback and he can make a ton of fantastic plays for us. He does so much for our offense from breaking the huddle to when the ball is snapped. He does a ton. There are not many that can do what he's capable of doing. But that part of it was great and it'll only get better."
Colts Tight End Dwayne Allen(on how big Sunday is to avoid a third straight 0-2 start):
"It's a huge game, because as Coach (Pagano) said it's the next game. We want to go out there and of course we want to continue offensively put on a good showing and perform well and build on the second half success that we had last week. There is no need to put any unwarranted pressure (on us) by calling it a must-win. We understand that we don't want to get off to the same start as last year and in order to do so we need to go out there and win."
Broncos Head Coach Gary Kubiak(on Andrew Luck's toughness in finishing last year's game against Denver despite lacerating his kidney):
"Well that's Andrew and obviously I know him well from being in Houston there for years and watching him grow up. Heck, I watched him in high school and that's what he stands for. He's a warrior. He plays the game hard and is going to be there all four quarters and that's something we're preaching to our guys this week. He's just keeps coming at you and we're going to have to play a good sixty-minute football game."
Broncos Head Coach Gary Kubiak(on the depth of the skill group for the Colts):
"This year, (they) will be one of the most talented groups we face as far as their depth ability to make plays. Obviously the wide receivers and the two tight ends that I think caught four or five touchdown passes last week, so it's a great group and Andrew does a great job of getting them the ball and Chud does a great job of spreading them out and getting them in position to makes plays, so it's another big test for us. Last week it was Cam Newton and this week it's Andrew, so it doesn't stop in this league a lot of great players."
Broncos Outside Linebacker Von Miller(on what he attributes the Colts shutting him out of the sack department in three career games):
"I don't know. I've never sacked Andrew Luck. I don't know. I think they do a great job up front with their offensive lineman, Joe Reitz and Anthony Castonzo, they are pretty good tackles. They have a pretty good scheme with a pretty good quarterback. It's just tough to get to Andrew Luck and when you get to him it's tough to bring him down with the ball."