After defeating both the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers, the Indianapolis Colts looked like a serious contender to beat the undefeated Denver Broncos. However, their weaknesses were greatly exposed this week as they took on the San Diego Chargers.
Not only did their top-ranked passing defense look porous, but also their offense failed to score a single touchdown and looked entirely out of sync. This is good news for Broncos fans.
The Colts’ problems last week began on the defensive side of the ball. Most notably, the secondary struggled to contain Keenan Allen, a third-round selection out of the University of California. After recording only 14 receptions and one touchdown in the first five games of the season, against Indy, Allen hauled in nine passes for 107 yards and a score.
At 4-2, the Colts only other loss this season was due to similar defensive lapse. In Week 2 versus the Miami Dolphins, the Colts’ secondary failed to keep the likes of Mike Wallace in check, who recorded nine receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown.
Unfortunately for the Colts, the clear strength of the Broncos’ offense is at the receiver position. If Indy has trouble covering receivers like Wallace and Allen, then dealing with the four-headed monster of DeMaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker and Julius Thomas should give the Colts’ secondary fits.
In an attempt to limit these receiver’s big-play ability, the Colts may mimic the Jacksonville Jaguars who played off coverages, allowing short passes underneath but nothing deep. The plan was surprisingly successful, forcing the Broncos’ offense to dink and dunk down the field, and even turn the ball over, but it did not account for the play of Knowshon Morneo, and the Colts’ rushing defense is even worse than the Jaguars.
Against a struggling Ryan Matthews, the Colts defense allowed 102 yards rushing (his first 100-yard performance of the season) on 4.6 yards per carry. In comparison with the rest of his season, Matthews averages just 58 yards per game and 3.8 yards per attempt this season.
With a 4.7 yards per carry average and a league-leading seven rushing touchdowns, Moreno has demonstrated that he can be a consistent runner in the NFL and routinely find the end zone. Moreover, he appears to have won the starting position in Denver’s backfield and will get stronger as the season goes along. Scoring in each of the last three games – including a three-score performance in Week 6 – he clearly gives the Broncos a viable rushing threat, especially when passing windows shrink in the red zone.
There is just no effective way for the Colts’ defense to slow the Broncos’ offense. The question then becomes, can Andrew Luck and the Colts’ offense find a way to keep up?
If Luck is going to have any chance, he must not try to beat the Broncos purely with his arm, but be able to rely heavily on a rushing attack and play-action passing. However, the Broncos possess the top-rushing defense in the NFL, and if Denver can take an early lead, they will force the Colts to abandon the run game, and Luck will undoubtedly struggle. Against a Chargers defense ranked 25th against the pass, Luck completed just 60 percent of his passes for zero touchdowns and a pick.
Though the Colts appear to matchup well versus the Broncos, especially under the guise of Peyton Manning’s return to Indy, their performance on Monday night showed they clearly do not have the personnel nor depth to run with the Broncos – especially after the return of Von Miller to the defense.
Written by John Spina. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter @jsspina24.