One of the most obvious aspects of the Buffalo Bills' 27-14 win over the Indianapolis Colts in week one was how easily the Bills' blitzing threw off the Colts offensive attack.
According to numbers from Pro Football Focus, the Bills blitzed on 27 of 53 dropbacks, against which Andrew Luck completed just 10 of 25 passes with one touchdown and two picks. It wasn't so much that the Bills successfully landed every blitz but rather that they forced the Colts to adjust and try to compensate for it. They were forced into three-step dropbacks and Luck had to get rid of the football very quickly. That had a trickle-down effect on the entire offense, including the wide receivers, who had less time to get open and were therefore blanketed in coverage all day. In short, it was an underwhelming performance against the blitz - meaning that other teams will notice.
The New York Jets, who come to Indianapolis for a Monday night showdown in week two, also can get after the passer. According to PFF, the Jets pressured Browns quarterbacks on 20 of 42 dropbacks in week three, recording three sacks. With a very good defensive unit, the Jets will likely look to apply a number of things that the Bills did with so much success, including blitzing. Colts head coach Chuck Pagano knows it, and his response is this: the Colts have to make teams pay when they bring the blitz.
"We've got to block it up, we've got to throw and we've got to catch," Pagano said on Thursday. "Our guys have got to make plays. There are going to be opportunities there. When people decide to do that to you, you've got to make them pay. If you don't, they're going to keep coming. I know being on the defensive side of the football my entire career. All that sounds fine and dandy when it's working, but as soon as you get beat over the top, guys start making some plays on you, you start looking at your call sheet and start getting a little nervous."
Having worked with current Jets head coach Todd Bowles while the two were assistants in Cleveland, Pagano knows a thing or two about what to expect from the Jets defense this week. "He's a great coach," Pagano said. "His mindset has always been play aggressive, attacking style football. He's going to bring it, and he's going to keep bringing it. We're going to see five, six man, we're going to see zero blitzes, all kinds of stuff."
That is the challenge facing the Colts this week: they know that they'll see blitzes from the Jets much like from the Bills last week, and they need to prove that they can beat it. Because as long as their offense continues to be disrupted by the blitz, teams will keep bringing the heat. But once the Colts show that they can beat the blitz, teams will likely start backing away a bit more.
The Colts know what's coming this week with the Jets and their good, aggressive defense that can get to the quarterback. They know the Jets will bring extra pressure much like the Browns did. And they know that they need to make opposing teams pay for bringing those extra rushers. We'll see on Monday whether they're able to do just that.