Last year, the Denver Broncos had a historically-good defense that powered the team’s Super Bowl run, and even though they lost some talent in the offseason they’re still a very intimidating defense and the league’s best.
The Colts know full well the strength of Denver’s defense: though Andrew Luck played very well and led the Colts to a victory over the Broncos last year, he lacerated his kidney and tore abdominal muscles in the process, ending his season. So the Colts definitely aren’t taking the Broncos lightly this year and know that the defense will pose a great challenge.
“All 11 guys over there [concern me] and the guys they bring in, the backups that they have,” head coach Chuck Pagano said Wednesday. “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. 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.”
One of the keys to the game will be giving Andrew Luck enough time to throw and to make plays. The offensive line did just that a week ago and Luck had perhaps his finest game as a pro, throwing for 385 yards and four touchdowns without a turnover. The line played well against a good Lions defensive front, and they’ll get an even bigger challenge this week. Simply put, the Colts need to keep Luck clean.
“Just that, protect,” Pagano said. “There are a lot of things that go into that. We’ve got to do a great job of running the football if we can establish some run game when it’s available. We’ve got to get the ball out of his hands. We’ve got to have a mixture of different types of pass concepts that get the ball out of his hand and that comes down to matchups. You have to win your box. You have to win your one-on-one matchups down after down after down and they’re going to be challenged big-time with this defensive front. They don’t only have 58 [Von Miller] and 94 [DeMarcus Ware] on the edges, but the two guys that come in behind them, 56 Shane Rey and Shaq [Barrett]. Those guys are relentless pass rushers as well. The inside guys are really good players and we’ve seen it. We know this team, we understand exactly what we have to do to keep Andrew clean and keep him upright and give him a chance to operate.”
If the Colts can do that, they’ll have a great shot to pull out the win, but it’s much easier said than done. With Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware leading the way with the pass rush and playmakers on all levels of the defense, the offensive line will have their hands full to keep Luck upright, the receivers will have their hands full to create separation, and the offense as a whole will have their hands full to score points. We know what Indy’s offense is capable, but this week will be the best test yet of how they’ll respond to facing a great defense. They’ve done well in past years, but that doesn’t mean they’re taking this Sunday’s opponent lightly.