The Indianapolis Colts are 0-1 away from Lucas Oil Stadium this season, losing 44-21 to the Chicago Bears in the team’s regular-season National Football League opener. Interim coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians admits to being curious about how the Colts respond in Sunday’s road game with the New York Jets.
“That was a big focus in our [team] meeting [Wednesday], how we’re going to handle the road business trip — from the travel part of it, to the game part of it, to the crowd-noise part of it,” Arians said earlier this week.
“We didn’t handle it extremely well in the second half against Chicago, although we had very few pre-snap penalties and did a pretty good job with our silent count and our snap count.”
Whatever happens in New York, Arians says that the team’s relative youth won’t be a factor.
“Pretty soon we’re not going to be young anymore. [Rookie wide receiver] T.Y. [Hilton] got 73 snaps in [last week’s game with Green Bay]. I don’t consider [rookie quarterback] Andrew [Luck] young anymore,” Arians voiced.
“When you play these guys long enough, going into this week the youth part of it can’t be used as an excuse anymore. They’ve been down that road. We’ll give them one more test on the road in a big ball game for both teams.”
As impressive as the Colts’ passing game looked in the win over the Packers, finding that right balance with the running game continues to be somewhat elusive.
“Each week we’ll bring a little bit out [of the offensive playbook] and use it. I’d like to be able to run the football more often, better. I thought we had a nice balance in the first half of [the Green Bay] game. It was legit running the football. We have to maintain that on the road,” Arians said.
Indianapolis used more of its no-huddle offense last week, but that was in a home-game situation. Doing it on the road could prove to be much more difficult.
“With the no-huddle [and] adding the running game to it, I was really pleased. Now taking that on the road with a very young team is going to be a very big challenge because communication levels are not as easy and there’s room for error,” the coach said. “It only takes one guy not to get the right word or snap count and ruin a very good situation for you. So we’ll be very careful how we use it, when we use it, or how much we use it.”
Facing a defense as complex as New York’s adds to the challenge.
“They’re powerful. They’re very physical and big up front and [have an] outstanding corps of linebackers. That’s always been [coach Rex Ryan’s] motto: ‘Stop the run and make them one-dimensional.’ And then be the exotic blitzers,” Arians explained.
“We’re very similar defenses with very similar philosophies. They’ve got the talent to do it and obviously when you take a guy like [cornerback] Darrelle Revis out of the mix, it changes some things, but they still have [cornerback Antonio] Cromartie and the young guys that are back there are still pretty solid. To me it’s the physicality of the front [that makes the defense strong].”
n Facing Sanchez/Tebow — The Colts have prepared this past week to face both Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow as the Jets quarterback.
While Ryan has given Sanchez his backing this week, Tebow will play as well.
“I told [the defensive players] we have to prepare for two and they understand that going into this game. We’ve got to make sure we surround both of them,” defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. “It depends on what [the Jets] want to do. It’s all up to them. They have the ball and they can do whatever they want with it. We just have to adjust to whatever they put out there on the field, and just play at a high level.”
Indianapolis knows all about Sanchez, having faced him twice in postseason play in 2009 and 2010. Tebow is something else entirely. Rookie quarterback Chandler Harnish, who ran an offense at Northern Illinois similar to what Tebow did at Florida, was the scout-team quarterback during practice this week.
“It is definitely going to be a challenge with Tebow and everything that he does. That’s what they force you to do. They kind of force you to kind of prepare for the wildcat and all that stuff, which you could have a whole offense, a whole game just wildcat, passes, runs, trick plays,” outside linebacker Dwight Freeney said.
“Then you’ve got Sanchez back there and they are doing what they do. That’s just a normal pro-style offense. That takes another week to prepare for. That’s kind of the challenge going into this week with the Jets. They give you two game plans to prepare for.”
n Injury list — Arians ruled out outside linebacker Robert Mathis, inside linebacker Pat Angerer, offensive guard Joe Reitz, defensive tackle Fili Moala, running back Donald Brown and nose tackle Martin Tevaseu for Sunday’s game. Cornerback Vontae Davis is listed as probable.