The new era got off to quite a start last week and it looked startlingly like the old era or at least the last year of the old era. After getting mopped by the Bears at Soldier Field the Colts now host the Vikings at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.
Last week the Vikings scraped by Jacksonville in overtime behind Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin and a suddenly-effective Christian Ponder. The Vikings defense didn't impress me as much as I'd expected with a relatively tame pass rush. Still they got to Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert twice.
The Colts struggled in all phases of the game. From pass protection issues to a lack of committment to the run, the offense sputtered and ultimately collapsed beneath the weight of turnovers. The defense started strong then rolled over for Jay Cutler and the unexpectedly explosive Bears offense. Special teams were better than last year but Adam Vinatieri yanked a field goal to end the first half.
Which leads me to this week's 7 Questions!
1. Will the Colts defensive line and linebackers provide enough pass rush to cover for the weak secondary?
The Colts got two sacks against the Bears, both from Robert Mathis. Otherwise Jay Cutler could have parked a recliner behind his offensive line. The Colts pass rush evaporated quickly and with it any hopes of hiding their glaring deficiencies in the secondary. Specifically the Colts have no depth at cornerback. It's so bad they can't find a third corner to play nickel. Without a pass rush that deficiency will be easy to exploit.
This weekend the Colts will need to take advantage of friendly confines, win at the point of attack and get linebackers into the backfield to win. The Vikings aren't quite as talented as the Bears. If the Colts manage to form a pass rush this becomes a much more manageable game.
2. Can the Colts contain the resurgent Adrian Peterson?
Adrian Peterson had the kind of knee injury that at one point was career-ending. Thanks to great advances in treatments and recovery he looked nearly unstoppable agains the Jaguars. While he claimed to only be 95% that was good enough for 4.9 yards per carry on 17 attempts. While the Colts didn't cough up huge yards against the Bears rushing attack they still were less than proficient. This week will be a much bigger challenge.
The Vikings must love their chances here against this defense. They can use the run to setup play action or vice versa. With the threat of Adrian Peterson the Colts must bring a safety into the box which could lead to terrific chances for Ponder and the Vikings passing game.
3. Will Bruce Arians figure out it's time to run?
Bruce Arians wants to pass but the offensive line can't protect Luck. Rather than take the pressure off of the offensive line in pass protection he called 45 passes instead. Crazy? Greg Cowan thinks so and I agree.
The Colts, despite refusal to commit to the run, had a very effective day when they tried. Donald Brown averaged more than 5 yards per carry most of which came behind the left side of the offensive line. While inconsistent Kyle Rodriguez points out that the "boom-or-bust" day Brown had was a clear indicator we shouldn't expect much of the offensive line.
It's clear the team needs to establish the run to give Andrew Luck a little relief.
4. Will Vontae Davis prove his worth?
Vontae Davis had a couple of penalties in the endzone. In all actuality they were incredibly smart penalties. If he gives up pass interference from the one yard line repeatedly I can live with it.
He also gave up a huge touchdown to a rookie. Like Ben Savage I know that the receiver in question is one of the most dominant receivers to come out last year so it's not a huge shock.
Overall it wasn't a horrible day for Davis who clearly is still settling into his role. As the year progresses Colts fans will see why the team paid the price they paid. Against the Vikings I wouldn't expect a huge game although they feature considerably less talent at receiver than the Bears.
5. Can Reggie Wayne replicate his youthful performance in week 2?
Let's hope not.
Let's be thankful for what it was and recognize that Wayne simply cannot keep up this pace nor should he. If Andrew Luck can't find more comfort with his other receivers the Colts are in great peril. Wayne was superb, showing the kind of skills the team expected when they resigned him this offseason. To be successful however the team needs the other receiving prospects to step up and balance the equation.
A good first step would be getting Donnie Avery off of the field and getting Austin Collie back on it as Nate Dunlevy points out. Reggie needs some help if he's to last 16 games and the rest of the receiving corps didn't hold up their end of the bargain. Of Luck's 309 passing yards Wayne hauled in 135 with Fleener racking up 82. The rest of the receivers were rather pedestrian.
6. Will Coby Fleener and Andrew Luck continue to showcase their chemistry?
Coby Fleener didn't look like he was game-ready during the offseason but when times got tough for Luck and the Colts passing attack he emerged as a real threat. It's exactly the scenario the Colts drafted the Stanford combo to combat.
Since the Colts offensive line can't maintain the pocket quick strikes should be a staple of this week's game. I'd love to see Fleener and Allen getting lots of touches.
7. Do the Colts get their first win of the new era?
My editor really forced me to do this. I don't like predictions and generally refuse to make them.
None of that is true. I love wild speculation so here it is: Colts win a squeaker and Lucas Oil erupts. To do so they must eliminate turnovers, find a pass rush and seek offensive balance. That doesn't sound too hard does it?
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