Yesterday, on 12/12/12, a.k.a. Andrew Luck Day, the Colts returned to practice to prepare for the Houston Texans. Bruce Arians and the players fielded several questions. As usual, all quotes come from the Indianapolis Colts Public Relations Department. And now, for the Notebook. Enjoy.
Another Big Road Game
Win and you’re in. If the Colts can pick up another win this Sunday, they can all but punch their ticket to the playoffs. It sounds simple enough, but this week’s opponent is a formidable one: The 11-2 Texans, in Houston. Waiting deep in the heart of Texas (okay, Coastal Texas, anyway) are the league’s 6th ranked offense and 7th ranked defense, a rare and effective combination of top 10 units. Houston is number 4 in the NFL in scoring at 28 points per game, while Indianapolis is tied with San Diego for 17th at 22.5 per game.
It is another monster game away from home against a playoff caliber opponent, this time a division rival.
In the unlikely scenario that Houston loses out and the Colts win out (beating the Texans twice in the process), Indianapolis would win the division. Correction (my apoligies – thank you reader Steve McCabe for pointing out my silly error): If Houston loses two if it's final three games, and the Colts win out, beating the Texans, Chiefs, and Texans again, both teams would be tied at 12-4. If that were to happen, the Indianpolis Colts would – wait for it – win their division. While this isn't the most likely way for the season to play out, it is no doubt an intriguing possibility. More importantly, however, the Colts can solidify their grip on the 5th seed in the playoffs, and, as they like to say, establish themselves in the AFC South.
“For us, a chance to solidify a playoff spot,” said Quarterback Andrew Luck. “Obviously the division is not sown up completely from what I understand and it’s against, from our perspective, one of the premier teams in the AFC, the Houston Texans. We are going to have to bring our ‘A’ game.”
Asked if he would address the possible divisional implications of Sunday’s game, Interim Coach Bruce Arians said, “I don’t have to. It’s the next game. The division title won’t happen if we don’t win this game. If you start, again, going ahead to titles and playoffs, you lose sight of what the real picture is. The real picture is beating the Texans this week.”
Protecting the Quarterback
It is no secret that the Colts had trouble protecting Andrew Luck last week. The offensive line officially gave up nine quarterback hits and four sacks against the Titans. This week, they will be facing a front seven that has generated 37 sacks and batted down a multitude of passes.
Indianapolis is no doubt working to improve their pass protection this week, and Arians is well aware of the importance it will carry against such a strong pass rush. “It’s a concern every week. It’s a concern every week,” he said. “You’ve got premier guys, not one but two. Their outside guys are good too so, anytime you go on the road and you’re getting in a noise environment, protection is critical, as is communication, in a running game. This is an excellent front and they pose as much or a bigger problem than Detroit.”
“I think one, understand your reads,” Luck said of dealing with the Houston pass rush, “and if guys aren’t there, know where your No. 2 guy is, know where your No. 3 guy is. Make sure you go through your reads in a timely manner and try to feel the pocket as best as possible. If you’re stepping left, make sure you’re stepping left for a reason. Don’t step left to put the left tackle in a bind. It’ll be a fun challenge for the guys up front and us as an offense.”
Arians was also asked if they would do anything special to prepare for the Texans’ penchant for batting down passes with their front seven. He didn’t feel they could truly replicate it in practice. “No because they’re so good at it,” he answered. “We do have some guys on defense that are 6-5 and 6-6 that we can put up in the middle on our scout team and get their hands up. But I’ve never been a proponent of the brooms. I’ve seen many, many, I’ve seen ladders, brooms, everything, and balls still get batted in games. They’re so good at disengaging when they’re not going to get to the quarterback and getting in that throwing lane that it’s really hard to replicate.”
The Colts’ battered offensive line will have their work cut out for them this weekend. Left Guard Joe Reitz (pronounced Rights, according to the Colts) practiced yesterday, but Right Tackle Winston Justice sat out with his bicep injury. A. Q. Shipley should start at center if Samson Satele can’t go. Satele was held out of practice again yesterday as he deals with an ankle injury.
A Few Good Quotes: Luck and Redding Are Playing at Home
OLB Dwight Freeney on being excited to be in the playoff hunt in December: “Definitely. Definitely. We are used to being in these discussions, minus last year. So it’s definitely exciting to be back here and hopefully we can put some things together here at the end and build some momentum.”
Freeney on how Arians has been able to step in as the interim head coach while respecting Chuck Pagano’s leadership role: “Bruce has done a great job too in continuing to keep on preaching what Chuck (Pagano) (started) and not coming in here and saying, ‘This is my team, I’m changing up everything.’ No, nothing like that. He believed a lot of what Chuck believes in and he continues the same things and traditions that Chuck instilled here and of the mindset on how to go out and prepare and believe in the process. He’s done a tremendous job.”
DE Cory Redding on playing in his hometown: “This is a good game for all my friends and family back home to see me that haven’t got a chance to see me play all year or the past few years. It’s always good to go back home where everybody can see me. I like that. It’s good to see them and it’s good for them to watch me play.”
Andrew Luck, who attended High School in Houston, on whether he would visit anyone while in Houston for the game: “Probably not. Again, it’s not like I haven’t been back in four years or anything. It is a business trip and that’s where our focus needs to be. I think it would be unjust to take time off to visit whoever.” Yep. Business trip. Are we sure this guy is a rookie?
Luck again, on whether he’ll have anyone there cheering for him: “I don’t know. They can root for whoever they want but if it’s family, they better root for me.”
Cory Redding, summing up how it feels to have something to play for in December: “It’s always good to have this feeling in December to play a game that means something. A lot of teams right now are not in the same position so we are very blessed to be here. We climbed a lot of high mountains, a lot of tough situations. We overcame some things and we did some good things as a team so here we are.”
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