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Rachel G. Bowers

Guide to the Colts: Plenty has changed since AFC title game

Chuck Pagano and the Colts have gone 11-5 in each of the last three regular seasons.R. Brent Smith/Associated Press

Well before the AFC Championship Game, we knew the Patriots would play the Colts this season and that, given the recent history between the teams, it would be one of the most anticipated games of the season for both teams.

Then the Patriots destroyed the Colts and went on to win the Super Bowl, and Deflategate emerged as the one of the biggest sports stories of the year, further complicating the history between the teams.

Add it all up and Sunday night’s showdown is far bigger than the schedule-makers could have imagined.

New England fans are well-versed in what’s gone on with the Patriots since the last time they played the Colts, but it’s informative to take a closer look at their opponent before this one kicks off.

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Here’s the state of the Indianapolis Colts:

Changes abound

After it was eliminated from the playoffs, Indianapolis had some turnover, losing four starters — receiver Reggie Wayne, defensive end Cory Redding, running back Dan Herron, and nose tackle Josh Chapman — and 15 others who saw action in the AFC Championship game against New England on Jan. 18.

The Colts made a splash this offseason by signing former San Francisco running back Frank Gore and former Houston receiver Andre Johnson and added eight rookies, including their top draft pick, receiver Phillip Dorsett out of Miami.

After Ahmad Bradshaw finished each of the last two seasons on injured reserve, the Colts re-signed him to a one-year deal on Wednesday to join Gore in the backfield.

New additions
The Colts have 21 new players on their roster.
Player Position 2014 team Years Height Weight Age
Henry Anderson DT -- R 6-6 300 24
Trent Cole OLB PHI 11 6-3 270 33
Phillip Dorsett WR -- R 5-10 185 22
Clayton Geathers S -- R 6-2 215 23
Denzelle Good T -- R 6-5 340 24
Frank Gore RB SF 11 5-9 217 32
Winston Guy S JAX 3 6-1 220 25
Todd Herremans G PHI 11 6-6 323 33
Nate Irving ILB DEN 5 6-1 253 27
Andre Johnson WR TEX 13 6-3 229 34
Kendall Langford DE STL 8 6-6 305 29
Dwight Lowery S ATL 8 5-11 212 29
T.Y. McGill DT -- R 6-0 299 22
Sio Moore ILB OAK 3 6-1 240 25
David Parry DT -- R 6-2 310 23
Shaun Prater CB MIN 4 5-10 190 25
Josh Robinson RB -- R 5-8 221 23
Marcus Thigpen WR BUF 4 5-9 200 29
Josh Thomas CB DET 5 5-11 185 26
Tyler Varga RB -- R 5-11 225 22
Billy Winn DT CLE 4 6-4 300 26

A numbers game

The Colts offense ranks 23rd in yards per game (334.8), 15th in passing yards per game (242.8), 24th in rushing yards per game (92.0), and 24th in points per game (19.8).

The defense ranks 28th in yards per game allowed (398.8), 28th in passing yards per game allowed (286.8), 19th in rushing yards per game allowed (112.0), and 16th in points per game allowed (22.6).

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By the numbers
The Colts have won three straight, giving them a 3-2 record through five games.
IND OPP
Points 99 113
Total yards 1,674 1,994
Yards/game 334.8 398.8
Plays 318 340
Yards/play 5.3 5.9
Turnovers 12 5
Fum. lost 5 0
First downs 104 108
Completions 113 122
Attempts 192 188
Pass yards 1,214 1,434
Pass TD 8 8
Interceptions 7 5
Pass yards/game 242.8 286.8
Yards/comp 10.7 11.8
Yards/att 6.3 7.6
Rush 118 146
Rush yards 460 560
Rush yards/att 3.9 3.8
Rush yards/game 92 112
Rush TD 3 4
Third down efficiency 28 of 66 (42.2 percent) 28 of 72 (38.9 percent)
Fourth down efficiency 3 of 4 (75 percent) 2 of 2 (100 percent)
Turnover margin -7 7
Penalties-yards 38-314 51-475
Time of possession 28:48:00 33:16:00
Sources: pro-football-reference.com, NFL

Who’s up, who’s down

Quarterback Andrew Luck has started three games to Matt Hasselbeck’s two. But Luck, who has been out the last two games with a shoulder injury, has a 65.1 rating to Hasselbeck’s 95.0. Luck, 26, threw five touchdowns and seven interceptions and completed 56 percent of his passes, his second-worst three-game start only to his rookie season.

Hasselbeck, 40, has been serviceable, completing 63.2 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and no picks while averaging 248 yards through the air in each of his starts.

At receiver, Johnson has been playing third fiddle to Donte Moncrief and T.Y. Hilton. He has been targeted 27 times and has 13 catches for 128 yards and two touchdowns. Moncrief has been thrown to 38 times, catching 24 passes for 278 yards and three touchdowns, and Hilton has 27 catches on 50 targets for 382 yards but no touchdowns.

Gore, who has been a 1,000-yard rusher in eight of his previous 10 professional seasons, is averaging 15.2 carries and 65 yards per game and has three scores, about on par with his first five games last season when he had 77 carries for 365 yards and a score. He finished the 2014 season with 1,106 yards and four touchdowns on 255 attempts.

The offensive line has had three consistent starters: Anthony Castonzo, Jack Mewhort, and Khaled Holmes. Todd Herremans, Lance Louis, Joe Reitz, and Hugh Thornton have filled in for each other. Despite the shuffling, the line has allowed eight sacks, tied for ninth in the league, through five games. (Tom Brady has been sacked 11 times in four games.)

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Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson leads the league in tackles (58) while safeties Mike Adams and Dwight Lowery account for all five of the defense’s forced turnovers, all interceptions, one of which Lowery returned for a touchdown. But the defense on the whole has simply not lived up to expectations.

Player participation chart
Who has started, who has played (XXX), and who has been inactive through five games.
Player Position Week 1 at BUF Week 2 vs. NYJ Week 3 at TEN Week 4 vs. JAX Week 5 at TEX
Mike Adams S START START START START START
Dwayne Allen TE START START INACTIVE INACTIVE START
Colt Anderson S XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX
Henry Anderson DT START START START START START
Ahmad Bradshaw RB --- --- --- --- ---
Darius Butler CB START INACTIVE INACTIVE XXX XXX
Anthony Castonzo T START START START START START
Trent Cole OLB START START INACTIVE START START
Vontae Davis CB START START START START START
Phillip Dorsett WR XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX
Jack Doyle TE XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX
Coby Fleener TE XXX START START START XXX
Jerrell Freeman ILB START START START START INACTIVE
Clayton Geathers S XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX
Denzelle Good T INACTIVE INACTIVE INACTIVE INACTIVE INACTIVE
Frank Gore RB START START START START START
Winston Guy S XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX
Jonotthan Harrison C XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX
Matt Hasselbeck QB --- --- --- START START
Todd Herremans G START START XXX INACTIVE XXX
T.Y. Hilton WR START START START START START
Khaled Holmes C/G START START START START START
Nate Irving ILB XXX INACTIVE XXX XXX START
D'Qwell Jackson ILB START START START START START
Andre Johnson WR START START START START START
Zach Kerr NT XXX INACTIVE XXX XXX XXX
Kendall Langford DE START START START START START
Lance Louis G START START INACTIVE XXX INACTIVE
Dwight Lowery S START START START START START
Andrew Luck QB START START START INACTIVE INACTIVE
Robert Mathis OLB INACTIVE XXX XXX XXX XXX
Pat McAfee P XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX
T.Y. McGill DT XXX INACTIVE INACTIVE INACTIVE INACTIVE
Josh McNary LB --- XXX XXX XXX XXX
Jack Mewhort T/G START START START START START
Donte Moncrief WR START XXX START START START
Sio Moore ILB XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX
Jonathan Newsome OLB XXX INACTIVE START XXX XXX
Matt Overton LS XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX
David Parry DT START START START START START
Shaun Prater CB --- --- --- --- XXX
Joe Reitz G XXX XXX START START START
Josh Robinson RB XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX
Marcus Thigpen WR --- --- --- --- ---
Josh Thomas CB --- --- XXX XXX XXX
Hugh Thornton G INACTIVE XXX START START START
Zurlon Tipton RB --- --- --- XXX XXX
Greg Toler CB INACTIVE INACTIVE INACTIVE INACTIVE START
Tyler Varga RB XXX XXX XXX INACTIVE INACTIVE
Adam Vinatieri K XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX
Erik Walden OLB START START START START START
Bjoern Werner OLB XXX XXX XXX XXX INACTIVE
Griff Whalen WR XXX XXX XXX XXX XXX
Billy Winn DT INACTIVE XXX XXX XXX XXX

How they got here

Indianapolis started the season 0-2 before winning three straight to come into Sunday night’s game 3-2.

In Week 1, the Buffalo Bills handed the Colts a 27-14 road loss, sending them back to Indianapolis to be beaten, 20-7, by the New York Jets in Week 2. They have rebounded to beat their three division rivals — Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Houston Texans — back-to-back-to-back.

Everybody has a past

Andrew Luck and the Colts are 0-4 against Tom Brady and the Patriots, two regular season games and two in the postseason.

New England has outscored Indianapolis 189-73 in those four games with a plus-nine turnover margin while averaging 47.3 points per game.

Brady and Luck’s numbers are similar in some aspects. Each have thrown six touchdown passes and averaged more than 250 yards through the air per game. But Luck has thrown 10 interceptions against Brady’s mere three and Luck has completed just 50.3 percent of his passes to 63.2 from Brady.

Where have the Patriots really worked over the Colts? On the ground.

New England has piled up 772 rushing yards to Indianapolis’s 290. To boot, The Patriots’ ground game has gotten them into the end zone 15 times. The Colts? Only twice.

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Head-to-head
The Colts and Patriots have faced each other four times in the last four seasons.
NE IND
First downs 109 78
Total Plays 283 192
Total yards 1,765 1,365
Yards/game 441.3 341.3
Rush 155 80
Rush yards 772 290
Rush yards/game 193 72.5
Rush TD 15 2
Pass Cmp 79-125 82-163
Cmp percentage 63.2 50.3
Pass yards 1,011 1,094
Pass yards/game 252.75 273.5
Pass TD 6 6
Sacked-yards 3-19 5-19
INT 3 10
Fumbles-lost 5-0 5-2
Turnovers 3 12
Penalties-yards 19-203 11-97
Third Down Conv. 40-59 22-53
Fourth Down Conv. 0-3 2-4
Avg. time of possession 33:33:45 26:26:15
Points per game 47.25 18.25
Source: pro-football-reference.com, NFL

Can’t they all just get along?

Head coach Chuck Pagano didn’t sign a contract extension in the offseason because he did not like the one-year deal or the terms of it. So he is now in the last year of his four-year deal.

From CBS Sports’s Jason LaCanfora from last month:

“Pagano’s meeting with [team owner Jim] Irsay was very brief — Irsay intimated he was insulted by the coach’s response to his offer — and talks never progressed, with the owner later publicly exclaiming he would not be doing new deals in 2015 for his head coach or his franchise quarterback, Andrew Luck.”

Pagano’s relationship with Irsay is a bit prickly; his relationship with general manager Ryan Grigson is even more strained. Grigson gives the coach no say over personnel and even makes decisions about lineups sometimes, limiting Pagano’s ability to build a team in his own vision.

“Those closest to Pagano view it as an eventuality he’s gone; if the team does not reach or win the Super Bowl, he’s out of contract and the likeliest fall guy,” LaCanfora wrote. “And if he does win it all, Pagano’s outside leverage with other teams will never be higher. It’s also nearly impossible for them to imagine a scenario in which he and Grigson are still both there together even if the coach did opt to stay in Indianapolis on a lucrative new deal.”

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Both Grigson and Pagano denied the beef.

Said Grigson last month: “It’s hard enough to win in this league when everyone’s getting along. You’ve got no shot if you’re not. It makes no sense for us to be going in opposite directions. That’s not the case. Trust me. At the end of the day, we always do what’s best for the horseshoe. Period.”

Said Pagano: “We have no egos around here. Everybody checks them at the door every day they come to work. Players, coaches, myself, Ryan. The only thing that matters is the ‘shoe and what’s best for the ‘shoe.”

Indy wants to win. Bad.

Andrew Luck’s status for Sunday is uncertain.Patric Schneider/Associated Press

The Indianapolis Star’s lead columnist, Gregg Doyel, summed it up pretty well.

“If you told [the Colts] in August they would go 1-15 in 2015, this is the one they’d want to win,” he wrote Tuesday.

Colts fans went the entire offseason thinking Brady would be suspended through Week 5, making his season debut against their team in their dome. Not the case.

Not only has Brady been playing out-of-his-mind well, Luck has done the opposite. And to add insult to injury, he has an injured shoulder and his status for Sunday night’s game is somewhat uncertain, though he did practice Wednesday.

Indianapolis fans have spent the last decade and a half hating New England and its fans, a feeling that has just continued to trend upward and grow more ridiculous this year.

Deflategate compounded that hatred. That’ll continue Sunday, though this likely won’t be the week the Colts get one over on Brady, Bill Belichick, & Co.

From Doyel:

“The Colts should give this game the best they’ve got, not because it’s the Patriots but because it’s the next game on the schedule, and the next game is always the most important game. Besides, only a scared team would sit a healthy quarterback.

Only a scared team would cheat, too.

Let’s not be scared around here, OK? Let’s not be anything like the franchise coming to town on Sunday.”


Follow Rachel G. Bowers on Twitter @RachelGBowers.