Inside Slant | Notes, Quotes | Strategy and Personnel |
Luck throwing at record clip, but wins hard to come by
An Indianapolis Colts offense that has proven it can score despite too many dropped passes and turnovers will be visited by one of the NFL's top defenses in the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
But the Bills also bring the league's worst scoring offense to town to face a Colts defense that is near the bottom in allowing 30 points per game.
Who has the upper hand is anyone's guess in this meeting of polar opposites.
The Colts (1-5) are on a four-game losing streak and in dire need of a win under first-year head coach Frank Reich, who was known in his quarterback playing days as a reliable Bills backup.
The Bills (2-4) have been the epitome of a roller coaster with upset wins on the road at Minnesota (27-6) and at home against Tennessee (13-12). But second-year Bills head coach Sean McDermott has also seen his team get embarrassed 47-3 at Baltimore and 22-0 at Green Bay.
"Losing is not fun," Colts quarterback Andrew Luck said on Wednesday. "What we cannot allow to happen is that losing becomes OK and that you start to buy into an excuse or you start to search for - make it OK. I learned this when I was a rookie and walked into this locker room ... there is a proud winning culture on this team and we need to find that again a little bit. I think we are close. I think we have the people to do it, but we've got to take those next steps and so that makes me excited for this week."
Luck will be looking at a Bills defense that is third in fewest total yards allowed, including sixth against the pass and eighth against the run. The Bills are tied for the league lead with seven fumble recoveries and rank in the top seven in four other key categories. The Colts have 13 giveaways (eight interceptions and five fumbles), which is third most.
Luck leads the league with 186 completions and 288 pass attempts, the most ever for an NFL passer in the first six games of a season. His completion percentage would be significantly higher if not for at least 20 drops in the past three games.
The Colts are 13th in points scored at 25.3 per game, but have averaged 30.7 in their last three games. As McDermott pointed out in a conference call, only one team has limited the Colts to fewer than 17 points - Philadelphia won 20-16 in Week 3.
"They get pressure on the passer with four (players) and are able to play zone coverage behind it," Reich said of the Bills defense. "They do a good job of mixing up their coverages. They have three basic coverages that they play. They just play them really well and they get pressure on the quarterback. They do a good job of stopping the run. They are an active front."
Another obvious trait that jumped out on film is how hard the Bills defenders play.
"This team has a little bit of edge to the way they play," Reich said.
McDermott will hope the offense gets a spark from 35-year-old veteran quarterback Derek Anderson, who will be making his first NFL start in two years. The 14th-year pro is taking over for Nathan Peterman, who surrendered a game-deciding TD interception return in the final minutes of last week's 20-13 loss at Houston. Rookie Josh Allen had started five of six games before suffering a sprained elbow in his throwing arm against the Texans.
Although Anderson did make one Pro Bowl with Cleveland in 2007, his career completion percentage of 54.1 is the second-lowest of any qualified quarterback after 2000. And he has a career record of 20-27 as a starter.
The Bills are scoring a league-low 12.7 points per game and are dead last at 222.5 total yards per game.
"I guess I heard that Derek (Anderson) is starting," Reich said. "So, you kind of know they will tailor a few things to what his likes are. Every quarterback has some personal preferences on routes he likes to throw. So you maybe go back and do a little bit of study on him, but for the most part you're just looking at their system."
SERIES HISTORY: 70th regular-season meeting. Bills lead series, 37-31-1. The Bills have won the last two games at home, including 13-7 in overtime last season. Before that, the Colts won seven of eight dating back to 2000. The Colts have won five straight at home against the Bills.