Colts, Jets prepare for different Monday night rematch
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Andrew Luck still remembers the pressure he faced in Round 1 against Todd Bowles’ defense.
Twenty-two months ago, the Colts’ second-year quarterback was still trying to learn how to challenge the NFL’s best defensive minds – and the Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator seemed to have Luck figured out.
On Monday night, Luck will get his second chance against Bowles, now New York Jets head coach. The three-time Pro Bowler doesn’t expect things to get any easier.
”You look at it and look and see where they attacked you in protections, runs and how they did it,” Luck said when asked if that November 2013 game can help this week. ”So there is stuff to be taken from that.”
Sure a lot has changed since that 40-11 loss, one of Luck’s most forgettable: 20 of 39 for 163 yards with one TD and one interception, and a quarterback rating of 60.1.
Since then, he’s led the Colts (0-1) to two division titles, three playoff wins, last season’s AFC championship game, and emerged as one of the league’s next big things.
Bowles changed teams, not philosophies. He took his aggressive play calling and those tenure-defining blitzes from Arizona to New York (1-0), where he’s working with nine first-round draft picks, including defensive tackle Leonard Williams, the No. 6 overall selection in April.
Last week, Bowles’ defense wreaked havoc on Cleveland by forcing five turnovers and converting them into 21 points.
Indy, meanwhile, had three giveaways in its season-opening loss at Buffalo, something the Colts know they can’t afford again.
So Bowles is preparing his team to face Luck’s new and improved team.
”We’re expecting their best. We know they’re a playoff-caliber team. We know they won the division the last couple of years,” Bowles said. ”It was just the first game. They made some mistakes. I’m sure they’re going to correct it.”
And that has Luck eager to step onto the field for Round 2.
”We just want to get out there and play a game of football and get that going,” he said. ”Again, it will be a challenge, it’s a good defense.”
Here are some other things to watch Monday night:
HOLDING THE LINE: Last week, the Colts struggled to protect Luck, who was sacked twice and hurried into short throws most of the day. The defense also allowed Buffalo to rush for 147 yards. Both areas were concerns heading into the season and must improve this week for the Colts.
FITZ’S MILESTONE: If Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick starts, as expected, he’ll become the first NFL quarterback since 1950 to make five consecutive road starts against one team while playing for five different teams. According to STATS, six quarterbacks have done it four times, including former Jets QB Vinny Testaverde, who did it five times – twice against Indy. Fitzpatrick has not fared well in Indy. He’s 0-4 at Lucas Oil Stadium, losing 35-3 with Cincinnati in 2008; 20-13 with Buffalo in 2012; 22-14 with Tennessee in 2013; and 17-10 with Houston last season.
INJURY LIST: The Colts initially feared Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton would miss several weeks with a left knee injury, but the MRI revealed only a bruise. He’s been listed as day to day. When Jets CB Antonio Cromartie was taken off the field last week, it looked like his season might be over. It turned out to be a sprained left knee. The offsetting injuries could force both teams to revert to Plan B.
SATURDAY’S NIGHT: Former Colts center Jeff Saturday, a longtime fan favorite and now an ESPN analyst, will become the 12th and perhaps most unlikely member of Indy’s ring of honor at halftime. Saturday started his career as an undrafted free agent in Baltimore, was cut and managed an electrical supply store for a year before landing in Indy as a free agent. He wound up playing in 132 wins for the Colts (No. 3 in franchise history), made two All-Pro teams, won a Super Bowl and played in 170 games with Peyton Manning, an NFL record for a quarterback-center combination. He also provided the lasting image to end the 2011 NFL lockout by hugging Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
THE CLOSE: Lucas Oil Stadium’s retractable roof will be closed Monday night regardless of the outdoor weather. The decision comes less than three weeks after three fans were injured when a bolt fell from the roof as it opened at halftime of the Colts’ preseason finale. It will stay closed while an investigation continues into what happened.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL