By Gregory Hunt
Although they’ve given up only six sacks in the last five games, the offensive line for the New England Patriots struggled early in the season. On Sunday night at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Patriots will face an Indianapolis Colts team that blitzes quite frequently, so New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has reason to be concerned. He expressed those concerns during the weekly coaches’ conference call on Monday.
“They blitz quite a bit more than most of the teams that we’ve played, which is going to be a very critical factor in the game, our ability to handle that,” said McDaniels. “They play a lot of tight man coverage, they have guys that do a really good job of covering man-to-man, one-on-one situations on the outside, they ask their safeties and linebackers to do the same thing [and] they’ve got guys that can do that. They’ve been stopping the run, creating turnovers, and getting to the quarterback, so there’s not a lot of holes.”
The Colts have registered 24 sacks this season, tying them with the Denver Broncos and Tennessee Titans for 10th in the league. Indianapolis linebacker Bjoern Werner leads the team with four sacks, but five of his teammates have three sacks apiece, so there doesn’t appear to be a particular pass rusher that the Patriots can key on. In a 40-24 win over the Giants at MetLife Stadium in Week 9, the Colts sacked New York quarterback Eli Manning three times.
Luck looks to reduce turnovers
Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck has faced the Patriots twice before in his career, both times at Gillette Stadium. In a regular season game in 2012, he threw for 334 yards and two touchdowns. In a 2013 AFC Divisional Playoff game, he passed for 331 yards and two more touchdowns. However, he also threw a total seven interceptions in those games, which is why he lost them by an average of 28 points. After the playoff game, Luck said, “I can’t commit that many turnovers and have a chance to win against a good team like this.”
Sunday night’s game will be Luck’s first opportunity to play at home against the Patriots, so he’s hoping to get a better result. But to get that result, the Colts will need to cut down on their turnovers. Luck has thrown nine interceptions, which ties him for sixth-most in the league, and the Colts offense has turned over the ball a total of 15 times, cancelling out the 15 takeaways earned by the defense. by comparison, the New England defense has generated 18 takeaways while its offense has given up only six turnovers.
Despite throwing a higher-than-ideal number of interceptions, Luck is having an outstanding season. He currently leads the NFL in passing yardage with 3,085 yards, putting him on pace to break the single-season record of 5,477 set by Peyton Manning with the Denver Broncos in 2013. That would also make him only the sixth quarterback in NFL history to pass for more than 5,000 yards in a season.
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Gregory Hunt is a Boston native and a life-long fan of the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics. He’s also particularly fond of lacrosse, IndyCar racing and women’s college basketball. He currently works for Examiner.com where he serves as the Senior Manager of Content and Media Access. He also writes for Examiner.com as the New England Patriots Examiner. His work can be found on Examiner.com.