Denver Broncos | News

Three Keys to Broncos-Colts

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INDIANAPOLIS -- **Two of the league's most hallowed career records are in play for Peyton Manning on Sunday. But only one of them carries with it a guarantee of a successful trip to Lucas Oil Stadium.

That is, of course, the home of the Indianapolis Colts, often called "The House That Peyton Built."

And while it would be symbolically appropriate for the most prolific passer in Colts history to set the NFL records for passing yardage and wins by a starting quarterback in the Colts' home, all Manning and the Broncos want is an eighth win, which would allow them to keep pace with the Bengals in the race for home-field advantage.

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The emotion won't be like it was two years ago when Manning played his first game in Indianapolis since the Colts released him in 2012. But his teammates want to bring the win -- and the records -- home for him.

"Peyton is going to be pumped," CB Chris Harris Jr. said. "Being able to get that win for him in Indy, that's huge. It's something I know that he probably wants very bad.

"He'll never say it to you all [the media], he'll never say it to us, but we know that he wants to go home and get a win. It's important for us to do our job, give him the ball back a lot so we can give him a lot of opportunities to put up points."

What are the keys to getting that win?

1. Keep the Colts guessing.

Last week, the Broncos were able to catch the Packers off guard with some different wrinkles: a pistol formation that used Virgil Green as an offset fullback, a base 3-4 with three cornerbacks and a single high safety, and Sylvester Williams dropping 320 pounds of humanity into short-area coverage.

While the Broncos might not throw as many tactical tweaks at the Colts this week, they will try to create their own offensive balance to keep Indianapolis off-balance. Last Sunday, the ground game, passing game and play-action complemented each other perfectly, which is why Manning went 6-of-9 for 153 yards off playfakes.

But the biggest change will come from how the Broncos utilize newly acquired TE Vernon Davis.

You won't see Davis on every down, or anything close.

"The biggest thing is we're trying to isolate on what we think gives us the best chance with him this weekend, which he's very comfortable with," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said. "It will get very isolated, but he'll be part of what we're doing."

That could lead to plenty of looks in the red zone, an area in which the Broncos' offense has lagged, but Davis flourished until the 49ers' offense bogged down the last one and a half seasons.

2. Pressure Andrew Luck.

Whether Luck is injured has become a matter for debate in Indianapolis in recent days. But what is certain is that he's missed two games because of a shoulder injury, has been under near-constant pressure, and has struggled, completing 36.3 percent of his passes under pressure, per ProFootballFocus.com.

The 6-foot-4, 240-pound quarterback remains perhaps the league's toughest to bring down, because he's built like a linebacker. One man won't often be enough to get the sack. But pressure can -- and will -- be disruptive. If Hilton is out, he will lose a crucial short inside option, and that might force him to take off and run earlier -- or take shots downfield against the Broncos' cornerbacks.

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  1. Be prepared for something different.**

With Rob Chudzinski taking over the offensive coordinator duties from the dismissed Pep Hamilton, the Colts might change some things. A good place to start would be the tempo; Indianapolis has moved the ball successfully late in games when they've been in comeback mode, but struggled early, falling behind three scores to the Saints and Panthers the last two weeks.

Another wrinkle could come from how the Colts' offense looks if T.Y. Hilton's foot injury prevents him from playing. The slot receiver did not practice all week but is listed as questionable, and if he can't play, Chudzinski could emphasize the ground game or getting TE Coby Fleener some more chances downfield, since he has averaged just 8.9 yards per reception.

"Some things are going to change," Broncos Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips said. "You don't know if they can change everything, but there are going to be some things changed. I think [Chudzinski] was helping them with the offense some. I see some of the things that they ran at Carolina [when he was offensive coordinator] and some of the things that we ran at San Diego that they were running. I think he'll just go with the things that he's comfortable with."

Special teams is another area that will have to be on the lookout for the unexpected. The entire football universe knows about the Colts' botched fake punt against New England, but that won't deter coordinator Tom McMahon from trying a trick if there's an opening.

"There is no question, and that [fake punt attempt against the Patriots] wasn't the only one. That one got a lot of publicity because it didn't work, but they've had a lot other ones that did work," Broncos Special Teams Coordinator Joe DeCamillis said. "In that game, it was real close to them getting that onside [kick]. They've done that several times. It's something that you've got to be alert for.

"They do a great job. [Head] Coach [Chuck] Pagano is not afraid to pull out the gadgets, and his special teams coach [McMahon] is definitely right behind him, that's for sure."

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