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Colts' Luck must make his return a memorable one

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck watches his teammates warm up their Thanksgiving night loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Indianapolis. (Photo by the Associated Press)
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck watches his teammates warm up their Thanksgiving night loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Indianapolis. (Photo by the Associated Press)

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For more on the Colts, follow Reggie Hayes on Twitter at reggiehayes1
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press

Monday night game at Jets another must-win for Colts.

Sunday, December 04, 2016 09:01 pm
The last time quarterback Andrew Luck faced the New York Jets, he played awful. Not surprisingly, the Indianapolis Colts lost. Luck threw three interceptions and fumbled the ball during the Colts' five turnover day (Frank Gore also fumbled) in a 20-7 loss to the Jets last season at Lucas Oil Stadium. Luck completed only 21 of 37 passes in one of his worst career performances.

Can redemption come on Monday Night Football? And, if so, can the Colts’ season get back on track before it’s too late? I’m assuming it’s not too late, which is a questionable position, to be sure.

The Colts (5-6) play the Jets (3-8) at 8:30 tonight in MetLife Stadium (ESPN).

Luck will return after missing last week’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers while going through concussion protocol.

Colts coach Chuck Pagano rambled on and on about the importance of running the ball in December, but I’m not buying it. The Colts win when Luck's passing attack is in sync. They lose when it’s not. Sometimes the simplest explanation is the correct one.

The Jets have been an average, far from great defensive team, ranking 21st in points allowed per game, 25th in interceptions and 29th in sacks. Defensive tackle Leonard Williams leads the Jets with six sacks. Free safety Marcus Gilchrist has two interceptions.

“They obviously have a very talented (secondary) group led by Darrelle Revis, and Buster Skrine has played a bunch of really good football as well,” Luck said. “They do a great job of getting up in your face and making it a bit uncomfortable to the rhythm of things. What they also do is play great zone coverage. It’s a disciplined, tough unit with really good players all over the field.”

Luck’s gushing about the Jets is required to avoid bulletin-board material. The truth is these Jets are 3-8 and nothing special. The Colts are nothing special, either, but still better than the Jets. The Jets did play well in their most recent loss, a 22-17 loss to the New England Patriots.

The Colts must win this game, and to win they need strong play by Luck. It wasn’t backup quarterback Scott Tolzien’s fault the Colts lost to the Steelers. In fact, Colts receivers had three pivotal drops. Still, Tolzien is not Luck. He does not have the same talent at his disposal.

Luck must be on target and turnover-free, his offensive line must keep the Jets’ limited pass rush at bay and his receivers must catch the ball. It’s that simple.

“It’s going to be very, very important to be able to have positive plays and not take negative plays,” Pagano said. “They are second in the league in forcing negative plays and we can’t get behind the chains. We can’t have second-and-long and be in a bunch of third-and-seven or third-and-eight (situations)."

Luck has played his best when the Colts are in some form of hurry-up offense.

Colts offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski has done a decent job of mixing things up, even using Gore as a “wildcat” back. Chudzinski and Luck need to bring an aggressive mindset to tonight’s game. The Steelers game aside, Luck and the Colts have been better lately in getting off to strong starts.

If they jump on the Jets with aggressive offensive play calling, they need to sustain it. There have been too many times when easing off later with a lead has proved problematic, to say the least.

The Jets defense will likely utilize its fair share of blitzes and different looks to try to not only put pressure on Luck, but force him into the type of mistakes he made against them last season.

“They are not a passive defense by any means,” Luck said. “It’s an aggressive-style defense. Any time in any game (where) you get blitzes, if you can pick it up there are less guys in coverage, it is sort of simple. It can be an opportunity for a big play both ways, and we’d like to make sure the plays are in our favor.”

The Colts have five games left: at Jets, home vs. Houston, at Minnesota, at Oakland and home vs. Jacksonville. To reach the playoffs, they’ll need to win four of the five, if not all five.

They cannot afford a loss to the 3-8 Jets, and they cannot afford less than a return to form tonight from Luck.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at rhayes@news-sentinel.com.

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For more on the Colts, follow Reggie Hayes on Twitter at reggiehayes1


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