Colts look to avoid another 0-2 start vs. Redskins
While the Indianapolis Colts are thrilled to have a healthy Andrew Luck back under center, the immediate concern is to avoid a fourth consecutive 0-2 start to the season.
Luck and the Colts will face a tough task Sunday when they pay a visit to the Washington Redskins, who opened the season with a dominating 24-6 victory at Arizona on Kickoff Weekend.
Returning to the lineup after missing the entire 2017 season while recovering from shoulder surgery, Luck showed no physical limitations in Sunday's 34-23 home loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
Luck attempted 53 passes, completing 39 for a pair of touchdowns and an interception, but Indianapolis blew a 13-point second-half lead -- continuing a trend that saw the team blow halftime leads in nine games in 2017.
"Nothing he does surprises me," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said of Luck on a media conference call. "I think he is one of the toughest quarterbacks in the league and obviously one of the most skilled. So, nothing surprises me. I haven't been around him ever in my life, but I know based on seeing him and watching him work he's an impressive guy."
Luck, who turned 29 Wednesday, was not satisfied with the outcome of Sunday's opener was pronounced himself no worse for wear after his first game action since the 2016 regular-season finale.
"I do feel like it is where it needs to be," said Luck. "I've proven to myself that, especially in practice, that I can make those deeper throws. I thought (the Bengals game) was my best throwing day to date through this whole journey."
Luck wasn't the only quarterback who acquitted himself well in Week 1. Veteran Alex Smith, acquired in an offseason trade with the Kansas City Chiefs, finished 21 of 30 for 255 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his Washington debut.
"Alex did a great job, both on schedule and off schedule (plays)," Gruden said. "That's kind of the M.O. of his career. He does a great job of managing the game, keeping us out of negative down and distance and negative plays. He does a great job of extending plays from time to time also. Couldn't be more excited about his performance and moving forward there's a lot to build on there."
Smith, a former No. 1 overall pick who routinely was labeled a "game manager" throughout his career, was traded so the Chiefs could move Patrick Mahones into the starting lineup. Colts coach Frank Reich thinks Washington is a perfect landing spot for Smith.
"I just think this guy just keeps winning football games," Reich said. "He's an excellent player. Really a good fit for them."
Smith received plenty of offensive support from another veteran. Running back Adrian Peterson, signed after rookie Derrius Guice suffered a season-ending knee injury, turned back the clock by rumbling for 96 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries.
"A.P. has always been A.P.," said Colts defensive tackle Al Woods. "Hard-working, blue-collar guy that fights for every yard he gets. So when we see him on Sunday, that's what he's going to be. A guy that's pretty much timeless that's running hard still, making hard cuts, knows what he's doing, being in the right position, making the right run. So we got to go out there and stop him, point blank and simple."
Washington piled up 429 yards of total offense, including a combined 161 yards on the ground from Peterson and Chris Thompson (five carries, 65 yards). That doesn't bode well for an Indianapolis defense that allowed 5.1 yards per rush last week.
Indianapolis struggled on the ground without lead running back Marlon Mack. Rookie Jordan Wilkins had a team-high 40 yards on 14 carries. Mack, who is battling a hamstring injury, said Thursday that his playing status will be to the coaching staff and trainers.
Weather could be a factor with both teams due to the possible remnants of Hurricane Florence, which could lead to rainy and windy conditions. Reich, who was used to adverse weather during his tenure as a player with the Buffalo Bills, said that should not be an excuse.
"Don't make a big deal about it," Reich said. "It's not as bad as you think it is. Sometimes you are watching on television and I think sometimes television accentuates it, makes it look even worse than it really is. I just always felt as a player, it's not so bad. I mean, it's what you grow up in. ... You just go out and play. I just think it's a mentality that you have going into it."
Updated September 13, 2018