Five Colts keys for Monday vs. Jets

Handling Jets' blitzes has to be utmost Colts priority in primetime.

The Indianapolis Colts will try to square their record in a Monday Night Football home meeting with the New York Jets at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Here are five Colts keys:

1. Pick up those blitzes — The Jets are sure to follow the Buffalo Bills’ blueprint and bring extra pressure to force Colts quarterback Andrew Luck out of his comfort zone. Luck never got into rhythm against the Bills. The offense self-destructed and didn’t score until late in the third quarter. While there are other keys on offense, this one is first because without proper protection, as the opener showed, everything unravels. If the Colts pick up those blitzes, Luck can find his receivers to make the Jets pay. That loosens up the defense and discourages the visitors from continuing their pass-rush strategy.

2. Neutralize Jets’ ground game — This could be the No. 1 key each week, considering the Colts’ continuing struggle in run defense. It’s listed second this week because even if the home team struggles in this area again, don’t rule out Luck and the offense still scoring enough points if the Jets’ blitzes aren’t effective. That said, the Colts can make this a lot easier on themselves by limiting the production of Jets running backs Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell, who combined for 153 rushing yards and two TDs on 32 carries in a 31-10 home win over Cleveland. If the Jets don’t have balance, then the pressure to mount drives is squarely on journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

3. Run Frank Gore more — As many have already observed, the Colts can’t run him much less than they did last week as their new running back managed 31 yards on just eight carries. Because the Jets are sure to crowd the box with seven and eight defenders, much like the Bills did, the running lanes might not be there early for Gore, but keep feeding him now and then. If the Colts can strike a balance and hit on some pass plays, then Gore will find space to do what he does best. Ignore Gore again and the Colts are too one-dimensional in relying on that pass game and that won’t back off the defense from its crowd-the-box plan.

4. Wide receivers win battles — While it’s fair to say Luck was off the mark on many of his passes in the opener, his targets didn’t do him any favor at times. They can’t drop balls when wide open, nor me unaware of the sideline and step out of bounds to negate a first-down catch. And if it’s a pass in traffic, Colts receivers have to fight for those balls instead of being bystanders. One more observation from last week. If Colts receivers aren’t getting consistent separation from defenders, what choice does Luck have but to try to make a play with the hope a well-guarded receiver can come down with the pass.

5. Use those tight ends — The Colts appeared to be off to a fast start when tight end Dwayne Allen caught a 27-yard pass to the Bills’ 23, but a holding penalty killed the drive. Allen later caught a TD pass and tight end Coby Fleener a two-point conversion pass. These guys will be covered by linebackers or extra defensive backs. They should be open. And they give Luck larger targets to move the chains. If the Jets are blitzing, use that against them with quick passes to these guys. Allen finished with three receptions for 17 yards and Fleener one 5-yard catch in addition to the two-point conversion grab. They need to be targeted more.

Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.

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