Although coming off a loss, the Indianapolis Colts offense is showing signs of coming to life entering Sunday’s home game against the New Orleans Saints at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Colts (3-3) have scored 27 points in each of the past two games, they finished their opening drive with a touchdown for the first time in 21 games last week and didn’t commit a turnover for a second consecutive week. Second-year wide receiver Donte Moncrief caught another touchdown pass, his team-best fourth of the season.
Quarterback Andrew Luck, who returned after a two-game absence due to a sore right shoulder, now faces the NFL’s worst defense. The Saints (2-4) have allowed 409.7 yards per game.
“I’d like to think that we haven’t played our best football yet,” said Luck, who completed 30-of-50 passes for 312 yards and three TDs in a 34-27 home loss to New England. “Who knows if that’s true? The beauty of sports is you’ve got to go do it on the field. Again, I thought we did some decent things.”
The Saints have lost three road games by an average of 13 points, but quarterback Drew Brees has led his team to back-to-back home wins, including an impressive 31-21 victory over the previously unbeaten Atlanta Falcons 10 days ago. Despite missing a game due to injury, Brees has passed for 1,616 yards with a 68.4 completion percentage, seven TDs and three interceptions.
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano suggests Brees could be a first-ballot Hall of Famer some day.
The nine-time Pro Bowl star and Super Bowl XLIV MVP against the Colts still possesses a quick release, but his protection has been a problem. Brees has taken 15 sacks, which suggests an opportunity for a pedestrian Colts pass rush with just eight sacks by eight different players.
Pagano said outside linebacker Robert Mathis, who has yet to start this season and has been used as a situational pass rusher, will get more plays. The Colts’ all-time sack leader has one sack in 106 plays this season.
Safety Dwight Lowery, who joined the Colts in free agency, is familiar with Brees from playing him twice as an NFC South Division rival with Atlanta last year.
“He’s very smart,” Lowery said. “He’s been in that system for a long time and that helps tremendously as well. No matter who they surround him with, he’s always going to get the ball in the player’s hands, and they’re going to make plays. They’ve got guys that can make plays. He just does his job and gets them the ball.”
Brees exploited the Falcons coverages with tight end Benjamin Watson, who caught 10 passes for 127 yards and one touchdown. The yardage was a career best and the catch total tied his previous high in a 12-year career.
The Colts will be without safety Mike Adams, who suffered a hamstring injury against the Patriots, as well as rookie safety Clayton Geathers, who exited early last game with a knee injury. That means special-teams captain Colt Anderson will start alongside Lowery. The sixth-year pro has played in 69 career games, six of them starts while with Philadelphia in 2010 and 2012.
Pagano is hopeful to see a more consistent effort from his team, which has suffered from self-inflicted mistakes at several key junctures so far. The Colts’ 49 penalties tie for third most in the league, and 16 of those have been holding calls, which ties with Chicago for the league high. Although they didn’t have a giveaway against the Patriots, the Colts are also minus-6 in turnover ratio, which ties for 30th.
“I want to play better in Week 7 than we did Week 6 and hopefully we do what’s right,” Pagano said. “We control our own destiny. We’re up a game and a half in our division I think if I’m correct. We need to win. We need to get No. 4 and our focus is on New Orleans and New Orleans only and trying to get that.”
The Colts are one-game ahead of Houston (2-4) in the AFC South Division but hold the head-to-head tiebreaker after a first-round sweep of all three division rivals.
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.