Behind Enemy Lines: Colts Edition

Scout.com's Colts publisher Phillip Wilson took the time to answer some questions about the reigning AFC South Champions, clarifying points about Andrew Luck, Robert Mathis, and more.

JH: Is there a tangible key to Andrew Luck's fourth-quarter mastery, or is it simply an undefinable quality, like with Joe Montana and John Elway?

PW: He definitely has that undefinable quality. What's befuddled many in the Indy media is how the Colts have a tendency to fall behind early. Luck has trailed by double digits in 15 of his 36 NFL starts. I'm not blaming him for all of that, but he seems to settle in as the game goes along, and gets better as the game goes along. What's most impressive is this guy just never gives up. Sure, that's said about a lot of guys, but I've seen many hanging their heads when trailing by 28 points (Kansas City playoff game in January), or even 24 points (Sunday night at Denver). Luck instills this "We're never out of it" mind-set on everyone. And most of the time so far in his two-plus seasons, he's been right. The Colts never seem out of it, even when trailing.

JH: Health reasons aside, how come the Colts don't put more faith in Ahmad Bradshaw over the sputtering Trent Richardson?

PW: I've been wondering that since preseason. I've written that Bradshaw is the Colts' best back from day one, and repeated that on numerous local radio shows. The only explanation is a familiar one in NFL circles -- The Colts are married to Richardson because they invested a first-round pick in acquiring him. So they're going to ride him as long as they can to show he was worth what they gave up. NFL decision-makers can be stubborn, never wanting to admit they are wrong, but I've seen enough even after Bradshaw was lost to a season-ending injury three games in last season to know that T-Rich is not Bradshaw. One guy always runs hard and breaks tackles. The other seems to want to find his way to the line. Sometimes Richardson shows a burst, sometimes not.

JH: With Reggie Wayne healthy, who makes for a better slot corner: T.Y. Hilton, or Hakeem Nicks?

PW: My initial inclination is to say Hilton, but the reality is, T.Y. is a speed burner who should be outside and sent on long routes that stretch the field for the defense. Plus, Hilton is a bit small, and the more you have him operating in the slot and running over the middle, the greater likelihood of him getting hurt. What we've seen in the past is Wayne actually moving to the slot because he's so crafty and smarter than the other receivers. Nicks is a pro who has been around, so he'll line up anywhere. I suspect the Colts will mix it up to keep defenses adjusting, but my preference would actually be to see Wayne in the slot when they go three wides.

JH: Who is most qualified on the defense to step up as the 'alpha-male' pass rusher, now that Robert Mathis is done for the year?

PW: Hate to say it, but they don't have that guy. Bjoern Werner didn't show much Sunday night. Erik Walden gets some pressure now and then, but his sack of Peyton Manning was a clean-up, Josh McNary was there first and didn't bring Manning down. That gave Walden time to get him, but that was just his 13th career sack in six-plus seasons. The Colts say it's "Next man up," but the reality is they will need to apply pressure with timely blitzes and strong secondary coverage. Coverage sacks aren't sexy, but they're still sacks. Nobody can bring the heat like Mathis, and deep down, the Colts know this.

JH: While one player does not make a team, how much worse off would the Colts be if they were to lose Vontae Davis for any stretch of time?

PW: It would be a serious hit because Davis is emerging as an elite cover corner. He's not there yet, and will get beat from time to time, but that's the NFL. More often than not, he can run with anyone and is excellent in press coverage, a key to the Colts' 3-4 defensive scheme. The Colts are a bit thin in the secondary after their top three, so Davis would be on the short list of guys they can ill afford to lose. That said, they're going to have to soldier on without Mathis. And last year, they did the same without Reggie Wayne after seven games. The Colts are a resilient bunch. Sometimes, in the Chuck Pagano era, it's like they've done it with smoke and mirrors.

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