Colts are putting up big numbers on scoreboard
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) The Indianapolis Colts offense is having all sorts of fun these days.
Andrew Luck is topping the 300-yard mark nearly every week, T.Y. Hilton is routinely celebrating big plays and everyone seems to be playing a role on the highest-scoring team in football. Yet as Indianapolis embarked on its bye week Tuesday, players and coaches vowed to come back even sharper.
''I really think we can play better in the second half (of the season) than the first half,'' quarterback coach Clyde Christensen said. ''A lot better.''
It's hard to imagine how much more potent the Colts (6-3) could be.
But inside the locker room, smiles abound.
The Colts are averaging 32.2 points per game, a pace that would rank second in franchise history to the 2004 team's 522 points. They've scored 33 or more points five times in seven games and hit at least 40 in three during that span.
The individual numbers are astounding, too.
Luck leads the NFL with 26 touchdown passes, has already set a franchise record with seven straight 300-yard games and an NFL record with his fifth straight 350-yard game on the road. He's on pace to break Peyton Manning's single-season league record for yards passing and could crack the NFL's top five for most completions in a season, too.
Hilton is closing in on his second straight 1,000-yard season and is second in the NFL in yards receiving, behind only Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown. If he maintains this rate, Hilton could challenge Marvin Harrison's franchise record for yards in one season (1,722).
''It's fun,'' Hilton said. ''We've got a lot of guys who can do so many things.''
But this has been far from perfect.
Luck has already matched his entire interception total from last season (nine), and two bad decisions led to losses against Denver and Philadelphia.
Teammates have bailed him out of some other sticky situations. While Luck enjoyed watching the tape of Hilton wrestling the ball away from Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, turning what appeared to be a certain interception into a Colts' touchdown, it wasn't his only mistake against the Giants.
Luck grimaced over a second-half throwaway that could have been picked off and coach Chuck Pagano was not thrilled with Luck's decision to help clear a path for backup running back Daniel ''Boom'' Herron in the closing minutes of the 40-24 victory.
''We don't want him to be our lead blocker,'' Pagano said. ''We don't need him to be our fullback, you know?''
Instead, Pagano would prefer Luck make things a little less interesting over the final seven regular season games.
Indy now has two weeks to get ready for a Sunday night showdown with AFC East-leading New England, then finishes the season with only two of its last six games against teams with winning records.
During that final stretch, Luck will try take advantage of some other options.
Reggie Wayne made an emotional return from a left elbow injury Monday, finishing with four catches for 70 yards and his first touchdown of the season. Speedy rookie Donte Moncrief can stretch the field and has started emerging as a valuable target. Hakeem Nicks, whose numbers had been decreasing, resurfaced against his former team with three catches and still could become a key contributor over the final two months. Indy is one of only two NFL teams with two tight ends who have at least four TD catches.
Add that to one of the highest-scoring tight end tandems in the league, a ground game that continues to evolve and an offense that is trying to fix its flaws, and the Colts could continue putting up numbers like its' a video game.
That's just what the Colts want.
''We're making defenses make decisions about what they're going to try and stop,'' tight end Coby Fleener said. ''If they want to try and Ahmad, Trent (Richardson) and Boom, we can throw the ball. If they want to try and stop us on the outside, we can go to the inside. It's fun when things are rolling like that.''
NOTES: Indianapolis activated safety LaRon Landry from commissioner's exempt list and offensive lineman Xavier Nixon from injured reserve. Landry missed four games after violating the league's performance-enhancing substance-abuse policy and was not active Monday night. Nixon had been on injured reserve since having knee surgery in August.
AP NFL websites: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL