Colts getting production out of unfamiliar names
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Andrew Luck can still rely on his headliners to make the big plays.
He just doesn't have to go exclusively to the stars anymore.
Over the past several weeks, tight end Coby Fleener has emerged as a key cog in Indianapolis' offense, rookie receiver Donte Moncrief is exploiting more holes in opposing secondaries and Daniel ''Boom'' Herron has become a real challenger to former first-round pick Trent Richardson as the starting running back.
It's the kind of supporting cast Luck and his teammates have envisioned for months.
''You've got to make a decision on how you're going to play certain people and how you're going to make them beat you,'' coach Chuck Pagano said.
''If you make a decision, you're going to put all your eggs in this basket, you better hope the other guys can hold up. Because if they can't hold up, it can spell disaster for you.''
Instead, the Colts (8-4) are thriving.
The defending AFC South champs have won eight of their past 10 games after an 0-2 start and still have a two-game lead over Houston.
With four games left, Luck has already broken Peyton Manning's franchise record with his 10th 300-yard game of the season and has thrown a career-high 34 touchdown passes - two behind Peyton Manning and two ahead of Aaron Rodgers.
T.Y. Hilton is 11th in the league in receptions (68) and is fifth in yards with a career-best 1,145.
On Sunday, Indianapolis produced its highest point total in a decade, beating Washington 49-27, thanks in large part to some unfamiliar names.
Fleener became the first tight end since Rich Caster in 1972 with TD catches of 70 or more yards and 30 or more yards in the same game. He finished with four catches for 127 yards.
Moncrief, a third-round draft pick, had three catches for 134 yards and scored on plays of 48 and 79 yards.
Herron ripped off a 49-yard touchdown run and finished with eight carries for a career-best 88 yards.
Indy became the first team since 1966 to finish with six touchdowns of 30 or more yards since the Redskins had seven in 1966.
''They're so hard (to get), you don't see it. Teams are too good and guys always seem to be in the right spot, but obviously fans love it, we love it, everybody loves it,'' Pagano said when asked about the compilation of long scoring plays.
''I think going into the game we were No. 1 in the National Football League in explosive plays, plays over 20 yards, and I'm sure we'll end up staying there after yesterday.''
It's not just the offense making progress in the playmaking area, though.
Linebacker Jonathan Newsome, a fifth-round draft pick, was credited with 1 1/2 sacks and forced a fumble Sunday, giving him 4 1/2 sacks in limited action this season.
And return specialist Josh Cribbs, who signed with Indy as a free agent two weeks ago, has provided a real spark on special teams, too, though some of his most exciting plays have been nullified by penalties.
The timing couldn't be better - less than a month away from the start of the playoffs.
First, though, they must deal with a trip to Cleveland (7-5) this weekend before hosting the Texans (6-6) in a game that could clinch the division title. Then they'll finish the season at Dallas (8-4) and Tennessee (2-10).
The goal over the last month is simple: Keep progressing, keep winning and keep giving Luck more options.
''Once you throw the ball up for a big play, you want to be that guy,'' receiver Reggie Wayne said. ''We had a lot of guys that were able to capitalize on that (Sunday). Moncrief today showed what he is capable of. We got a lot of guys. We are pretty loaded.''
Notes: Pagano said cornerback Vontae Davis did sustain a concussion Sunday and won't be back on the field until he completes the league's mandated protocol. ... Pagano also sounded optimistic that tight end Dwayne Allen may return this week. He missed the past two games with an injured right ankle. Pagano said he could return to practice Wednesday. ... Right guard Hugh Thornton (knee) remains week to week, Pagano said, meaning he could miss this week's game against the Browns.
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