Here are five keys to the game heading into the Week 3 match between the San Diego Chargers and Indianapolis Colts.
1. Slow Down Indy's Speed– Indianapolis is known for its car racing with global events such as the Indy 500. Although the Colts' offense may not be quite as fast, it follows suit. This week's opposition features Andrew Luck who has a knack for getting everyone involved. While it features a pair of speedy wide receivers in T.Y. Hilton and Phillip Dorsett, a dynamic duo at tight end with the likes of Dwayne Allen and Jack Doyle and a ground attack led by Frank Gore, the quarterback is what makes Indy's offensive tick. Head Coach Mike McCoy explained how it is all about slowing down their attack:
"Their whole entire team (is dangerous) with the team speed they have. It's not just T.Y. They have a lot of speed and is a very explosive offense. (OC Rob Chudzinski has a) history with what he's called, how they've made plays and the production in his offense."
Meanwhile, Dwight Lowery suited up for the Colts last season, and explained why he believes Indy's QB is one of the best in the game. Not only will he beat you with his arm, but he uses his legs to his advantage:
"He's difficult to prepare for. People don't really look at his ability to run the football. He has such a great throwing motion, a big arm and great receiving threats to get the ball to that you kind of forget that he can get out there and can run a bit. We've just got to make sure that we have something for that. We have to make sure we don't let things get out of control. We haven't for the past two weeks. As long as we continue to play the caliber of ball that we've been playing it will be a good game."
2. Pluck Luck– The Chargers have a ton of respect for Luck, recognizing that a quarterback of his caliber is going to make his fair share of plays. That's why it is imperative the defense makes their own as well. The Bolts defense has been an opportunistic bunch to start the season, recording three interceptions and one fumble recovery. While Luck has thrown just one pick this season, Defensive Coordinator John Pagano explained how it is important to keep forcing turnovers. Proud of the results thus far, he stressed it must be a point of emphasis this week as well as the rest of the season:
"(I'm most proud of) the takeaways. The emphasis on the takeaway it is something that we talked about. We try to come up with different words each week that say 'takeaway', 'turnover', 'touchdown' (or) something that gets our guys focused on that. I think that is the most important thing, to be able to take away the football and give our offense (that) extra boost to be able to put them in scoring position. We have to keep building off those things. The guys have made a great effort to find the ball."
3. Next Man Up Must Step Up– For the second time in as many weeks, the Chargers head into their next game with one of their top offensive playmakers lost for the season. Last week, Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams elevated their play by combining for three touchdowns in Keenan Allen's absence. Now, recently signed Dexter McCluster must fill a void left at running back after Danny Woodhead's season ending injury. While Benjamin and Williams spent all offseason in San Diego, McCluster must adapt in five short days. Still, his familiarity with Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt's system should potentially speed up the adjustment process. He must not only step in on Sunday, but needs to step up as well. McCluster feels up for the task:
"The play calling is coming kind of easy for me with Coach Whisenhunt. Having (been) in that system for a year, I came in and pretty much knew exactly what I was doing (this week). There are some tweaks here and there but for the most part it's the same thing…. (It's a) very quick transition. I fell asleep studying last night. I went to sleep about 7 o'clock and woke up at 3 this morning so I figured since I'm up I might as well be studying. That is how I have been trying to adjust."
4. Gang Up on Gore – Frank Gore has given the Bolts fits over his 12-year career. San Diego enters Week 3 ranked seventh in the NFL, allowing only 76.0 yards per game. However, the last time they faced Gore in 2014 while with the San Francisco 49ers, the running back carried the ball 26 times for 158 yards and a touchdown. Gore has made a living breaking tackles, and is up to his usual tricks to start 2016. As a result, Pagano said the Bolts must zero in on the veteran rusher and wrap him up when they have the chance:
"You've got to tackle him. The last time we didn't fair that well when we faced him, but we've got to tackle him. Wrap (him)up. He's still a slashing, downhill type of runner who sees the hole and goes and gets it."
5. Match the Intensity – The Indianapolis Colts have an 0-2 record, but they just as easily could be 2-0. Now, the Bolts must enter a "hornets' nest" to face a team hungry for its first win. Lowery is well aware of how difficult Lucas Oil Stadium can be for the opposition, and expects his former teammates and coaches to be fired up. He says the Chargers must match their intensity in what will surely be a raucous environment:
"It will be loud. They are 0-2 right now and searching for a win. They've played competitively. A couple plays here and there and it could be a different record and different situation. They've had to deal with a lot of injuries over there, but (Head Coach) Chuck (Pagano) will have them ready to play with enthusiasm. We have to be ready to match that for all four quarters."