KRAVITZ: Five things to watch in the Colts-Washington game

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (13) outruns Cleveland Browns free safety Jabrill Peppers (22) on his way to a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game in Indianapolis, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

LANDOVER, MD. (WTHR) — Bob Kravitz breaks down the five things the Colts need to do to pull out a win against Washington:

  • Here's a marquee matchup: T.Y. Hilton versus Washington cornerback Josh Norman. Both men have been Pro Bowlers. Both are among the best in the league at their positions. Hilton was relatively quiet last week against the Bengals – the drop near the sidelines didn't help – but everybody knows what he's capable of doing. The issue is, it doesn't currently appear that Anthony Castonzo will be ready to go at left tackle and the right tackle spot remains a dumpster fire, so Andrew Luck may have another game when he's forced to take five-step drops and throw short, quick passes.
  • Watch Washington quarterback Alex Smith, especially when he bootlegs to the edges. For whatever reason, the Colts have always looked lost against quarterbacks who utilize the bootleg, but it's going to be imperative that they cut off the edge and limit his effectiveness there. Smith isn't known for throwing the deep ball, but he's remarkably accurate and timely with his shorter throws. Washington, led by Jay Gruden, is very much an old-school West Coast Offense team, and they'll try to beat Indy with a lot of short stuff while the Colts play their normal area zones.
  • The Colts have got to limit the two running backs, Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson. Peterson, as everybody knows by now, is the north-south guy while Thompson is the player the Colts hope Nyheim Hines will someday be. The pair combined for 294 yards of total offense last week against the Arizona Cardinals (166 for Peterson, 128 for Thompson). Peterson hasn't played much the last two years, but appears to have fresh legs, and Thompson, a runner and pass-catcher out of the backfield, is an electric player.
  • Run the ball effectively. We say this every week and every week, the Colts fall significantly short. Last week, they did almost nothing on the ground, especially in the second half, against a Cincinnati team that finished 30th against the rush last season. This week, they're playing a Washington team that finished 32nd last year. As of this writing, there was still no determination whether Marlon Mack would play, although it's hard to say he would make a major difference.
  • The run is also important because it will serve to keep the defense, led by former Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, from dialing up the kinds of blitzes that made him effective here. Remember, the Colts had 41 sacks in 2014, even without Robert Mathis Last year, Manusky's Washington defense was eighth in the league in sacks and first in quarterback hits. The two edge players are Preston Smith and former Boilermaker Ryan Kerrigan, who has been an elite player for what feels like decades. Manusky will usually dial up five-man pressures when opponents are in passing situations, so it's imperative the Colts protect Luck on the edges and for the Indy receivers to beat press coverage on the outside.

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