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NFL Preview - Indianapolis (4-1) at San Diego (2-3)
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - When it comes to quarterbacks a lot of people believe either you have it or you don't.
Andrew Luck has "it" and the second-year star will show the nation when he leads his Indianapolis Colts into San Diego on "Monday Night Football."
Week 5's impressive 34-28 win over previously unbeaten Seattle was just the latest fourth-quarter comeback for Luck, who is 15-6 as an NFL starter with an amazing nine late-game rallies, the most by any signal caller in his first 21 games since the 1970 merger.
Luck threw for 229 yards with two touchdown passes against the Seahawks and guided a 14-play, 86-yard drive in the fourth quarter that ended with Donald Brown barreling in for a go-ahead score.
Russell Wilson, taken 74 picks after Luck was selected first overall in the 2012 draft, had a chance to keep the Seahawks from falling into the loss column but was picked off by Darius Butler as time wound down to seal Indianapolis' third straight win.
Luck's favorite target was TY Hilton, who hauled in five passes for a career- high 140 yards and two touchdowns despite being covered by All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman for a good portion of the showdown.
"This is the most resilient team I've ever been around," an excited Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said. "I can't tell you how proud I am of every man in that locker room."
San Diego, on the other hand, is coming off a bad 27-17 loss in Oakland and will hang its hat on Philip Rivers, who is 4-1 against the Colts in his career.
Rivers connected on 36-of-49 passes for 411 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions against the Raiders but the Chargers turned the ball over five times.
Rookie receiver Keenan Allen hauled in six passes for 115 yards and a score, while Vincent Brown caught eight passes for 117 yards. San Diego running back Ryan Mathews left the game in the second quarter with a concussion, however, and the Chargers finished the game with just 32 yards on the ground.
"It doesn't matter what level you're at, when you turn the ball over five times, it's tough to win games," San Diego coach Mike McCoy said.
The Chargers hold a 15-9 advantage against the Colts in the regular-season series but interestingly enough are just 4-6 in San Diego.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
This could be a bit of a trap game for the young Colts and Luck because they host the Denver Broncos, who many consider to be the best team in the NFL, on Oct. 20.
"I don't think you'll see any of these guys walk around with their chest puffed out like a robin, walking around the yard after a big rain storm," Pagano said. "We're not going there. We'll keep reminding them it's a short ride from the penthouse to the outhouse."
That kind of short ride probably isn't happening any time soon with Luck on hand. The former Stanford star is the first Colts quarterback not named Peyton Manning to lead Indy to sole possession of first place at any point of a season since his former college coach and current San Francisco mentor Jim Harbaugh had the Colts atop the AFC East way back on Oct. 13, 1996.
Luck is quickly turning into the NFL's next true star at the QB position, the kind of pure passer who creates havoc in the back seven of any defense. He is also far more athletic than most think and can extend plays with his feet, a key component in the modern NFL game.
For now Luck is handling success well.
"I don't think it's in the DNA of a Pagano-coached team to hang your head or to get too high when you're doing something well," he said. "His approach is very methodical."
Overall the Colts rank sixth in the NFL in points per game and fifth in points allowed per game, one of only three teams (New Orleans and Seattle) this season to rank in the top 10 in each category.
Offensively, a big key to the Colts' strong start has been the improved running game. Indianapolis ranks fourth in the NFL with 142.0 rushing yards per contest, but Ahmad Bradshaw won't be contributing to that any longer after deciding to undergo surgery on his injured neck.
Trent Richardson has taken over the starring role in the backfield and ran for 56 yards against Seattle while backup Donald Brown added 37 and a touchdown. They should be able to get something done against a San Diego defense which is just 24th in the league in rush defense.
"He's a powerful runner that a lot of times doesn't go down with the first hit," Chargers linebacker Larry English said when discussing Richardson. "We have to do a great job this week tackling."
The San Diego defense also has forced just two turnovers this season and is among the dregs of the league overall, allowing over 400 yards a game.
On the other hand, the Chargers possess the fifth-ranked offense, gaining an average of 401.6 yards per game. Rivers has been spectacular, completing 141- of-191 passes for 1,610 yards, 13 touchdowns and five interceptions for a passer rating of 110.5.
Attacking the Colts on the ground, though, is paramount because Indy ranks 30th in football, allowing 129.0 ypg. Mathews' concussion, however, could keep him out Monday, leaving Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown to handle the backfield load, which could help the Colts.
"They play great team defense," Brown said. "They always have that bend-but- don't-break mentality, so on offense we have to go in and not give them any extra possessions."
The Colts have outscored opponents by 54 points in their first two road games this season, which is the highest point differential through as many away games in franchise history.
That's unlikely to continue here because Rivers is so explosive but you can certainly envision a big Chargers mistake costing them in the end.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Colts 30, Chargers 27
10/11 13:27:59 ET