In other words, he's getting better and the Colts secondary has one starter (Bethea) who has any sort of long-term track record of success in the league. Tom Zbikowski has experience, but he's out with injury. Vontae Davis is coming back from injury, so he won't likely be sharp. The other defensive backs are still developing.
“When you've got two guys with the quality of Matthew and Calvin, they are as good as it gets in this league,” Arians said. “.don't get your heart broken if two guys are on (Johnson) and he still catches the ball, just play the next down.”
Suppose the Colts limit Johnson somehow (i.e., hold him to six or seven catches, 80 yards).
There's still the problem of the Colts offense dealing with a formidable pass rush and the recent history of Luck committing turnovers on the road. Some of those interceptions aren't Luck's fault. Too many factors go into each one.
But the Lions will bring the heat, and the edge of a team in desperation mode. It's not only Suh who causes grief for quarterbacks, it's Cliff Avril, Corey Williams, Nick Fairley and Kyle Vanden Bosch.
This hasn't been a great season for the Lions. But they have some great parts.
Luck knows the scoop, of course.
“Turnovers kill you,” he said. “I know that's sort of been our Achilles' heel on the road, committing turnovers. We'll have to stay away from those if we want a chance to win.”
Here's where Arians comes in, particularly as a coordinator. He jokes (sort of) that he has a half-dozen or more big-play passes in his game plan each week and doesn't want them going unused.
The trick on the road is to put Luck and the offense in position to move the ball without too many high-risk plays. They need to score touchdowns over field goals and, if there's any way possible, to play with a lead. Some of Luck's issues on the road have come under the scenario where the team has to go pass-heavy and the opponent has a lead and can gamble with pressure and aggressive coverage.
The good news is Luck has learned what works and doesn't over the course of the season. He's soaking everything in. He'll continue to get better in handling road games.
The Colts will likely need some unexpected plays outside the offense — another couple big T.Y. Hilton returns would be nice — to supplement the scoring.
Detroit would appear to be better than its record shows, but here's a final promising note for the Colts: There's a reason why the Lions are 4-7. It won't be easy to reveal that, but if the Colts do, they'll have their most significant win yet, and Arians will have Pagano smiling again.
Distributed by MCT Information Services