Run game helped lift Colts' passing game

INDIANPOLIS – Life without receiver Reggie Wayne will likely continue to be an ongoing topic with quarterback Andrew Luck and the rest of the Indianapolis Colts' receivers for the rest of the season.

Luck's average pass traveled 9.4 yards downfield with Wayne in the lineup this season. In the three games since Wayne went out with a torn ACL, that average has decreased to 7.0 yards.

It was even lower in Thursday's victory over the Tennessee Titans. Luck averaged just 6.0 yards a pass attempt, the second-lowest rate of his career.

But don’t get discouraged.

The Colts are 5-1 when Luck’s passes travel 7.7 yards or fewer. They used underneath passes to move the ball and keep drives alive. Luck completed passes to eight different receivers, with tight end Coby Fleener leading the way with eight catches for a career-high 107 yards. Luck's 63.9 completion percentage was his highest since completing 65.4 percent of his attempts against San Francisco in Week 3.

An improved running game helped the Colts’ passing game. They rushed for 137 yards against the Titans.

Luck didn’t have that luxury against St. Louis on Nov. 10. He threw for a season-high 353 yards, but he did so while being under pressure most of the afternoon and also throwing a season-high three interceptions.

Part of the problem in that game was that the Colts dug themselves a 28-point hole in the first half. The other issue was that they were predictable on offense because they only rushed for 18 yards in the game.

“Any time you can have the success running the football, it opens up everything else,” coach Chuck Pagano said. “We had a lot of catch-and-run situations [against the Titans], shallow crossers and things like that. The defense is going to dictate how long you can sit back there in the pocket. … We have opportunities to take our shots, we’re going to take them. We need to loosen guys up and take four or five shots a game down the field, give our guys a chance to make a play and try to take the pressure off. If they’re going to be blitzing you and bringing guys and playing man coverage, then you got to try to hit them.”