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  • 06 Aug

    id=content_id>LANDOVER Nyheim
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    , Md. (AP) — Andrew Luck could recall a critical
    error the Indianapolis Colts made on almost every possession, some he made.When
    it mattered most, he was almost perfect. Luck shook off two interceptions and
    capped a methodical drive with his second touchdown of the game to help the
    Colts beat the Washington Redskins 21-9 Sunday and pick up their first victory
    of the season. Luck was 21 of 31 for 179 yards and had a TD pass in a 25th
    consecutive game, the longest active streak in the NFL. He was 7 of 8 for 62
    yards on a 13-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in a Luck-to-T.Y. Hilton score
    that put Indianapolis (1-1) up 21-9 early in the fourth quarter.“When we needed
    to, we put a drive together and got points,” Luck said. “On the longer drive
    where we ended up with a touchdown, everybody, we all just did our jobs and we
    did them well.”Executing first-year coach Frank Reich’s creative play-calling
    scheme, Luck also found Eric Ebron for a touchdown on the game’s opening drive.
    The balanced offensive attack with 27 rushing and 31 passing attempts kept the
    Redskins’ defense off balance and allowed Luck to pick apart a secondary that
    struggled in coverage and tackling.The Colts avoided starting 0-2 for the first
    time since 2013.“We felt like we let one slip last week,” Hilton said. “In the
    third quarter we kind of went back to our ways and then we picked it up in the
    fourth quarter and got it going.”After putting up a Week 1-best 182 rushing
    yards, the Redskins (1-1) put up just 65 yards on 22 carries. Adrian Peterson
    was limited to 20 yards on 11 carries, and receiver Jamison Crowder was actually
    Washington’s leading rusher with 29 yards on two sweep plays.Dropped balls and
    shoddy offensive line play hampered QB Alex Smith on a day he was 33 of 46 for
    292 yards.“Our running game suffered and we were pretty much one-dimensional,”
    coach Jay Gruden said. “We didn’t have a very good run plan. … Didn’t give
    (Peterson) any good looks.LEONARD TIMEColts rookie linebacker Darius Leonard was
    a disruptive force in run and pass defense. The second-round pick had a
    game-high 18 tackles, sacked Smith and forced Jordan Reed to fumble in the
    fourth quarter, the play that sent fans to the exits.“He’s been doing that all
    camp,” defensive lineman Al Woods said. “It was a matter of time before he
    brought it out. Kudos to him: He brought it out at the right time and we love
    him for that.”EMPTY SEATSGood seats in the second deck were still available well
    into the second half in the first non-sellout of a Redskins home game since
    1967. Fans who did make the trip booed the Redskins at the two-minute warning in
    the second quarter and off the field at halftime.“If you don’t give them
    anything to cheer about, they’re probably going to
    boo ,”
    said left tackle Trent Williams, who was twice flagged for false starts.The paid
    attendance was listed as 57,013.INJURIESColts: DL Hassan Ridgeway left in the
    second quarter with a calf injury. … CB Quincy Wilson was evaluated for a
    concussion and did not return. … LT Anthony Castonzo was out again with a
    hamstring injury.Redskins: RG Brandon Scherff was evaluated for a right knee
    injury and returned. … Williams went down with a knee injury and said he still
    has complications from offseason surgery. He returned to the game. … WR Maurice
    Harris was inactive for a second straight week with a concussion.QUOTABLEReich
    on blown leads: “There’s probably a moment in there where some people are
    saying, ‘Oh here we go again’ when the third quarter starts. That thought
    probably went through everybody’s mind. That’s fair. That’s fair until we prove
    otherwise.”UP NEXTColts: Visit the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia
    Eagles.Redskins: Host Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. INDIANAPOLIS —
    Suddenly, the Indianapolis Colts are creating a buzz around town.They ran the
    ball effectively Sunday against one of the league’s top defenses, stymied two of
    the league’s premier receivers in back-to-back weeks and ended Houston’s
    nine-game win streak and Dallas’ five-game win streak.Earning victories in their
    last two games could send the Colts back to the playoffs for the first time in
    four years and they could be a difficult matchup in the postseason, if they make
    it.“I can absolutely feel a significant difference in the last few weeks
    compared to the beginning of the year,” coach Frank Reich said when asked about
    the atmosphere around town.“Not that I get out very much because I don’t, but
    the little bit I do, the Starbucks in the morning or wherever it may be on a
    Friday night for dinner with my wife. You can feel the excitement by the fans
    and it’s exciting for all of us here in the building. It’s fun to see.”It’s been
    a long time coming for a team that seemed like an annual postseason lock for a
    15-year span starting in 1999.When the Colts went 8-8 and missed the playoffs in
    2015, fans largely considered it an aberration because Andrew Luck missed nine
    games with injuries.Luck returned in 2016, but when the Colts again finished 8-8
    and missed out, the debate changed. Many wondered if the team needed a fresh
    start and team owner Jim Irsay responded by firing general manager Ryan
    Grigson.Then with Luck missing all of last season to recuperate from surgery on
    his throwing shoulder, the Colts staggered to a 4-12 mark, missed the playoffs
    for the third straight year and coach Chuck Pagano was fired.Many outsiders
    figured the Colts needed a major overhaul, a perception that was reinforced by
    Josh McDaniels’ decision to back out of a deal to become Indy’s new head coach
    shortly after New England’s Super Bowl loss, Luck’s lingering rehab and Indy’s
    1-5 start this season.But general manager Chris Ballard and Reich, Indy’s second
    choice as coach Jacoby
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    , have put together a winning combination by staying the
    course.100View Gallery
    Gallery:View from the sidelines: NFL cheerleaders 2018Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
    | Raj MehtaThe balanced offense Grigson and Pagano craved for so long finally
    materialized after Indy (8-6) found two key solutions to its offensive line woes
    in the draft — left guard Quenton Nelson and right tackle Braden Smith. Luck
    benefited by turning in the best season of his career and the Colts have
    overcome injuries to win seven of their past eight.“A good leader will get guys
    to do what he wants them to do and believe in themselves whether you’re 1-5 or
    7-1 through the last eight games,” offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni said
    Tuesday.“It’s obviously his leadership abilities and then Frank being an example
    of what we want players to be. What I mean by that, is that we want players to
    be the same guy every single day. … Frank definitely does that because he is the
    same guy every day.”The defense might be the biggest surprise.After years of
    languishing near the bottom of the league rankings, first-year coordinator Matt
    Eberflus has worked wonders.Originally hired by McDaniels and inherited by
    Reich, with a strong recommendation from Ballard, the Colts made Pro Bowl
    receivers Amari Cooper and DeAndre Hopkins look ordinary the past two weeks
    while holding NFL rushing leader Ezekiel Elliott to 87 yards rushing and
    pitching their first shutout in more than four years on Sunday.They’ve
    consistently put pressure on quarterbacks, forced turnovers and against the
    Cowboys delivered big play after big play with a simple philosophy — run to the
    ball.“Hustle is a learned skill,” Eberflus said. “It is the coach’s job to stay
    on it with the player to give him the feedback on every single play. That starts
    way back in OTAs (offseason team activities, all the way through minicamp and
    then through training camp every single play.”Now comes the hard part —
    finishing strong.A victory over the struggling Giants, coupled with a loss by
    either Pittsburgh or Baltimore this weekend, would give the Colts control of
    their destiny in the season finale at Tennessee (8-6), a team Luck has never
    lost to as a starter.It’s enough to get everybody outside the locker room
    talking about potential playoff matchups for the first time in four years.“We’re
    playing great football,” receiver T.Y. Hilton said after Indy’s most recent
    victory. “Right now, you’re either the train or you’re on the tracks. Right now,
    we’re rolling, so you better get on the train.”NOTES: Indy put starting
    defensive tackle Al Woods (foot) and backup linebacker Skai Moore on injured
    reserve Tuesday. Safety J.J. Wilcox was signed to the active roster, taking the
    spot of Woods. Former Indiana University star linebacker Tegray Scales was added
    to the practice squad.100View
    Gallery Gallery:View from the sidelines: NFL cheerleaders 2018Raj
    Mehta-USA TODAY Sports | Raj Mehta