MP: Obviously Andrew Luck [is an] extremely good athlete, someone that can extend plays, not only to run, but also just in the passing game. I think it’s something that kind of has a dual-threat about him, where he has the ability to tuck the ball down, run and gain substantial yardage. He’s a big guy, he’s a fast guy, so he’s quick to get vertical into the defense when he makes those decisions. The other part of him in the passing game is that, if there is a breakdown in protection or if it’s a designed play where they’re trying to move him out of the pocket, he has that athletic ability to be able to get out, get into some open space, keep his eyes downfield, find his receivers, and turn some of those scramble plays into big passing plays, so certainly there’s that whole element along with it. Obviously he’s got a great arm, he’s a very good athlete, he’s a big guy, so he’s hard to get down initially when you get to him anyways, and then his ability to escape out of the pocket and either run or extend plays is certainly something that we have to deal with.
Q: Is he a lot like Ben Roethlisberger in that way?
MP: He’s a lot like Andrew Luck. I think he’s kind of a guy that’s got his own skill set, and he’s certainly a player that excels at all those positives that he has, so I don’t know if you want to compare him singularly to anyone. I mean, he has a lot of attributes of a lot of good quarterbacks, and he certainly is a good one himself.
Q: What do you see in T.Y. Hilton as a receiver, and what challenge does he present to your defense?
MP: Obviously a very explosive, very quick, very fast player; a guy who looks like he’s really taken some strides from year one to year two in regards to his overall knowledge of the game, especially offensively as far as what they’re doing. He does a great job of being able to be the guy that can catch a shorter route and turn it into a big play; certainly go vertical, get downfield very quickly, and get a big play, that aspect also. Just a very dangerous player that they’ve done a good job of really getting the ball to him obviously in critical situations, and have gotten some great plays, so he’s certainly a player that will be a big challenge for us to handle.
Q: Do the Colts move Hilton around a lot in their formation, or does he pretty much stay in one spot and you know where he’s going to be?
MP: Yeah, no I think Pep Hamilton and his staff have certainly done a good job of really trying to change all of their skill players and really give you different looks every single week as far as what they’re doing, even from personnel to formations, and he is certainly someone that they will move around and put in different spots and really make you have to try to prepare and be alert and aware for him in all different positions, so they do a great job as far as that’s concerned with the game plan of trying to strategically place all of their guys.
Q: How difficult is Coby Fleener to cover, and what matchup problems does he pose as a tight end? Do they move him around in the formation as well?
MP: He’s obviously been a very good player for them and is a guy that Andrew Luck is familiar with, so there’s a good chemistry and relationship between the two players there, and certainly he provides some issues with – he’s got great length, he’s a big, tall guy, he’s got a long catch radius, and certainly a guy that they can put the ball, and Luck can put the ball in many different places that he can go up and get it. He does a good job of pushing vertical into the defense, he can read zone and man coverage and either work off leverage or sit down and find the open spaces. Obviously he does a good job blocking for them too, he’s in there on the run plays. Certainly the run game is an issue too with Donald Brown and [Trent] Richardson, and they’ve done a good job there also. But Fleener is definitely a guy that is an integral part of their offense, and another player, again, like I said, really in general, their offense, whether it’s Hilton or [LaVon] Brazill or [Griff] Whalen or [Da’Rick] Rodgers, I mean, whoever is in there, [Darrius] Heyward-Bey, they will move those guys all around, including Fleener, so they’ll put him in different positions so that you do have to try to figure out where everybody is and get lined up and everything.
Q: What do you see in the Colts run game?
MP: They really do a good job of just staying persistent with the run game. They get downhill into the line of scrimmage quickly and with good power. I certainly think they do a good job of trying to move the pile, and then they’re explosive too if they can get through there, obviously starting with [Donald] Brown, if they get a little crack or a little seam, they can push it through and turn a little gain into a big gain, so certainly hard runners. They do a great job of not allowing the first defender in there to tackle them, it usually takes a couple guys to try to get them down, and they do a good job of just – they just keep coming with the run game, and then obviously Luck is going to be a part of that too, and they have a couple variations where you’ve got to honor him as a player that can keep the ball and get outside on the edge. So certainly they give you different challenges and different looks, whether it’s the two-back run game or the one-back run game, the zone game, they have pullers, different scheme runs that they run, so they really do a good job of mixing all of those different looks and schemes up, and throwing them all at you.
Q: In this age of Sharpies, I’ve noticed that you always have a pencil tucked behind your ear for games. Is it habit or tradition, or do you find it useful in some way?
MP: Well, pencils don’t run out and they work in the rain. No, I don’t know, I just always have a pencil with me.
Q: I was just wondering if pencils work in the rain because of the paper factor.
MP: Sure. Yeah.
Q: Is this an offense that typically likes to string together a long series of plays, or are they capable, as we saw on Saturday against the Chiefs, of scoring quickly on any play anywhere?
MP: Yeah, obviously they have both elements. They have tremendous speed downfield to be able to get vertical in the defense and hit the home run if they need to or if they have it dialed up, they’ll try to do that in each series if they have it, they see something and try to get the ball vertical downfield, they certainly will do that. They do a good job, though, of trying to run the methodic type of drive where it’s going to be ball-control, they’re going to hand the ball off, they’re going to throw a controlled pass and just kind of keep pounding at you that way too. I think with the run game, obviously the explosiveness comes when they do get that edge or they do break through the line of scrimmage and now they have the ability to gain not four yards but now 15 to 20 yards as they push through the defense very quickly, vertically into the defense, so they do a good job with that.
Q: How much has T.Y. Hilton’s role in the Colts offense changed since Reggie Wayne has been out? Have they tried to highlight him more now that Wayne is on Injured Reserve?
MP: I wouldn’t say they necessarily have said, ‘Alright, this is the only guy we have.’ They have a lot of skill guys, they have a lot of guys that are open that make big plays for them and do a good job in the system. So, I think obviously T.Y. Hilton has done a great job and is someone that has had some good, solid games for them and some big statistical numbers, and he does a great job and is certainly a problem, but there are other skill guys out there on the field that are open and are an integral part of their offense, whether it’s the catch-and-run plays or the in-cuts, the vertical down-fields, all those types of things where they’re spreading the ball around, and I think Luck does try to do that. I think he really takes a look at the defense and tries to dissect it and go to the proper read or progression in the passing game, and certainly Hilton is just an extremely good player that is open quite a bit. I think they’ve done a good job here with the personnel they have in really kind of fitting the system and [have] been very productive here.
Q: When you look at the Colts’ body of work over the course of the year, do you see a significant amount of mental burden that they are putting on Andrew Luck this season, and if so, how rare is that to see a young quarterback handling as much as Luck has?
MP: I certainly think you can definitely see over the course of two years how he has just definitely matured as a quarterback, and he’s grown and learned their system, not only their system, but also defense and progressions and also just kind of how they operate their system throughout this year has really changed, and he’s done a good job of handling that. So I think obviously you’re talking about a really smart guy who understands the game, a guy who studies hard, works hard, and you can see him do things on the field, whether it’s changing the play or adjusting a player or route, some sort of communication between himself and the wide receivers and the running back, even working with the offensive line to make sure either the run is directed in the right way or the protection is put in the right way, so he certainly does handle all of that. I think it’s something you see in good, young quarterbacks that are learning through the system, so he’s certainly done a good job of progressing, and you can really see the difference over the course of the season, but also the course of the two years in the league. He certainly is playing extremely well right now.
Q: Is he significantly more difficult to prepare for this time around than he was a year ago?
MP: I’m not really going back to last year. It’s different. I would say he’s difficult to prepare for for this weekend.