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Redskins-Colts: 4 Keys To The Game

A look back at some of the top images in games between the Washington Redskins and Indianapolis Colts.

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Redskins.com's Andrew Walker breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday's Redskins-Colts 2014 Week 13 showdown in Indianapolis.

"Redskins-Colts: 4 Keys To The Game" is presented by Papa John's. Every Monday, fans can order a large cheese pizza for only $9.99, plus for each touchdown that the Redskins score, fans get one free topping. And with a Redskins victory, fans get double the toppings.


COLT TAKES ON THE COLTS[

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Redskins head coach Jay Gruden on Wednesday announced quarterback Colt McCoy would get the start under center for Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts. McCoy — a five-year veteran out of Texas — has enjoyed success in limited action for Washington this season, leading the team to victories in both games in which he has appeared — a last-second, 19-17 victory Week 7 against the Tennessee Titans, and an impressive 20-17 overtime victory against the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas, in front of a national audience on Monday Night Football.

Against the Colts, McCoy hopes to continue being efficient, a common theme in his two appearances this season. In all, he has completed 36-of-42 passes (85.7 percent) for 427 yards and a touchdown — a 70-yarder to Pierre Garçon against the Titans on his first pass of the year — and he also has 19 yards rushing, including a gutsy seven-yard touchdown run against the Cowboys. One-and-a-half games is a small sample size, but head coach Jay Gruden thinks McCoy has a tremendous grip on his offense, and is looking for him to take advantage of the opportunity that has been handed to him.

"Colt's 2-0 and he played very well at Dallas on Monday Night Football. He played very well in the second half of Tennessee," Gruden said. "I feel very strongly that players who play well, practice well, deserve another opportunity if they do, and I feel that very strongly about Colt. I feel like he deserves an opportunity to get a shot again."

McCoy is facing a Colts defense that has had its Helter Skelter moments in 2014. It allowed just 13 points against the Baltimore Ravens and pitched a shutout against the Cincinnati Bengals, but also melted down against the Pittsburgh Steelers, allowing 51 points, and the New England Patriots, allowing 42 points.

The Hobbs, N.M., native also has had success against the Colts in the past, going into Indy Week 2 of the 2011 season as a member of the Cleveland Browns and completing 22-of-32 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown in a 27-19 victory.

FILL YOUR GAPS
Since being selected No. 1 overall by the Colts in the 2012 NFL Draft, quarterback Andrew Luck has certainly lived up to the hype. The Stanford product this year has established himself as as a Most Valuable Player candidate by leading the league's No. 1 offense, completing 294-of-464 passes for 3,641 yards and 29 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions, while also adding 193 yards rushing and two touchdowns on the ground for Indianapolis this season.

The best of the Redskins-Colts preseason game on Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012.

Even when the Colts have struggled at times this season, Luck has been impressive. In their 51-34 loss Week 8 against the Steelers, he completed 64 percent of his passes for 344 yards and three touchdowns; in their 42-20 loss Week 11 to the Patriots, he threw for another 303 yards and two touchdowns.

It'll be extremely difficult for the Redskins' defense to slow Luck down, especially in front of his home crowd. So while defensive coordinator Jim Haslett dials up some plays to try to rattle Luck into some mistakes, he knows that containing Indianapolis' running attack — which will take a disciplined, gap-focused approach — will be huge on Sunday.

The Colts rank 17th in the league with a 110.7 rushing yards-per-game average, and have spent the past two weeks trying to overcome the loss of starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who was lost for the year against the Patriots after suffering a fractured fibula. Last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis elected to start Daniel "Boom" Herron, who ran the ball 12 times for 65 yards, and also had five receptions.

The team's backup running back, Trent Richardson, still hasn't been able to find the top-notch form he displayed during his rookie season with the Cleveland Browns, when he ran for 950 yards and had another 367 yards receiving. Since that time, he has averaged just 3.1 yards per carry.

KEEP FEEDING ALF
Alfred Morris is back.

With 125 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, Morris turned in his strongest performance of the year, breaking the century-mark for the first time this season, and continued an upward trend he started seven weeks ago.

Since registering just 29 rushing yards Week 5 against the Seattle Seahawks, Morris has, in order, produced games of 41, 54, 73, 92, 96 and 125 rushing yards. His 826 total rushing yards currently ranks sixth in the league.

So how did he do it? Morris said he just simply "stopped trying to think too much."

"I've been playing this game since I was 5," he said. "I know how to be a runner. I just stopped thinking and stopped trying to make things happen that weren't there."

Gruden said he's glad something clicked within his third-year running back.

"I don't know if it's the confidence of really pressing the hole, pressing the line of scrimmage and being decisive with his reads and his cuts," Gruden said. "You can see that he's really doing a good job of pressing it and then when he makes a decision to cut it or to bounce it, he is very confident with it and he runs through tackles, which is the Alfred that we really need and love."

It'll be crucial for the Redskins to keep feeding Morris on Sunday against the Colts, who haven't exactly been stout against the run this season. Their 4.5 yards-per-carry allowed average this season is tied with the Green Bay Packers and the Cleveland Browns for fourth-worst in the league.

With McCoy under center, Morris was able to come to life in the second half of the Redskins' victory over the Dallas Cowboys. Look for this trend to continue Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

BE ALERT ON SPECIAL TEAMS
How often do you face an opponent that has a legitimate playmaker at the punter position? Well, that's exactly what the Colts have in Pat McAfee, who has consistently been one of the league's top punters the past few seasons, but is also the NFL's top kickoff specialist.

This season, McAfee is second to Washington's Tress Way in the NFL in punting average at 47.5 yards per punt, and when his kicks are returned, they are being taken an average of just 3.5 yards — also second in the league. Then, on kickoffs, McAfee has a league-high-tying 73 kicks with an NFL-best 56 touchbacks.

Not bad for a kicker.

But go back to those kickoffs for a minute. McAfee has been so respected as a kickoff specialist this season that he has been able to sneak in three onside kick attempts. The Colts have recovered every single one of them.

Only one team in the NFL — the New York Giants — have even recovered one onside kick the entire 2014 season. McAfee has been responsible for three of them.

So you can bet Redskins special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica is really stressing to his players this week to keep their heads on a swivel anytime McAfee is on the field. The field position battle hasn't always gone Washington's way this season, and on Sunday they're facing a Colts team that is allowing its opponents an average starting field position at the 23.08-yard line, the best in the league, according to FootballOutsiders.com.

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