Rex Ryan vs. T.Y. Hilton
Hilton is the home-run hitter of the Colts’ offense. He ranked sixth in the NFL in receiving yards last season (1,345) and sixth in yards per catch (16.1). He was New England’s top priority in the Pats’ two wins over the Colts last season. They held him to just four total catches by playing a safety over the top of him virtually every play. How much respect would the Bills show him? Not quite as much as the Pats. On 35 Colts pass plays in the first three quarters (before Hilton exited with a knee injury), Ryan put a safety over the top on Hilton’s side about half the time. It worked. Ronald Darby had Hilton one on one on his early interception. Stephon Gilmore had him manned up on a second-quarter sack by Nigel Bradham. Hilton had seven catches but didn’t kill the Bills.
Doug Whaley vs. Ryan Grigson
It’s fashionable to criticize Grigson, the Colts’ general manager, if only for his awful trade that produced bust draft pick Trent Richardson. But that’s just one reason Grigson has not done enough to help take the weight off his franchise quarterback, Andrew Luck. The one prime draft pick he has devoted to defense was first-round edge rusher Bjoern Werner in 2013, who lost his starting job this year and barely played Sunday. The Colts had the oldest defense in the league last year and are hoping for more older veterans to fill holes. The offensive line isn’t talented enough. The Colts are even more reliant on Luck than they were on Peyton Manning for all those years. Meanwhile, Whaley pushed lot of buttons this offseason that may push the Bills ahead of the Colts. New additions all over the field keyed the season-opening victory.
Bills’ front seven vs. Frank Gore
The idea behind the signing of the 32-year-old Gore as a free agent from San Francisco made sense. Let the run game take heat off Luck. Gore averaged at least 4.1 yards a carry 10 straight years and has four straight 1,000-yard seasons. But the Colts don’t like to run. Facing a fierce Bills pass rush, the Colts ran eight times and passed 24 in the first half when the game was close.
What else is new? They ran just 31 percent in the first half last year, second least in the NFL.
“We knew what type of runs they had and we executed well,” said Bills linebacker Preston Brown. “They ran two crack tosses on us. Other than that they run the power and counter. That was the basic plays we knew they were going to run, and they stayed to form.”