DENVER (AP) – Von Miller has been chasing Andrew Luck around since the summer. He gets the chance to catch him on Sunday.
The stars are playing under new, standard-setting deals that were as jaw dropping as they were bar raising.
Colts owner Jim Irsay had promised a shocking deal for his franchise quarterback, and after relatively little drama, he delivered in late June when he signed Luck to an extension featuring a record $87 million in guarantees.
Miller and John Elway began patching up their rocky relationship two weeks later when the Broncos GM signed his Super Bowl 50 MVP to a deal with $70 million guaranteed, most ever for a nonquarterback .
The two meet on the field Sunday when Denver (1-0) hosts Indianapolis (0-1). Miller figures it’ll be in the Colts’ backfield early and often, and Luck hopes it’s not until the post-game handshake.
“I haven’t had a sack on him yet,” said Miller, who has 61 sacks in his career. “I got close and he just has that knack for keeping his eyes downfield, feeling the defense and still making great passes.”
The Colts are coming off a 39-35 loss to Detroit that left their psyche bruised and their secondary in tatters
The Broncos are coming off a clobbering of Cam Newton in a 21-20 win over Carolina that left them defending their defense against charges they’ve gone from dominant and dazzling to downright dirty.
“Just because we hit Cam in the head a couple of times, that doesn’t make us dirty,” insisted linebacker Brandon Marshall, who had one of four helmet-to-helmet hits on Carolina’s big quarterback – and drew a $24,309 fine to go with safety Darian Stewart’s $18,231 citation.
Luck didn’t have to watch Denver’s defense nearly as closely as the league’s disciplinarians did during the week to know how Denver’s defense can put a serious hurt on the quarterback.
Luck led the Colts to a big win over the Broncos last year, but ended up in the hospital afterward with a lacerated kidney and torn abdominal muscle that sidelined him for the rest of the season.
“As a quarterback you have an obligation to be on the field,” Luck said. “That involves taking care of your body. Situationally, there are times when I need to slide or throw the ball away and I’ve been working on that.”
The Broncos return all but two starters from last year’s No. 1-ranked defense, and one of the newcomers, inside linebacker Todd Davis, earned a game ball as the unit’s top player against the Panthers.
Other keys to the first Colts-Broncos game since Oct. 3, 1993, that didn’t feature Peyton Manning:
DIRTY DEEDS: Luck used these adjectives to describe Denver’s defense: tough, physical, great, winning, well-coached. His coach, Chuck Pagano, called the Broncos athletic, attacking, swarming. What neither called them was dirty. Said Luck: “I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that” description. Pagano praised the Broncos’ pass rush, speed, closing quickness and cover skills, adding, “They’re a physical, physical unit.”
SUSPECT SECONDARY: After getting his first NFL pass, fourth-quarter comeback and victory last week, QB Trevor Siemian faces a patchwork secondary in Week 2. The Colts came out of their opener without their top three CBs: Vontae Davis (ankle), Patrick Robinson (concussion) and Darius Butler (ankle), and three of their top four safeties: T.J. Green (ankle), Clayton Geathers (foot) and Winston Guy (ankle).
SCUFFLING STAR: Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas had a terrific training camp as he pledged to atone for 2015, when he was bedeviled by dropped passes and a big decline in TDs. Then he reinjured his bothersome left hip in the opener. He’s hoping the five-day break will help. “You pray about it, you work, you keep getting your treatment and hopefully by game day, you’ll be ready to go,” he said. “Hopefully, nothing freaky happens.”
BRONCO’S BEGINNINGS: When Elway matched Miami’s four-year, $18 million contract offer to C.J. Anderson, he told the third-year running back it was imperative for him to start fast in 2016 after poky beginnings to the last two seasons. Anderson delivered in the opener, rushing 20 times for 92 yards and a score, catching four passes for 47 yards and a TD against one of the fiercest front sevens in football.
SLOW STARTS: Luck may be a master of the comeback, but he’s had it with the slow starts . Indy has faced 27 double-digit halftime deficits since 2012, and somehow has made the playoffs three times. The Colts fell behind the Lions 21-3 last week. “You can’t spot a team 18 points in the NFL,” lamented Luck, who would have pulled off his 15th winning drive had Indy’s depleted defense made one last stand against Detroit.
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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