Colts host 49ers, look to avoid getting swept by NFC West
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The Indianapolis Colts will try not to not get swept by the NFC West when they host the San Francisco 49ers at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.
Because of a bizarre schedule, Indianapolis (1-3) will complete its games versus the division in Week 5. The Colts lost to the Los Angeles Rams on the road in Week 1, fell at home to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 2 and were crushed by the Seahawks at Seattle in Week 4.
The Colts, without injured quarterback Andrew Luck, handed the reins to Jacoby Brissett. The backup was 14 of 20 passing for 142 yards with a touchdown to wide receiver Donte Moncrief against Seattle and an interception that was returned for a TD.
In an atrocious second half, Brissett was 2 of 9 for 15 yards.
"You have to just find a way to stop the bleeding. You have to make plays," Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano said. "You have to answer and you have to respond. We did it in the first half (against the Seahawks). You have to do it for 60 minutes. You have got to be better. You have to play better. You have to coach better. You have to do everything better."
The quarterback situation and overall offense with the 49ers (0-4) may be worse. Coach Kyle Shanahan is known as a quarterback guru, but the play of his hand-picked starter, Brian Hoyer, isn't making him look good.
Hoyer is completing 58.1 percent of his passes and was 24 of 49 last week in a 18-15 overtime loss to Arizona. He has two touchdown passes and four interceptions.
"He needs to play better," Shanahan said when talking about Hoyer's inefficiencies this season. "When you have the time and you've got guys open, you need to hit them. I thought he struggled with that at times, which I know he can do better."
The 49ers have a promising young defense which has played better than the team's record, though injuries to linebacker Reuben Foster (high ankle sprain) and strong safety Eric Reid (knee) likely will keep them out of the Colts game.
The unit produced six sacks against the Carson Palmer-led Cardinals and will look to enjoy that same success against Brissett and a MASH unit Indianapolis offensive line.
The 49ers' defensive front is led by defensive end DeForest Buckner and rookie defensive tackle Solomon Thomas. The 49ers, with one of the youngest defenses in the NFL, are tied for sixth in the NFL in fewest yards per play allowed at 4.9.
Where San Francisco's defense has issues is giving up touchdowns. The group is ranked 24th in the NFL in yielding 23.5 points per game.
The unit must shut down the rushing attack led by former 49er Frank Gore, who along with Brissett has scored two touchdowns on the ground this season. San Francisco linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong leads the team in tackles and will need to attack the line of scrimmage to keep the Colts' rushing attack from getting started.
The Colts' defense is the worst in the NFL, permitting 34 points per game. Indianapolis is yielding an average of 396.2 yards. Only the New England Patriots allow more yards.
San Francisco running back Carlos Hyde has battled through a hip injury to have a solid year with 321 yards and two touchdowns on 65 carries. Look for Hyde to carry the load again versus the Colts, especially with wide receiver Marquise Goodwin possibly out with a concussion.
T.Y. Hilton's production as Indianapolis' top receiver is a bit off without Luck throwing him the ball. Hilton has 17 receptions for 289 yards and a touchdown after recording 25 catches for 336 yards and two scores through four games last season.
Colts tight end Jack Doyle (17 catches, 163 yards) is questionable to play, as he is in the concussion protocol. He was on pace to eclipse his career high of 59 catches set last season.
San Francisco's top receiver is Pierre Garcon, who has 20 catches for 283 yards.
This game could come down to field goals, and two of the best kickers in the game will be showcased.
Robbie Gould of the 49ers is 11 of 11 this season, and the Colts boast Adam Vinatieri, who is 5 of 6 and is comfortable kicking at home in Lucas Oil Stadium.
Updated October 4, 2017