INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Andrew Luck kept pleading with coach Frank Reich to stick with the ground game Sunday.
Reich gladly granted his wish.
After throwing 164 passes the previous three weeks, Luck watched his runners deliver the hard shots and took advantage of the openings by throwing for four touchdowns in a 37-5 rout over Buffalo.
“When you run the ball really, really well, the byproduct is throwing the ball efficiently,” Luck said.
It seems as though with the Colts getting healthy, the offense is more in sync.
Running back Marlon Mack returned from an injured hamstring last week and the Colts responded with back-to-back season-high rushing totals. Even Buffalo’s No. 3 ranked defense couldn’t slow down the Colts, who ran for 220 yards — the highest total in Luck’s seven seasons.
Indy hadn’t topped 200 yards since Dec. 18, 2011 against Tennessee, and Mack had a career-high 126 yards on 19 carries.
Luck, meanwhile, went 17 of 23 with 156 yards, hooked up with receiver T.Y. Hilton for two TD passes, another to Mack and one to Eric Swoope.
As a result, Indy (2-5) snapped a four-game losing streak, pulled off its most lopsided victory since a 37-3 victory over Jacksonville on Sept. 29, 2013 and finally celebrated the franchise’s 300th win since moving from Baltimore to Indianapolis in 1984.
Indy was in such command, Luck even made the wise decision to run out of bounds at the Bills 1-yard line in the fourth quarter rather than risk an unnecessary hit by reaching for the goal line.
“I was really proud on the 1 where he ran out of bounds because I told him if you get into scramble mode take care of yourself,” Reich said. “So we had the conversation on the sideline and fortunately he listened.”
The only thing that didn’t go according to script was Adam Vinatieri breaking Morten Andersen’s career scoring record.
Vinatieri scored five points to move within five of becoming the NFL’s scoring leader despite missing two extra points in one game for the first time in his career.
But it didn’t matter against the Bills’ struggling offense. Buffalo (2-5) has lost two straight and three of four despite benching turnover-prone Nathan Peterman and starting 35-year-old Derek Anderson in place of the injured Josh Allen.
Anderson went 20 of 31 with 175 yards, three interceptions and lost a fumble in his first start since December 2016.
Putting offensive coordinator Brian Daboll on the field for the first time this season didn’t help either. Buffalo has two touchdowns and 31 points in its last four games.
“I just have to be better with the ball, have better awareness,” Anderson said. “I’m not going to pout about it. I expect more from myself. I came here to help this team win football games.”
On Sunday, Luck did all the winning things.
He hooked up with Swoope on a 17-yard pass early in the second quarter and found Mack wide open in the right flat for a 29-yard scoring play — just before taking a hit. Mack’s conversion run made it 14-0.
Hilton’s 5-yard TD catch extended the lead to 21-0 and Mike Mitchell’s 47-yard interception return just before halftime set up Vinatieri for a 36-yard field goal to make it 24-0.
All the Bills could muster in the second half was a 34-yard field goal from Stephen Hauschka and a safety when Ryan Kelly’s snap sailed over the head of Luck and rolled through the end zone.
“I think our team needed a game like this to see what happens when we do the little things right, and we did that,” Luck said. “It was a joy to watch.”
Bills: Buffalo started the game with only four active receivers before losing running back LeSean McCoy with a head injury on the second play of the game. McCoy’s replacement, Chris Ivory, left briefly in the third quarter but returned and finished with 16 carries for 81 yards.
Colts: Defensive tackle Jihad Ward was carted off the field with an injured right ankle in the first quarter and Swoope left with a knee injury. Neither returned.
Bills: Buffalo did not have a sack. … Kelvin Benjamin had four catches for 71 yards, 32 yards coming on one reception.
Colts: Indy rushed for 116 yards in the first half, its highest first-half total since September 2009 and the sixth-highest total by the franchise since 1950. … Vinatieri has missed two or more extra points only four times in a season during his 23-year career.
Bills: Host division rival New England next Monday night.
Colts: Will try to build momentum at Oakland before heading into the bye week.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/tag/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL