Lions vs. Colts preview: Keep Luck out of it

James Hawkins
The Detroit News
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James Hawkins breaks down Sunday's Lions-Colts game at Lucas Oil Stadium (4:25 p.m. Fox/WJR).

Andrew Luck is returning from a lacerated kidney that knocked him out in Week 9.

Colts to watch

Andrew Luck, QB: Beaten and battered for much of 2015, Luck returns. He missed two games with a right shoulder injury and later suffered a lacerated kidney in Week 9 that sidelined him the rest of the year. The young star will look to bounce back after posting a disappointing 2-5 record, where he had 1,881 yards passing, 15 TDs, 12 INTs and a 55.3 percent completion rate, the lowest since his rookie year.

Frank Gore, RB: The ageless wonder continues to wreak havoc between the tackles and seemingly always finds a way to pick up positive yardage. While Gore may not be able to outrun defenses anymore as he enters his 12th season, he’s capable of ripping off 20-yard runs and “still got some giddy-up,” Lions S Glover Quin said. Last season, Gore rushed for 967 yards and six TDs behind a mediocre line.

Ryan Kelly, C: The 6-foot-4, 313-pound rookie will be welcomed to the league by having to fend off DTs Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker. Kelly received rave reviews from QB Andrew Luck and should help provide some stability to a line that was a major liability, allowing 37 sacks and 118 quarterback hits (second-most in the league) a year ago.

Intangibles

Indy homecoming: Lions coach Jim Caldwell returns to Indianapolis to coach against his former team for the first time since he was let go following the 2011 season. Caldwell spent 10 years with the Colts organization and was 26-22 in three seasons as head coach.

Offense wanted:  The Colts and Lions had rather unimpressive exhibition offensive showings — neither first-team unit scored a TD. The Lions had three FGs and one red-zone turnover, while the Colts had two FGs, a turnover on downs and a red-zone turnover. “Once we got in the red area, we’d either shoot ourselves in the foot with a turnover, a fumble, an interception, a penalty,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said.

Pushing the pace: Under Jim Bob Cooter, the Lions offense flourished in the second half last season, averaging 26.1 points compared to 18.6 the first half. QB Matthew Stafford benefited the most, throwing 19 TDs and completing 70 percent of his passes during a 6-2 stretch to close the season.

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Healthhelps:  The Lions enter the season without any significant injuries, something the Colts can’t say. Indianapolis is already dealing with a myriad of concerns in the secondary and along the offensive line. The Colts could be without CB Vontae Davis, S Clayton Geathers and G Jack Mewhort, among others.

Facts and figures

■ The Lions are 4-3 in season openers with Matthew Stafford under center, with all three losses coming on the road. In seven openers, Stafford has thrown 10 TDs and nine INTs and averaged 271 yards passing.

■ The Colts haven’t had a 100-yard rusher in 50 consecutive regular-season games, which is the longest current streak in the league. The drought is the longest since the Bengals ended a 67-game streak in 1997 and is fifth-longest since 1960.

■ The Lions starting offensive line of Taylor Decker, Laken Tomlinson, Travis Swanson, Larry Warford and Riley Reiff have 14 combined seasons of experience, while veteran WR Anquan Boldin is entering his 14th season.

■ This is the first meeting between the Lions and Colts since Dec. 2, 2012, when Detroit lost 35-33 at Ford Field. The Lions are 0-1 at Lucas Oil Stadium and trail the series 21-18-2.

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