When the schedule was released, Sundays’ game looked like a formidable matchup between the Falcons and the up-and-coming Colts, who went to the AFC playoffs last season.
Some of the luster came off the game when former Colts quarterback Andrew Luck announced his surprise retirement from professional football for health reasons on Aug. 24.
Now, the Falcons (1-1) will face the Jacoby Brissett-led Indianapolis Colts (1-1) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn said he kept an eye on the Colts’ situation over the offseason and through the Luck retirement since the two teams don’t play often.
“I would say, you know, one of the things about (Andrew) Luck, man, I've always been impressed by his ability to make plays,” Quinn said. “You'd see him get out of the pocket, rip one … and his toughness. When I heard, I said, ‘Man, something must really be bothering him if it's gotten that spot.’ Because he -- I don't know him personally, but he is one hell of a competitor.’ ”
Quinn is familiar with Brissett, who started his college career at Florida before finishing at N.C. State. He was drafted by the Patriots in the third round of the 2016 draft and spent two seasons backing up Tom Brady before he was traded to the Colts.
With Brissett at quarterback, the Colts have relied heavily on their rushing attack.
Brissett, working mostly in the short passing game, completed 17 of 28 passes for 146 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in the 19-17 win over the Titans on Sunday.
The Colts’ rushing attack is led by running back Marlon Mack. They also have speedy a wide receiver in T.Y. Hilton and tight ends Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron.
Through two games, the Colts’ 370 rushing yards are the third most in franchise history in the first two weeks of a season.
Colts weakside linebacker Darius Leonard, who was the NFL’s defensive rookie of the year last season out of South Carolina State, is in the concussion protocol.
Leonard, according to Colts coach Frank Reich, developed symptoms after the win over the Titans. If Leonard is unable to play, the Colts can pick from rookies Bobby Okereke and E.J. Speed to step in.
Also, the Colts’ top cornerback Pierre Desir, suffered a knee injury against the Titans and did not return. Rock Ya Sin, a Southwest DeKalb High graduate who’s been playing about 60 percent of the snaps in the nickel defense, may get more action.
The Colts, who hoped to contend for the AFC title, signed defensive end Justin Houston, a former Georgia standout who also played for the Chiefs.
The Colts signed Brian Hoyer to back up Brissett on Sept. 2.
The Colts might get a boost from the return of defensive end Jabaal Sheard from knee surgery.
“We are hoping for continued progress,” Reich said of Sheard to the Indianapolis media. “He did get the one day last week where he was able to do just a little bit and work out a little bit on the side. So we might anticipate him taking a next step and being out there a little bit this week.”
Sheard, 30, has been out since July 25 in training camp after he had some soreness and swelling in his knee.
Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri has struggled early this season. He’s missed two extra-point attempts in the win over Tennessee. In the six-point loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, he missed two field-goal attempts and one extra point.
His missed field-goal attempts of 46 and 29 yards were both wide left.
Reich issued a statement on the storied kicker Monday.
“I know there’s been a lot of discussion about Adam,” Reich said. “Just want to make this clear: Adam’s our kicker. Like I said yesterday, we have zero concern. He’s not only our kicker, he’s an instrumental leader on our team. When we talk about toughness and what we’re all about as a team and a program, there’s probably no one who epitomizes that more than Adam. So just want to make sure that’s clear.”
Vinatieri, 46, is considered the next kicker to follow Morten Andersen into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Reich points blame at Vinatieri’s holder and snapper for the missed extra-point attempts.
“It was not a good operation,” Reich said. “The snap and hold was not clean, the ball barely got on the ground. It was not clean. So, it is what it is.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism. AJC.com. Atlanta. News. Now.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.