Jump to content

Indy defense wants to build off postseason model

Recommended Posts

We need to follow the Colts lead here IMHO. BOLSTER THE STINKING DEFENSE! Grab a clue here:

Indy defense wants to build off postseason model

By MICHAEL MAROT, AP Sports Writer

September 2, 2007

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- This time last year, defense was going to stop the Indianapolis Colts. Their own defense.

Not physical enough to win in the playoffs was the criticism and, for a while, it appeared to be valid.

Then, an improbable postseason turnaround on defense changed everything. It gave Indy a new image, new jewelry and a boost of confidence players hope translates into more consistency in 2007.

"We're playing fast and playing smart, and I think we're a lot further along right now than we were this time last year," middle linebacker Gary Brackett said Sunday. "We built some confidence last season in the playoffs, so we wanted to get some things established during the preseason, and I think we did that."

Believing you're a top defense is one thing, proving it is quite another and the Colts' won't have to wait long for their first big test.

They open Thursday night against New Orleans, a team that has all the trimmings from last season's top-ranked offense. There's Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees and perennial 1,000-yard rusher Deuce McAllister. There's Reggie Bush, one of the NFL's most exciting young players, and a cadre of dangerous receivers that includes last year's surprise rookie Marques Colston and this year's first-round pick Robert Meachem.

Outside of practice, Indy's defense may not face a tougher opponent all season.

Still, players are eager to show this year's defense will look more like last season's 2006 playoff model than the 2006 regular-season jalopy.

"The thing is we want to play like we did in the playoffs," cornerback Kelvin Hayden said. "That's the key, to play that way."

Duplicating their playoff run, though, comes with challenges.

Former Pro Bowl linebacker Cato June and starting cornerbacks Jason David and Nick Harper left in free agency. David, in fact, will be on the opposite sideline Thursday night as a Saints' starter.

Defensive tackles Corey Simon and Montae Reagor, who were expected to be key contributors until injuries sidelined them last year, were released and are now playing in Tennessee and Philadelphia, respectively. Anthony McFarland, a defensive tackle acquired in a trade last October, helped stabilize the Colts' defense last season but is out with a season-ending knee injury.

That means this defense has a new look.

Hayden, whose 56-yard interception return for a touchdown sealed the Super Bowl, is replacing Harper on the left side. Former first-round pick Marlin Jackson, whose interception sealed the AFC Championship game victory over New England, replaces David on the right side.

Second-year linebacker Freddy Keiaho, primarily a special teams player last season, takes over for June, and undrafted rookie Ed Johnson has emerged as McFarland's replacement.

The biggest concern at training camp was expected to be getting everybody in sync.

"Everybody's comfortable and things are coming together pretty fast," defensive tackle Raheem Brock said. "Even the second team, this last preseason game, looked pretty good."

The preseason statistics, for what they're worth, show Indy is making progress.

After allowing a league-worst 5.3 yards per carry during the 2006 regular season, they yielded only 4.1 yards in the playoffs and only 3.2 yards in the preseason.

In Week 13, Jacksonville gouged the Colts for 375 yards, 44 more than they permitted in four postseason games and eight more than they allowed in the preseason.

While numbers are not necessarily the best indicator of what to expect, this Colts defense has looked faster, more aggressive and appears to tackle better.

"I think we are a little faster in some areas and we're playing faster, which is good to see," coach Tony Dungy said. "We just look to be more physical with some guys in the secondary, some linebackers, even some of the linemen."

Still, questions remain.

Will more speed be enough to hold a Saints team that scored 416 points last year in check?

If Indy plays well Thursday night, will the critics finally believe?

"Hey, we've faced Peyton Manning and Joseph Addai all preseason, so we're ready to play," Brackett said. "We just want to go out and start fast and play like we did in the playoffs."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A bit more on the current Champs:

Indianapolis hoping another fast start leads to another good season

By MICHAEL MAROT, AP Sports Writer

September 3, 2007

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The Indianapolis Colts would do almost anything to avoid slowing down.

They live on a no-huddle offense and quick-hitting scores, and rely on defensive speed to force opponents into mistakes. So in Thursday night's season opener against New Orleans, the Colts hope to do -- what else? -- start fast.

"I believe it's important because you can get out in front and force other teams to play perfect football to catch you," coach Tony Dungy said Monday.

The evidence supports Dungy's theory.

Since Dungy's arrival in 2002, no team has had more early-season success than the Colts, and no team has been to the playoffs more often. Over the last five Septembers, Indy has turned a league-best 14-2 record into five straight playoff appearances, four straight division titles, two AFC championship game appearances and a Super Bowl title.

The Colts also are the only team in league history to go 9-0 in back-to-back seasons.

More impressive is that the Colts have gone 7-1 in season openers since 1999 despite playing on the road six times. The only loss came at New England in 2004 when Mike Vanderjagt missed a 48-yard field goal in the final minute, a score that could have forced overtime.

Consider, too, that Indy has 14 active veterans who have never lost an NFL game in September or October. The impeccable stats also include only one pre-Thanksgiving Day loss in 2005 and 2006.

What's their secret?

"I think we're always really prepared and we usually have a simple game plan," said starting linebacker Rob Morris, now in his eighth season with Indy. "We're not trying to do too many things and guys are ready to go, mentally and physically."

Dungy believes the success has more to do with veteran leadership.

While many offenses are still trying to refine timing early in the season, the Colts, with Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning and Pro Bowl receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, are already in sync.

"Our offense usually comes out of the box functioning very well," Dungy said. "That's usually what takes time and we kind of hit the ground running."

Or throwing, in the case of Manning.

In his last 16 September games, the two-time league MVP has completed at least 60 percent of his passes in 11 games and thrown 31 touchdowns versus 10 interceptions. That includes a six TD performance at New Orleans in 2003 and five more against Green Bay in his record-setting 2004 season.

Yes, there has been the occasional stumble, such as an uninspiring 9-6 win at Cleveland in the 2003 opener, but the Colts have consistently figured out ways to win.

"I think we practice well in camp and get a lot done," tight end Dallas Clark said. "I think our guys prepare well and the game plan usually allows us to get in a groove early."

Manning and his teammates cannot afford a lapse Thursday against a team they easily could have faced in last year's Super Bowl.

New Orleans reached its first NFC championship game in January, and with a star-studded cast on offense has become a trendy pick to win this year's conference title.

Most expect this game to be a shootout between the league's two best passing offenses of 2006. Manning, who is from New Orleans, was the AFC's Pro Bowl starter at quarterback last year, while New Orleans' Drew Brees, who played at Purdue about an hour north of Indianapolis, started for the NFC.

Some have even billed it as a potential Super Bowl preview, something the Colts won't buy.

The reality is that because the Saints and Colts play in opposite conferences, the game has more hype than impact.

But that doesn't mean it won't set the tone for the rest of the season -- something the Colts, as usual, want to establish quickly.

"We like to start fast and make other teams chase you," Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday said. "But the reality is it's only one of 16 games."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...