NFL

Speedy, stingy Colts defense preparing for Broncos

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP)

The Indianapolis Colts' defense seems to be back to normal speed.

Houston pounded Indianapolis for 257 yards rushing in its 34-24 season-opening victory over the defending AFC champions before the embarrassed Colts bounced back last weekend to shut down the New York Giants in a 38-14 win.

The Colts righted the ship in a familiar way - the offense got the lead, then the ultra-fast defense hounded the opposing quarterback. Defensive ends Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney both sacked Eli Manning twice and pressured him repeatedly.

Just like old times.

''It was good getting back on track, doing what we do best, and that's flying around and having fun,'' Mathis said.

The Colts hope to carry that momentum into Sunday's game at Denver, and Broncos coach Josh McDaniels has acknowledged how quick Indianapolis can be on defense.

''The fastest team we'll play, no question,'' he said. ''The speed up front is rare. It's not normal. That's why it's so different in terms of the start of the game. The speed of play and the style of defense that they use is really kind of unique to the Colts. No matter what you do in practice to try to simulate it, it isn't the same.''

The Colts were disappointed after the performance in Houston and went into last Sunday's game with much to prove. The effort against the Giants gave the team something to build on.

''It was very important,'' cornerback Jerraud Powers said. ''It definitely helped out our confidence level. We knew what we were capable of. We didn't start out the way we wanted to versus Houston, but that's football. You're going to have days like that.''

Coach Jim Caldwell didn't expect the Colts to continue to struggle.

''We just weren't satisfied with the way we opened up the season, and I think our guys certainly have a lot of pride,'' he said. ''The big thing is that we did things better than we did before and played the way we're accustomed to playing.''

The Colts held Eli Manning to 161 yards passing even without safety Bob Sanders, who is out indefinitely with a torn biceps muscle in his right arm. Melvin Bullitt stepped in, and the Colts say they didn't miss a beat.

''Unfortunately, with Bob going down, it's something we didn't want to see because his element of playing is so unique,'' Powers said. ''He's just one of those special players. Bullitt's been backing him up for the last two or three years and he's done a tremendous job.''

The Colts' defense seems to excel while protecting a lead. Indianapolis trailed for most of the game against Houston, but the Colts jumped out to a 24-0 lead against the Giants.

Indy held the Giants to a 3-for-11 conversion rate on third downs after letting the Texans convert 6 of 11. That gave quarterback Peyton Manning the ball more often and in better field position.

''If we can just get off the field on third down, give our offense more opportunities to get the ball, they are going to put up points,'' Powers said.

The Broncos likely will counter Indy's speed with quick passes to try to neutralize the rush. Denver quarterback Kyle Orton has completed 68 percent of his passes for 602 yards and three touchdowns in two games.

''We just go out and play like we practice,'' Colts linebacker Philip Wheeler said. ''That's where it starts. We practiced well this week, just like last week, and we're going to try to come out with the same intensity.''

Tagged: Broncos, Colts, Giants, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Jerraud Powers

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