Colts’ defense needs answers for miscues, injuries
The Indianapolis Colts defense is a mess.
Injuries have decimated the secondary. Dwight Freeney and Robert
Mathis are struggling to pressure opposing quarterbacks. The unit
has given up more than 400 yards rushing in two losses and
everybody knows what’s coming next – more running.
”We’ve got to stop the run,” defensive captain Gary Brackett
said Wednesday. ”We know that week in and week out, everybody is
going to run the ball on us until we stop it.”
That includes Sunday’s opponent, Kansas City (3-0), the NFL’s
last unbeaten team. The Chiefs rank fifth in the NFL in rushing,
led by the tandem of Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones, and will
almost certainly go with a run-first strategy.
And again the Colts (2-2) will be playing short-handed.
Safety Bob Sanders is expected to be out until at least December
after having surgery to repair a torn biceps muscle in his right
arm. Melvin Bullitt, Sanders’ replacement, will miss the rest of
the season after hurting his right shoulder in Sunday’s loss at
Starting linebacker Clint Session returned to the lineup against
the Jags after missing back-to-back games – only after backups
Ramon Humber (hand) and Kavell Conner (foot) needed surgery to fix
Now the Colts have added even more defenders to the injury
Pro Bowl safety Antoine Bethea and cornerback Jacob Lacey both
sat out Wednesday’s practice – Bethea with a hamstring injury,
Lacey with a sore foot. Brackett (back), Session and cornerback
Jerraud Powers (foot) at least managed to get in all of their work
as the Colts continue to try to fill holes.
They re-signed safety Aaron Francisco, who was let go after
spending last season in Indy, and promoted safety Mike Newton from
the practice squad to the active roster.
Who will start? Coach Jim Caldwell isn’t sure.
”We’ll find out as the week goes on,” Caldwell said. ”They’ll
have a chance to work with them and we’ll see who emerges.”
That’s the predicament Indy faces eight months after playing in
the second Super Bowl of the Peyton Manning era.
The Colts are yielding nearly 150 yards rushing a game and an
average of 5.0 yards per carry.
”The last few weeks there’s been some inconsistency,” Freeney
said. ”It’s not that we’re just getting beat and can’t fix the
problem. We’ll get it fixed, hopefully sooner than later.”
They’d better because the porous run defense is causing other
headaches in Indy.
Freeney and Mathis – the league’s most productive pass-rushing
tandem since 2004 – have been less effective over the last two
The reason: Indy’s defense is built to play with the lead. If
opponents can score on the ground, Manning has fewer chances to
score points, and Freeney and Mathis can’t take advantage of teams
forced to throw to keep up.
With a lack of pressure coming up the middle and a thin
secondary that had six players go down with season-ending injuries
in the preseason, well, the holes are becoming more apparent.
”It’s a mistake here or a mistake there, but once we get all
that fine-tuned, we should be OK,” Bethea said. ”It’s just a
matter of limiting those mistakes.”
When the Colts were giving up 40 points per game during the
preseason, players and coaches kept saying things would be fine.
Now that they’re giving up 23 points during the regular-season,
have struggled to rush quarterbacks, stop the run and get off the
field on third down, fans aren’t the only ones pointing out the
”We didn’t get punched out the way we did in Houston,” Colts
President Bill Polian said during Monday night’s radio show,
referring to the Jacksonville loss. ”That’s something positive to
take from it, but there’s obviously a lot of work to do on that
side of the ball. We’ve got to get that straightened away. I think
we have good players there, but they’re not playing very well at
Colts players haven’t lost hope and are promising to get things
”We’ll continue to grow,” Brackett said. ”And we’ll get
better on defense.”