Indianapolis turns focus to fixing defensive woes

BY foxsports • October 15, 2012

Monday morning's film session at the Colts' complex turned into a horror show.

Defensive players had to relive all those missed tackles and blown gap assignments and the 252 yards rushing and 35 points they gave up all over again.

Andrew Luck had to watch himself throw two interceptions and lose another fumble, and the offensive line got a long look at a plethora of missed blocks.

Interim coach Bruce Arians made sure each player got the point - correct the problems now or run the risk of returning for the sequel in the weeks ahead.

''I think everyone sees how we're capable of playing, and if we don't play like we're capable of playing, we'll get beat like that,'' Arians said.

It's already happened twice, and both blowout losses came on the road, 41-21 at Chicago in the season opener and 35-9 at New York on Sunday.

But the most troubling concern for Indy (2-3) has been the defense, ranked No. 17 overall and No. 29 against the run heading into Monday night's game.

The Colts were hoping a new formula, adding bigger defensive lineman and operating out of a base 3-4 hybrid system, would improve one of the Colts' biggest weaknesses - stopping the run.

So far, it hasn't really worked.

Opponents are averaging 5.0 yards per carry, and twice in the past three games Indianapolis has allowed individual runners to top the 150-yard mark. Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew had 177 yards in Week 3, and on Sunday, Jets running back Shonn Greene had a career-high 161 yards and two scores.

If the Colts can't find a quick fix, Arians knows the Sunday afternoon matinee may become a regular feature attraction Monday morning.

''Once you open the flood gates in of any sort in any phase of the NFL, that's what you're going to see next, punt block, punt return, run the football,'' said Arians, a 20-year NFL assistant who has stepped in as head coach Chuck Pagano continues to undergo treatment for leukemia at an Indianapolis hospital. ''Everybody is going to try it until you show you can stop it and put that fire out. Blitzes on defense, again some quarterback or receivers that can't handle it, you're going to get a ton of it until you put the fire out.''

Pagano's philosophy worked well in Baltimore, where he was the secondary coach and defensive coordinator. There he was operating with three players who won the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year Award - Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs.

Indy does not have that kind of talent, and injuries have slowed the transition.

Both Pro Bowl defensive ends Dwight Freeney (ankle) and Robert Mathis (knee) have been converted to linebackers and have missed games because of injuries.

Defensive end Cory Redding, who played for Pagano in Baltimore, was brought in to help anchor the defensive front and teach the system to his new teammates. Though he's started all five games, he's been through an undisclosed injury in his right knee.

Starting linebacker Pat Angerer missed the last three games of the preseason and the first five of the regular season since fracturing his right foot in the preseason opener, and 345-pound nose tackle Brandon McKinney went on season-ending injured reserve after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament during the preseason.

Even cornerback Vontae Davis, whom the Colts acquired in a preseason trade, has missed two straight games because of a sprained left ankle.

The Colts say that's no excuse.

''You never want to see a game like that, but we are all in it together,'' Mathis said. ''We will pick ourselves up and continue to fight.''

Defense hasn't been the only problem.

Arians' critique included poor blocking on offense, and Luck blamed himself after throwing two more interceptions and losing another fumble Sunday. In two road games, Luck has thrown five interceptions and lost two fumbles - seven of the Colts' 11 giveaways this season.

''I think it's imperative to be critical of yourself to realize when the blame is on you and figure out why I made the mistake and how I can avoid doing it next time, how can I rectify it,'' Luck said when asked about the turnovers.

But the most glaring problem so far, has been the leaky run defense that has been exposed by the Jaguars and Jets and is likely to be exploited by Cleveland (1-5) again this week, if the Colts can't revise the script.

''We missed a lot of tackles in this ballgame. We had them hit dead to rights and just flat missed the tackle,'' Arians said. ''We've got to tackle better before we'll be any kind of a defense.''


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