Colts Defense Contains Jaguars in Season Opener
INDIANAPOLIS – Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell likes to borrow an old saying when people ask him what he sees in the film room the day after a game: "You're usually not as good as you think you are when you win, and you're not as bad as you think you are when you lose."
But when Caldwell went back and watched tape of Sunday's game against Jacksonville, the Colts coach said he was pleased with his team's defensive performance, even the second time around.
In defensive coordinator Larry Coyer's first game with the Colts, the team faced the daunting task of going against running back Maurice Jones-Drew, a player who has had success against Indianapolis in the past. But Coyer's aggressive approach and the team's defense gave up 114 yards rushing and just 12 points to the Jaguars.
"I think our guys did a very good job (on run defense)," Caldwell said. "It might be one of the first times we've held Jones-Drew under 100 yards. He's had some real fine days against us. Ninety-seven yards is nothing to sneeze at, but I think we kept him contained."
Taking away Jones-Drew's longest run of the day (26 yards), the Colts held the star back to just 3.5 yards per carry.
When facing a running back as talented as Jones-Drew, Caldwell said the Colts are unlikely to completely shut down a rushing attack. But by stacking defenders in the box, Caldwell said the Colts were able to "hang in there and not let Jones-Drew get a lot of explosive plays."
Heading into Sunday's game, the Colts knew Jacksonville would look to beat them on the ground.
"They can tear you up real good if they run the ball effectively," defense end Robert Mathis said. "That's Jacksonville football."
But while attempting to limit Jones-Drew and the rushing attack, the Colts knew it could not come at the expense of the pass defense. And they felt in order to be successful, their Pro Bowl defensive ends had to pressure quarterback David Garrard.
And they were right. In addition to containing the run, the Colts were credited with six quarterback pressures and one sack while holding Jacksonville to just 122 passing yards on the day, and 228 net yards the entire game.
"(The pass rush) helps a lot because there were not a lot of deep passes our way," safety Melvin Bullitt said. "The one or two they did throw were broken up. They didn't get a good chance to have anyone break loose since we had so much pressure on them. And I'm happy we did, it makes it a lot easier on the back four guys when you have Dwight (Freeney), Robert and all those guys rushing."
In addition to the usual suspects, the Colts also utilized other players to rush the quarterback, something they have not done much in years past. One of those players was middle linebacker Gary Brackett, who rushed Garrard late in the fourth quarter on two back-to-back blitzes.
"Everybody is going to get the chance to have their number called," Brackett said of the team's aggressive defense. "Whoever makes it work will probably have their number called on a more consistent basis."
Like Caldwell's old saying, the Colts do not want to get too ahead of themselves after one outing. The next step, according to several players, is keeping up the rest of the season. "We still have a few kinks to work out, but for the most part we played pretty well," Hagler said.
Colts that received game balls for Sunday's 14-12 victory over Jacksonville were: Offense-Reggie Wayne; Defense-Antonio Johnson; Special Teams-Chad Simpson.