Colts' Defensive Adjustments Help Lead to Comeback Victories
INDIANAPOLIS – If at first you don't succeed, adjust, and try again.
Despite falling behind the last five games, the Colts have used key defensive adjustments to help propel them to five comeback victories.
"They have been huge for us this season," linebacker and defensive captain Gary Brackett said. "Last week, for instance, we gave up 90 yards rushing (to Houston) in the first half and only 30 in the second. When we've needed to clean some things up on the defensive side of the ball, we've been able to, and it's been very beneficial."
The Colts' ability to retool in the locker room has helped them come out strongly in the second half and sway the game's momentum in their favor.
Of the 184 points the team has given up this season, only 17 have been scored in the third quarter, an indication to how effective the team's halftime adjustments have been.
Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell credits the team's second-half redirection to the veteran coaching staff around him.
"They make adjustments quickly, and there are not too many things they haven't seen before," Caldwell said.
Not only are the Colts keeping teams out of the end zone in the second half, but they also are creating significantly more turnovers.
Ten of the team's 13 interceptions this season have come after halftime and 11 of its 26 sacks have occurred in the fourth quarter alone.
Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney, who is tied for the team lead with Robert Mathis with 9.5 sacks, said the team's second-half prowess is a testament to its ability to alter the game plan on the fly.
"We do a great job of communicating what the problem is, and we adjust," Freeney said. "The veterans have to know what's happening first, then once we realize what is happening we can go ahead and make those adjustments."
Freeney said players can sometimes sense what type of adjustments need to be made, but oftentimes mistakes are not realized until they are pointed out in the locker room.
"It's a little bit of both," Freeney explained. "Everybody works together…there are four pieces to a ballgame, and you have to dissect it and look at it that way. If we didn't do well in the first quarter, we move to the second quarter. If that didn't work, we adjust for the third and the fourth and so on. That's how you have to look at it."
Caldwell said he could not pinpoint a reason why the Colts have fallen behind in the first half recently, but said the team is looking into correcting its mistakes, as always.
"There are a number of different things that have gone into it, and it hasn't been the same thing every week," the Colts coach said. "We try and look at that and analyze it, but every week is different."
But the end result has been the same the past five weeks. When they have fallen behind, the Colts have stayed patient and made the necessary adjustments to win.
"Some teams have come out hot, and you figure they are going to slow down eventually," rookie cornerback Jacob Lacey said. "You can kind of get your feet under you and make some changes. We have been able to stop a couple of plays that hurt us in the first half (because of) those adjustments, and the will to never give up."
Lacey said it helps if the defense can turn the opposition into a one-dimensional offense in the second half.
"First, you have to stop the run," the rookie said. "Once that happens, you can make adjustments.
"It works hand-in-hand. When they get up there and start putting pressure on the quarterback, then the passes aren't perfect. And anytime you can get an edge like that, when you were one step behind before, you can then get that one step and equal things out."
Lacey said the Colts would prefer to put a 60-minute effort together every week, but said the team's last five victories have provided some important lessons.
"It's a good feeling because it shows we can handle close games, tough games, and we have the fight to win," he said.
Caldwell echoed those sentiments, and added that the recent streak of close games demonstrates the Colts can win in a number of ways.
"There isn't just one blueprint," Caldwell said. "Every week is a little different. Every week has its own personality. And our guys have been able to adjust, come from behind and do everything necessary to get a victory.
"Hopefully, that helps us down the road."
On Wednesday, the Colts announced the elevation of defensive end Ervin Baldwin and running back Mike Hart from the team's practice squad to the active roster.
The club also waived wide receiver John Matthews from the practice squad and signed three free agents to the practice unit: offensive linemen Keith Gray and Andrew Radovich and quarterback Shane Boyd.
The Colts on Wednesday released the week's first injury report with the following players listed as full participation in practice: RB-Joseph Addai (knee), OGs-Kyle DeVan (shin) and Jamey Richard (shoulder), DBs-Kelvin Hayden (knee), Tim Jennings (ankle) and Jerraud Powers (knee), LB-Ramon Humber (calf), QB-Peyton Manning (glute), DE-Robert Mathis (neck), C-Jeff Saturday (calf), OT-Tony Ugoh (knee) and WR-Reggie Wayne (foot).
Listed as limited participation was TE-Tom Santi (hand), while the following were listed as did not participate in practice: DBs-Antoine Bethea (not injury related-rested) and Aaron Francisco (ankle), LB-Gary Brackett (foot), RB-Donald Brown (chest), DEs-Keyunta Dawson (knee) and Dwight Freeney (abdomen), WR-Anthony Gonzalez (knee), OT-Charlie Johnson (foot), QB-Jim Sorgi (right shoulder) and K-Adam Vinatieri (right knee).