Defense's Goal in Preseason to Hold Opponents to No Scores, Colts DT Dan Muir Says
INDIANAPOLIS – As Dan Muir sees it, assessing the preseason isn't tricky.
Muir, a starting defensive tackle for the Colts, said while it's true that offensive players have a relatively clear-cut way of evaluating the preseason, he said when defensive players judge such games, it's not significantly more difficult.
An offense, Muir said, wants to see touchdowns. And efficiency.
And in a sense, Muir said it's as simple for a defense.
"No scores, period – that's what we want as a defense," Muir said this week as the Colts (0-1 in the 2010 preseason) prepared to play the Buffalo Bills (0-1) at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
"We don't want scores, period, and then it expands."
The Colts lost their preseason opener, 37-17, to the San Francisco 49ers at Lucas Oil Stadium this past Sunday, a game the Colts led 10-0 after the first quarter. Indianapolis' starters played much of the period, its defense limiting the 49ers to 11 yards on their first two possessions.
"You're looking for, 'All guys covered,' so to speak," Colts linebacker Clint Session said. "You want to have all gaps filled and all guys covered. When you get to that point, that's our touchdown. That's getting in our groove."
The Colts during the first quarter also held the 49ers to 42 total yards, and forced two turnovers – a fumble recovery by defensive end Robert Mathis on a fumble that was forced by safety Antonie Bethea, and an interception by cornerback Jerraud Powers.
The statistics were impressive, Session said. But as imant, he said, was that when Colts defensive players this week looked at film they saw energy and effort, two staples of the team's defensive philosophy.
"That's big," Session said, "especially with our defense. We rely a lot on the speed on our defense, and running to the ball. When we see that on film, that gets you excited.
"If you've got that energy and can last four quarters, that's when you know you're ready."
While the Colts played efficiently offensively and defensively in the first quarter Sunday, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning this week said there is more to accomplish in the preseason, something he said was true on offense and defense. He said that's particularly true this week, the Colts' first 2010 preseason game away from home.
The preseason, Manning said, is about experience. And there are experiences that occur on the road that can't be duplicated in practice, or in a preseason home game.
"In preseason I've always said you try to experience as many things as possible in the games," Manning said. "It's a road game, so there's crowd noise and all those kinds of things, for the young guys – especially the ones who are going to be playing – the more you put them through in the preseason in practice and out here in scrimmages, the better served they're going to be.
"It's always going to be a change when it actually is the regular season. I've always said there's three different phases of football – the preseason, the regular season and the post-season. So, I think it will be a good test. I don't know what kind of crowd to expect up there in Toronto, but hopefully, it will be good for those guys."
While the Colts offensive starters played two series in the preseason opener, with some defensive starters playing a longer, Manning said this week it's possible starters could get more repetitions Thursday.
"I think we'll play a little more, I would imagine – based on what we've done in the past," Manning said. "We've always played a little bit longer in the second game. I don't know who all's go to play. I'm sure some of that will be gauged on who's available and who's not available.
"I think you're just looking for execution on offense, converting third downs and converting your third-and-ones and fourth-and-ones, scoring touchdowns in the red zone. Certainly, as a team, we need to do a better job protecting the ball."
Defensively, Muir said the focus remains on not just preventing the opponent from scoring, but ensuring a defensive unit he said has made strides during training camp continues to do so.
"Limiting scoring comes from stopping the run, first of all," Muir said. "Then, you're stopping the pass, getting to the quarterback, getting interceptions, getting fumbles . . .
"It expands to a lot of different things. You have to play well to do that. But we have one common goal together, and that, 'Nobody scores.'
The Colts last season under defensive coordinator Larry Coyer finished 18th in the NFL in total defense, and improved against the run and continued to feature one of the NFL's best pass rushers. Dwight Freeney made the Pro Bowl for a fifth time, and defensive end Robert Mathis and safety Antoine Bethea each made it for a second time.
With Coyer entering his second season, players have said throughout camp the goal is for the defense to continue developing and improving on last season, something Muir said was the case throughout the Anderson portion training camp, which concluded Wednesday at Anderson University.
"I like where we are," Muir said. "We're just working hard every single day, and we're getting better every single day. That's the main thing, just getting better."