PHILADELPHIA — After allowing 223 yards of offense to the Philadelphia Eagles offense in the first half on Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts defense ratcheted up the heat in the second half.
Although they would eventually fall short, 20-16, the Colts came out in for the final two quarters with a new attitude — their front seven putting their attacking mindset into reality on the field.
The Eagles started out hot, taking their opening drive of the ballgame 79 yards in 12 plays and scoring on a 13-yard pass from quarterback Carson Wentz to rookie tight end Dallas Goedert.
After missing a field goal attempt later in the first quarter, Eagles kicker Jake Elliott would redeem himself on a 33-yard field goal in the second quarter. The Eagles would go into halftime clinging to a 10-7 lead.
That's when some changes were clearly made.
"We wanted to make him (Wentz) uncomfortable and try to see if he'll take the chance of trying to escape the pocket," defensive tackle Margus Hunt told Colts.com's Caroline Cann after the game.
The Colts got to Wentz — making his 2018 debut after tearing his ACL and PCL last December — for three sacks in the second half, forcing a fumble which was both caused and recovered by Hunt, and held the Eagles' offense to 156 yards over the final two quarters.
Ultimately, the Colts' defense did have some self-inflicted wounds that allowed the Eagles to re-establish the lead, however. The unit had four penalties in the second half — all of the five-yard variety — but two of them resulted in crucial first downs for the Eagles. One of the penalties was on an Eagles 4th and 5 play with the Colts leading by three, 16-13, and the clock winding down in the fourth quarter.
Although they put themselves in position to potentially win in the final minutes, the Colts were not able to match the effectiveness of the Eagles — who controlled the ball for more than 20 minutes in the second half.
Regardless, the Indianapolis defense did have plenty of standout moments throughout Sunday's game.
Hunt continues to forge a career year, and now has 10 tackles (eight for a loss), three sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovered and a batted pass through the first three games.
And, for the second straight week, a "Maniac" made plays all over the field. After putting up 19 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble last week, rookie linebacker Darius Leonard added a game-best 13 tackles and two more sacks on Sunday.
We also saw second-year linebacker Anthony Walker pull in his first career interception, while rookie Kemoko Turay logged the first 1.5 sacks of his career on Sunday against the Eagles.
For the most part, the Colts — who were able to shut down the Washington Redskins to the tune of nine points last week — were solid once again Sunday against the Eagles, despite a slow start.
The key now is to continue that theme next Sunday against AFC South Division rival Houston at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"It's very important," Hunt said of the Colts' defense stringing together consecutive strong performances. "We need to keep that going and keep the attention on the details and keep this kind of momentum through the year."