'YOU HAVE TO START FROM SCRATCH'
Although Indianapolis' defense held Jacksonville to 67 total rushing yards in its 34-24 win on Sunday, this week is a completely new challenge according Colts to Head Coach Jim Caldwell.
Oakland boasts the league's second-best rushing attack, averaging 157.5 yards a game, and is led by third-year back Darren McFadden, who has accumulated more than 1,100 yards this season.
"You have to start from scratch because from a schematic standpoint they are a little different team," Caldwell said on Monday. "(McFadden) is a different style back. Week in and week out you are going to run into a little different style. He is averaging 5.2 yards a carry, so that tells you right then and there that there are a lot of big runs in there, and he is one of those guys that he can wiggle you, but he's got power, he's got unbelievable speed. So if you give him a crack, you are going to have some difficulty."
And while McFadden differs from Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew in terms of style, and though the schemes may be different, Caldwell said Monday that does not necessarily mean everything will change.
"We have to look at their scheme," Caldwell said. "Some of the things obviously that we did (against Jacksonville), we have got to tackle him. That's a big thing, and gap control is very important to us. Just in terms of a schematic standpoint we have to look at them all differently. We attack them different ways just depending upon what they give us."
'WE NEEDED THAT CUSHION'With 1:54 remaining and Jacksonville trailing 27-24, Colts linebacker Tyjuan Hagler, a member of Indianapolis' hands team on kickoffs, came up with a monstrous play to seal the win for Indianapolis.
But before Hagler's heads-up play, Caldwell made one of his own from the sidelines. Just before Jacksonville could successfully get its first kick off, Caldwell called a timeout to talk about what the Colts had seen.
"It was a little different," Caldwell said about the formation Jacksonville came out with for the first kick. "They kind of used a middle dribbler on the first one and the second one they used the slider a little bit more to the right. Nevertheless, it gave us a chance to look at it. We had an opportunity to see what to expect, and Tyjuan did a nice job of getting his hands on it and putting it in the end zone, because certainly we needed that cushion in such a tight game."
After scooping up Josh Scobee's onside kick, Hagler raced 41 yards the other way to give the Colts a two-score lead and essentially put the game out of Jacksonville's reach.
"I felt like it was an early Christmas," Hagler said after the game. "It was just right there for me to get it. We have to put points on the board on special teams and we gave up a punt return, so we had to put one on them on kickoff return.
"I was supposed to block a guy to that side, but then I saw the ball right in front of me and I knew I had to go and get it. If it was a big crowd I would have fallen on it, but since it was wide open I had to take it."
Hagler returned to Indianapolis four games into this season at Jacksonville after spending the preseason with the Seattle Seahawks.
He previously played for the Colts from 2005-09 after being drafted in the fifth round out of the University of Cincinnati. He spent his rookie season on the Physically Unable to Perform list before becoming a consistent contributor at linebacker and on special teams. He started 17 games at linebacker from 2007-09.
Hagler has 41 tackles, one sack and one interception return for 35 yards this season for the Colts.
THE SECOND LEVELIn Sunday's game, the Colts were able to efficiently move the ball on the ground, recording 155 rushing yards on 24 attempts. And while it was the Colts' third-highest rushing total of the season, Caldwell said the reasons for it were very simple.
"Most of it was pretty clear cut out on the field," Caldwell said. "Guys did indeed block well, gave Donald (Brown) some cracks and got him into the second level."
Brown rushed for a career-high 129 yards and one touchdown against Jacksonville. His 49-yard run during the opening drive was Colts' longest run from scrimmage this season. Caldwell noted that more often than not, when Brown first encountered a defender, it was a defensive back, not a lineman or linebacker.
"Once you get into the second level, if you can make a guy miss, you have the opportunity to support some pretty big plays, and he was able to do that," Caldwell said. "The plays were well blocked."
"The offensive line did a phenomenal job," Brown said. "When you are getting to the second level and that is the first time you are getting touched, that makes my job a lot easier."
Caldwell said early on in the season Brown was nursing injuries and he had been working hard to get into the "flow" of things ever since.
"Early in the year, he was kind of nursing a little injury here, injury there, and really hadn't gotten good solid practice, and really hadn't gotten into the flow of things. Now he feels really healthy. I think you see literally the same thing you saw last year from him, there were spurts where he would pop out of there on fairly significant runs from time to time, and that's what you saw yesterday. He does have that ability."
VERSATILE VETERANBrown wasn't the only Colts running back to produce on Sunday. Dominic Rhodes made his return to the field for the first time since the Colts re-signed him on December 7. Caldwell said it is not just about what Rhodes does in the running game that makes him a good fit for the Colts, it is about his experience and his ability to do more than just run the ball.
"Dom is versatile," Caldwell said. "He ran the ball well. He's got good movement and ability, but he also had a couple of real nice situations where he stepped up to take on linebackers, and he didn't just take them on, he put them down, which is what you like to see."
Rhodes has played in the NFL for nine years, eight of those with the Colts, including the 2006 season when the Colts won Super Bowl XLI.
"Dom is a veteran. He understands how important that (blocking) is. He can do a little bit of everything, and he catches the ball well. For us, a more complete back is what we look for."
Before re-signing with the Colts earlier this month, Rhodes was playing in the UFL.
"We were certainly aware of where he was," Caldwell said. "We knew exactly where he was and what his situation was. Guys that have been in our system, it's always kind of good to keep track of them because you never know when the need will arise."