Colts' Swarming Defense Enjoying Early Success
INDIANAPOLIS — You can see the bounce in their step before the ball is snapped.
Swaying back and forth to the music over the loud speakers, jumping up and down in anticipation of the ball being hiked, and moving around the field in orchestrated chaos to confuse opposing offenses.
And the real action starts once the ball is snapped. The swarm that is the Indianapolis Colts' defense attacks – moving in and quickly taking down the ball carrier wherever he may be.
Sunday's game against Seattle showed what the Colts' defense is capable of: stopping the run, getting pressure on the quarterback and making big plays along the way.
Said defensive end Raheem Brock, "The whole defense is having fun, if you can't tell already."
The Colts are tied for fourth in the NFL in points allowed per game (15.5), and the defense is enjoying its recent success.
"Everybody is running around and having fun on the field," said defensive end Robert Mathis, who recorded three sacks and forced two fumbles against Seattle. "Everyone knows what we have to do in order to be successful, and we are doing just that right now."
With the offense building early leads in back-to-back games, the defense has been able to narrow its focus on the pass rush and attacking the quarterback. Against the Seahawks, the Colts sacked quarterback Seneca Wallace five times and tackled Seattle ball carriers behind the line of scrimmage an additional six.
"From a defensive standpoint, our defense did indeed start fast (against Seattle)," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said. "They did a great job with their gap control, running to the football and keeping things under control early in the game."
Brock said his teammates are particularly having fun thanks to Defensive Coordinator Larry Coyer's schemes and play-calling, which gives Colts players a chance to rush the quarterback and play various positions on the field.
"We are not just sitting back and letting people pick us a part," Brock said. "Our defensive tackles are playing great, controlling the line of scrimmage and putting (our opponents) in passing situations. The offense is putting points on the board and putting the defense in a great position."
Safety Melvin Bullitt said the defense is playing well as a unit and has built a friendly competiveness amongst one another.
"You want every tackle, every sack, every interception," he said. "But it is a team game. You go out there and do your job, and the plays will come your way."
THE BEST START YET?
After Sunday's performance, many are beginning to ask if this the best start to a season quarterback Peyton Manning has ever had.
The Colts quarterback's numbers would suggest so.
Manning currently leads the league in passing yards (1,336), quarterback rating (114.5) and is tied for first in touchdown passes (nine). He also has helped lead the Colts to victory in all four games while passing for more than 300 yards in each contest.
So, is this the best start to the season of the three-time NFL MVP's career? His head coach says "yes."
"You have to conclude it is the best start he's ever had, in terms of the numbers," Caldwell said.
The Colts coach was quick to point out that Manning's 2009 season has a lot of competition. In 2004, Manning passed for 49 touchdowns, which at the time was an NFL record.
"That was a pretty good year, too," Caldwell said with a smile.
What might be even more impressive is how Manning has performed over the Colts' 13-game winning streak, which ties a franchise record and dates back to last season.
Over the course of 13 games, Manning has completed 71.7 percent of his passes for 3,585 yards, 26 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He's thrown for more than 250 yards in 10 games and only thrown more interceptions than touchdowns once.
"He's been on fire, obviously," Caldwell said. "And I know he is going to continue to work to make sure that continues."
MAKING IT COUNT
While Manning is in a zone of his own, his receivers are not far behind.
Not only are the Colts' receivers making catches, but they are gaining extra yardage after almost every reception.
In fact, through four games, the Colts lead the NFL as a team in total yards after the catch (500).
"All the receivers and backs that catch the ball have been able to do something with it once they have the ball in their hands," Caldwell said. "It's a team that will get north and south on you pretty quickly and find seams, and get that extra yard or two."
Caldwell said a big reason for the team's success for yards after the catch is receivers blocking downfield.
"It's as good as we've had throughout the years, this first quarter," Caldwell said. "Pierre (Garcon) is a very solid, hard-nosed blocker. (Austin) Collie gets his nose in there. Reggie (Wayne) has always been a very fine blocker. Then when you mix Dallas (Clark) and Gijon (Robinson), when they get down the field, that corps does a pretty good job."
Not only are the Colts picking up more first downs, but Caldwell also said the extra yardage could ultimately help the Colts win more games.
"It helps us sustain drives and get in position to score more points," he said.