NEXT MAN UP, DEFENSIVELY –It was an outside linebacker by committee on Sunday afternoon with Dwight Freeney sidelined due to an ankle injury.
Mario Addison, Jerry Hughes and Justin Hickman all saw action at the "rush" linebacker position against the Vikings.
Hughes had his second career sack and was a part of a four-sack effort from the Colts defense.
Heading into Minnesota preparations, Hughes and the linebackers said the week did not feel too differently than others, although extra reps were available without their Pro Bowl teammate.
"Each week you have to prepare like you're a starter. That's how I approach it," Hickman said. "Just mentally knowing that you're going to get more reps and just putting in the extra film study to know the guys that you're going against."
The Colts defense had an extremely productive first three and a half quarters on Sunday.
During one stretch, the Colts allowed an average of about nine yards per drive over a six-drive span that began with a forced fumble by linebacker Jerrell Freeman.
On a third-and-eight from the Vikings' 42-yard line midway through the second quarter, Freeman shot up the middle and forced a Christian Ponder fumble which was recovered by defensive end Cory Redding. The turnover led to a field goal and a 10-6 lead for the Colts.
"We ended up making a check to something and it worked," Freeman said of the forced fumble. "We had been anticipating a lot of stuff, and that's one of the checks we had."
Freeman has filled in admirably without last year's leading tackler Pat Angerer in the middle of the linebacker corps. Angerer was hurt on the first series of the first preseason game and Freeman moved into the slot.
The 13 tackles for Freeman were four more than any other Colts defender, and he led a unit which held the Vikings to 95 yards rushing on 26 attempts.
"As a defense you want to stop the run," Freeman said. "We want to make that our M.O. – stop the run first and try to make them one-dimensional. If it works than you can do a lot of different things on third-and-longs."
In part of that 95-yard output for the Vikings, running back Adrian Peterson had just 60 yards on 16 carries.
With at least that many carries, the 60-yard performance for Peterson is the fewest he has had since November 14, 2010. It also marked a 100-yard difference from when he rushed for 160 against the Colts in 2008.
Despite not having two of its leaders on defense (Angerer and linebacker Dwight Freeney), Indianapolis set the tone early in shutting down one of the league's premier rushing attacks.
"It starts up front, guys on the end have to set the edge," nose tackle Antonio Johnson said. "Without Dwight being present, some young guys had to step up. Those guys stepped up and played a good game."
OFFENSIVE LINE ALSO PRACTICES 'NEXT MAN UP' –Trai Essex figured his number would be called on Sunday, even though he had just joined the Colts only days earlier.
Just prior to the two-minute warning in the second quarter, Essex was thrown into the fire as center Samson Satele exited with a leg injury.
"I kind of made my career like that, coming in, performing for my teammates. That's what I love to do," Essex said. "I'm happy that I'm able to contribute as soon as I did."
Essex slid into the right guard slot, while the normal starter at right guard, Mike McGlynn, moved to the center position.
"Center has always been a comfortable position for me," McGlynn said. "I know there are going to be things for me to work on, so I'll go ahead look at the film, look at the good things, look at the bad things and move on to next week."
McGlynn last played center with the Eagles two seasons ago, and he and Essex are used to playing a variety of positions along the line.
"It's tough," Essex said of the switch. "Kudos to Mike for doing that. You never know what you're going to be called upon to do. As an offensive line, you train (to play) five positions. Mike's been training at guard all week and to jump in there and play center, that's a tough thing. He did an admirable job."
The offensive line situation was ever-changing last week with two new additions in Essex and tackle Bradley Sowell.
Guard Joe Reitz (leg) and tackle Winston Justice (concussion) both missed the Vikings game and when Satele got hurt, Sowell was the lone lineman left on the bench.
"Harold Goodwin and Joe Gilbert and Coach (Bruce) Arians and the whole offense did a great job in preparation," Pagano said.
"With A.Q. (Shipley) going to the practice squad, you've got to have a backup center. We found that when you don't have a backup, anything in this league (can happen). You can get in trouble. They got enough reps during the week where (McGlynn) can function and function well and play well. He did one heck of a job."
MCAFEE'S LEG KEYS FIELD POSITIONING BATTLE – Pat McAfee's hold on the game-winning field goal turned out to be his part in the decisive play on Sunday, but it was his job as punter that once again helped turned the field.
McAfee averaged 53.6 yards on five punts, including a long of 64 yards from his own end zone.
Several times in the second half, McAfee flipped the field position for the Colts and his 64-yard punt at a key point in the third quarter put the Vikings back at their own 32-yard line after a 10-yard penalty on the return. Indianapolis forced a punt on that Minnesota possession and took possession at its 30, gaining 25 yards of field position from the scrimmage point where McAfee's booming punt originated.
Last week against the Bears, McAfee was terrific with two punts downed inside the 10-yard line and a 51.4 average for five punts.
McAfee is third in the NFL after two games with a 52.5 average on 10 efforts.
Safety Joe Lefeged had another strong performance on the coverage units for the Colts with four special teams tackles.