Colts Dominant Defensively Against Baltimore
INDIANAPOLIS – They spent the week hearing about their opponent's defense.
The members of the Colts' defense, too, spent the week hearing what they had heard throughout the first month of the season – about that whey couldn't do defensively.
Specifically, they heard they "couldn't" stop the run, particularly against this week's opponent.
On Sunday, they could. And did.
The Colts, after entering the game ranked 32nd in the NFL against the run, on Sunday played one of their best defensive games of the season. And they did so against one of the NFL's best rushing offenses, holding the Baltimore Ravens to 260 total yards, including 51 rushing, in a 31-3 victory at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis.
"We just came out and played Colts ball today," Colts defensive tackle Raheem Brock said. "I've been saying it all year that if we could just get everything together – there are little things we need to work on, especially defensively – that we'll start playing Colts ball and we did that today."
The Colts, who had allowed an average of 188.5 per game rushing in four games, hadn't allowed less than 156 yards in a game this season.
On Sunday, they allowed 51 yards on 19 carries, a 2.7-yards-yards-per-carry average, and with the outcome in doubt in the first half, they allowed 14 yards on 12 carries.
Of the Ravens' 51 yards rushing, 12 came from quarterback Joe Flacco.
"We knew they were going to pound the ball at us," Dungy said. "They have three downhill runners. What we've said in our running game was defensively, it hasn't been a problem in terms of people just overpowering us. We've just got to know what to do and be in the right spot and we just have to tackle well.
The Ravens' leading rusher was rookie Ray Rice, who rushed for 23 yards on six carries, all but one yard of which came after the Colts had taken a 28-point fourth-quarter lead.
Ravens running back Le'Ron McClain, who entered the game with 266 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 63 carries, rushed twice for minus-2 yards, and Pro Bowl running back Willis McGahee – who entered the game with 170 yards on 50 carries – rushed for 18 yards on eight carries.
"We've been harping on it," defensive end Robert Mathis said. "They're a big run team. They live and die by it and have a big-play defense. We wanted to take the challenge.
"We got tired of hearing about what we're not doing and show everybody what we can do."
The Ravens this season had been competitive by running consistently and allowing their top-ranked defense to keep control the game's momentum. Baltimore entered the game having averaged 153.8 yards rushing a game, and they had been averaging nearly 41 rushes per game.
"It gives us confidence," Mathis said. "Everybody harps on our size. But it's just a matter of playing football, doing out techniques and being fundamentally sound. . . .
"You see what happens when you put the ball in No. 18's hands (those of eight-time quarterback Peyton Manning), so that's what we try to do early and often."
With the Ravens unable to run consistently, the Colts' pass rush harassed Flacco, sacking him four times – including three by Mathis – and forcing him into three interceptions.
Brock also had a sack and a forced fumble.
"I think we played pretty well," Colts middle linebacker and defensive captain Gary Brackett said. "Really, it starts up front. Those guys got us going early – Raheem with that big sack, Mathis with a strip for a fumble. Then, we just took it from there. Down in, down out, we just tried to play consistent: 'three and out, three and out, let's get a turnover.'
"That's what we've been preaching out there, and that's what guys did. It feels good to go out there and play a complete game on defense."
Said Dungy, "We got off to that good start. They had a couple of little unique plays, but for the most part, we were able to zero in on it in practice and know what was coming and we tackled well. We played with some energy. It started with our kickoff coverage group and it trickled down to the defense.
"We just played better, and a little bit faster today than we did the first four weeks."