INDIANAPOLIS –While the Colts offense was garnering much of the cheers and attention from the fans in Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday, the new-look defense quietly went about its way with a productive afternoon.
Sporting its new 3-4 hybrid defense, the Colts' first-team defense played two series against the Rams first-team offense and did not allow any points.
"It's hard to keep people out of the end zone. It's even harder, again, when you put in a new scheme defensively, and you go from a 4-3 defensive scheme, which they've been running for here, and you install this hybrid 3-4 that we are running," Head Coach Chuck Pagano said.
"They got a couple runs on us early, and we kind of put the fire out, made some adjustments. The guys did a great job. But when you can hold a team to three points, keep them out of the end zone, it's always a great day for our defense."
Electing to receive the opening kickoff, the Rams moved their first drive into Colts territory before the defense buckled down.
A third-and-nine screen pass from the Colts' 43-yard line was sniffed out by defensive tackle Drake Nevis and inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman.
The Rams then chose to go for it on fourth-and-three and the Colts defense rose to the occasion forcing an incompletion and a turnover on downs.
"The first drive was a long drive so we were able to test our wind, put our backs against the wall a little bit but it was good not to give up any points," cornerback Justin King said.
After running back Donald Brown scampered 63 yards on a screen pass for a touchdown to begin the Colts first drive, it was time for the defense to head back onto the field.
Despite having little rest in-between drives, the starting defense held once again.
Facing a third-and-13 from the Rams 49-yard line, quarterback Sam Bradford was pressured by Nevis and fumbled the ball while stepping up in the pocket.
Bradford recovered the fumble but the damage was already done as the Colts defense forced a second straight punt.
King, going up against his former team, led the defense with six tackles on the first two drives.
The first-team defense exited on the following drive, but the highlights for the defense did not stop there.
Outside linebacker Jerry Hughes continued his strong camp with a pair of sacks against Rams quarterback Kellen Clemons.
Defensive tackle Brandon McKinney recovered a fumble in the second quarter and cornerback Chris Rucker finished off the defensive effort with a final-minute interception.
On a day when the debut of quarterback Andrew Luck and three-touchdown performance by the offense will be celebrated, it was the defense that answered the questions from the offseason on whether or not it could adjust to the new 3-4 hybrid scheme.
"I'm real impressed with the effort we gave today, and I'm just looking forward to each week get better and get better," outside linebacker Robert Mathis said.