Colts' Defense Comes Up Big In 34-17 Victory
INDIANAPOLIS — It was a complete performance by the Indianapolis Colts' swarming defense, which stifled the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday on the way to a 34-17 victory.
While the offense was scoring touchdowns in bunches, the Colts' defense was hardly allowed an inch. Led by defensive end Robert Mathis' three sacks and two forced fumbles, Indianapolis' defense gave up just three points through three quarters and nine minutes and held the Seahawks to a season-low 279 total yards.
Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said his defense, which held Seattle to only 49 yards rushing, performed at a high level "across the board."
"Anytime you can do that to a team in this league bodes well for you and what you've accomplished," Caldwell said. "For us, it allows us to use our speed rushers when they have to depend on the pass."
And the Colts used their speed rushers perfectly. The pass rush sacked Seattle quarterback Seneca Wallace five times and tackled the Seahawks behind the line of scrimmage an additional six.
With the Colts up by as many as 31, the Seahawks were forced to stick with the pass throughout the game, which enabled Indianapolis' defense to keep constant pressure on the quarterback.
"Believe it or not, that's how this team is built," Mathis said. "Our offense is very potent, and once they build a lead we can use our defense, which is very, very fast. We have a lot of guys who like to run around, and these are the types of games we love to have."
Playing from both defensive end positions, Mathis was able to succeed against the Seahawks' inexperienced offensive tackles. His three sacks led to a combined loss of 14 yards, and his two forced fumbles both were recovered by the Colts.
"He is slippery and powerful for a guy his size," Caldwell said. "On the football field, he has power, speed and a relentless desire to get to the ball. He just does not stop until the whistle blows, even in practice. He practices the exact same way you see him on the field, and that's what makes him very unique."
Mathis said the strong relationship between the back seven (linebackers and secondary) and front four (defensive line) has helped build "a lot of continuity" amongst the defense, and their hard work is starting to pay off.
"We are playing at a high level," he said. "The thing is, we can't get complacent. We just have to work hard and do the little things right."
In addition to Mathis' strong performance in the pass rush, middle linebacker Freddy Keiaho recorded a sack, as did defensive end Dwight Freeney, who played Sunday despite missing practice throughout the week with a quadriceps injury suffered last week at Arizona.
"This is not the first time this has happened throughout his career," Caldwell said. "There have been a number of times when he's been on the brink, and the prognosis has been pretty lengthy, and he's come back the exact same week. We never count him out, and he did a real nice job today."
After the game, Freeney even admitted he did not know he was going to play against the Seahawks.
"In the middle of the week, it was 50-50. I just didn't know, but I took it day-by-day," he said. "I would wake up in the morning and I would get out of bed and think, 'Let's go, today is the day.' And if it was not there, then I had some work to do."
By Friday and Saturday, Freeney said he was feeling better. Having already conquered the mental aspect, which he said is "half the battle," the defensive end said he was good to go by Sunday.
"I knew my reps would be limited, so I had to make them count," Freeney said.
Freeney's sack came in the third quarter, but the defensive end came very close to recording several others.
"I was really close," Freeney said grinning. "I missed a few, but that's why you've got (other) guys out there…We put tremendous pressure on them."
The Colts' defensive end, who has now recorded a sack in five consecutive games for the first time in his career dating to last season, described the quarterback takedown as a "nice reward" for his hard working leading up to the game.
"We are taking steps in the right direction," Freeney said of the team's defense. "Guys are being accountable, doing what they are supposed to do, and the coaching staff is relaying the messages for the week, the game plan for the week, and guys are carrying it out to a 'T.'"
• It was a pleasant, but bittersweet homecoming for Indianapolis' all-time leading rusher, Edgerrin James. Now with the Seahawks, James rushed four times for 16 yards against his former team and received a standing ovation from Colts fans during a video tribute to the running back before the fourth quarter. The video displayed several of James' best runs as a Colt and sent a message to the two-time rushing champion: "Thanks for the memories – see you soon in the Ring of Honor." After the game, Caldwell described James as the "consummate professional" and added, "There is a lot of love in our locker room and our organization for him."
• Sunday marked the 13th consecutive regular-season victory for the Colts, dating back to last season, and tied the franchise's all-time record set in 2005.
• Quarterback Peyton Manning's two touchdown passes tied Fran Tarkenton (342) for third-most in NFL history.
• Mathis recorded the third three-sack game of his career, and it was his 14th multiple-sack game.
• The Colts defense had an incredible stretch in the first quarter when they forced Seattle to lose yardage on three consecutive plays: a four-yard loss by running back Julius Jones (E. Foster), a three-yard loss by wide receiver Deion Branch (M. Bullitt) and a five-yard sack of Seneca Wallace (F. Keiaho).