Colts' First-Team Defense Has Superb First-Quarter Start
Any questions about how the Colts' defense would fair during its second year in coordinator Larry Coyer's defensive system began to be answered in the first quarter of Sunday's preseason game against the visiting San Francisco 49ers.
Indianapolis' defense forced two turnovers and dominated the 49ers' offense in the first quarter, helping the Colts jump out to an early 10-0 advantage.
"It was a good way to start the season off," safety Antoine Bethea said. "We want to go out there and fly around. One of our main emphases during this training camp was getting turnovers. We got two turnovers, so hopefully we can watch film and build on it.
"We had one full year under the defense with Coach Coyer and we've been practicing real hard in training camp. We can make corrections, but so far, so good."
After starting out on defense, Indianapolis wasted no time in getting the ball back for the offense.
In fact, it happened on the first defensive play of the preseason.
Colts linebacker Philip Wheeler corralled 49ers running back Michael Robinson in the backfield, allowing Bethea to come up and deliver a textbook helmet-on-football hit from his safety position to dislodge the ball.
Colts defensive end Robert Mathis then recovered the fumble for Indianapolis on the 49ers 18-yard line.
Highlighted by a 12-yard pass from Peyton Manning to Joseph Addai, the Colts converted the turnover into a 21-yard field goal from Adam Vinatieri for a 3-0 lead.
The Colts' defense then forced a three-and-out on the ensuing San Francisco drive as pressure from the defensive line, first from the ends and then from the tackles, prompted 49ers quarterback Alex Smith to get rid of the ball prematurely on third down.
Manning and the Colts' offense seemed to feed off of the defense's energy and went on a nine play, 89-yard scoring drive that culminated with Addai scoring from seven yards out for a 10-0 lead.
San Francisco forced a punt following a stalled Indianapolis drive, took over at the Colts' 44-yard line and looked to score with a short field.
But again, the Colts' defense came up big.
Smith went deep down the middle of the field on a 3rd-and-10 to tight end Delanie Walker, and after a deflection, Colts defensive back Jerraud Powers intercepted the pass and returned it 53 yards to the 49ers' 32-yard line.
But Powers, and some of his teammates, think he could have returned that interception to the end zone.
"(Jacob) Lacey had a good block. All of the guys had good blocks, but I just wasn't aware of the sideline," Powers said. "Reggie (Wayne) was on the sideline and he kept (motioning me to the sideline) as if someone was going to come try and strip it from the backside. It should have been a 'pick-six.' I'm already preparing for (hearing about it from his teammates).
"I was just thinking of the team and didn't want to lose the ball. Our goal is to create turnovers, stopping them on fourth down, fumbles, interceptions or whatever. We started off pretty good with it today."
The defense limited San Francisco's time of possession to only 5:25 in the first quarter and two first downs. The 49ers offense netted just 47 yards, with only 10 coming from the ground game, while Smith was 3-of-9 for 37 yards and an interception.
OTHER DEFENSIVE NOTES
-Rookie second-round pick Pat Angerer recorded two sacks within three plays during the second quarter while tallying three tackles in the first half. Angerer led the team on the day with eight tackles.
-Rookie seventh-round pick Kavell Conner led all Colts with five tackles, including one for loss, in the first half. Conner finished the contest with six total tackles.
-Second-year defensive lineman Fili Moala recorded four tackles and one sack.
-Antoine Bethea had two tackles, one forced fumble and a pass deflection in the first quarter.
- Free-agent linebacker Trevor Anderson recovered a muffed punt in the fourth quarter that led to a Colts' score.