Freeney, Mathis Combine for Four Sacks in 35-3 Victory over Bengals
INDIANAPOLIS – Come game time, Dwight Freeney is always excited – no matter the time; no matter the situation.
But the Colts' three-time Pro Bowl defensive end said there comes a certain situation in a game where that excitement level does increase a bit.
Such a situation arose in the second half Sunday.
At that point, a big day for the Colts' defense got a lot better.
Freeney and fellow Colts defensive end Robert Mathis, one of the NFL's top pass-rushing tandems for the last half decade, continued their recent hot streak on Sunday afternoon with a dominant performance against the Cincinnati Bengals, combining for four sacks to lead a second consecutive overpowering effort for an improving Colts defense.
Early in the second half, the Colts' lead began to grow.
And for Freeney and Mathis, things got fun.
"That's what we want," Freeney said shortly after the Colts' 35-3 victory over the Bengals at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis.
"We want those big leads so we can get after it and make teams one-dimensional. As 'D' line (defensive line), we love it. That's what we're built for."
On Sunday, the Colts' 7-0 first-quarter lead expanded to 14-3 at halftime and 28-3 after the third quarter. As it grew, offensive efficiency created defensive opunity.
And the defense took full advantage.
Freeney, the Colts' all-time sacks leader and November's AFC Defensive Player of the Month, registered a sack and a half, bringing his total for the season to 9.5, a half a sack from his first double-digit season since 2005.
Freeney also was credited with two tackles for losses and four hurries, one of which forced Bengals quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to scramble toward defensive end Robert Mathis, the AFC's Defensive Player of the Week this past week.
Mathis sacked Fitzpatrick on the play, one of 2.5 sacks Mathis registered to bring his team-leading total for the season to 11.5.
Mathis has 6.5 sacks in the last three weeks and Freeney has 6.5 in the last five games.
On Sunday, Mathis also had three quarterback hurries, two tackles for a loss and a forced fumble.
"We were just getting after the quarterback," Mathis said. "That's what we do."
For Freeney and Mathis, it was the sort of game that hadn't happened much this season. The Colts are 9-4, with seven of their victories decided by six points or less, including a five-game stretch during November in which they won five games by a total of 20 points.
Coming after that stretch, Freeney said Sunday's game was welcome.
"As a D-Line, we needed that – just go out there and have a fun game – go out there and do what we do, what we've been doing for years: the offense scores a lot of points, they (the opponent) start passing the ball, we start creating havoc in the backfield," Freeney said. "It was a fun game. It was a great stat game. That's what you want. As a defensive line, that's what you need."
Freeney and Mathis each said the game got particularly fun in the third quarter. That was when the Colts' 11-point lead became 18 points, then 25 . . .
"I'm excited at 0-0, but you figure at (a) three-touchdown (lead), we're really going then," Freeney said with a smile.
Mathis had a sack that forced a fumble early in the second quarter, but 1.5 of his sacks came in the second half, and Freeney registered all of his sacks after halftime.
Said Mathis, "When you pin your ears back, when it's a 14-, 21-point lead . . . that's when it's time to get it. It comes when it comes, you can't rush it."
On Sunday, the pressure of Freeney and Mathis highlighted a second consecutive dominant day for an Indianapolis defense that has not allowed a touchdown in the last two games.
The Colts, who have allowed more than 20 points just once during their current six-game winning streak, allowed Cincinnati just 252 total yards, forcing four turnovers. Bengals quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, a backup who has started nine games this season, completed 18 of 26 passes for 170 yards, but was sacked four times and intercepted twice.
Reserve Jordan Palmer replaced him in the fourth quarter. He was sacked once, and cornerback Kelvin Hayden returned an interception 85 yards for a touchdown with 5:02 remaining.
"We're just doing the little things right," Mathis said.
"We're doing things better," Dungy said. "We're cutting down on big plays and making teams go the long route. Obviously, playing two backup quarterbacks (Derek Anderson for the Cleveland Browns last week and Fitzpatrick) helps you, but the thing we're not doing is giving up the big plays.
"When you don't, it's tough for opponents to score."