Colts Defense Improves in Win Against Kansas City
Colts defenders said while Sunday's defensive effort was much improved than that of the past couple of weeks, it still was not good enough.
Not by a long shot.
And while they said their play had been inconsistent in recent weeks, Colts players said Sunday's performance was definitely a step in the right direction, and it gives them something to build on this week as they head to Washington to face the 3-2 Redskins.
Indianapolis held Kansas City without a touchdown, allowing three field goals, and forced a 10 percent conversion rate on third down. The Chiefs, who entered the game averaging 161 yards on the ground and 322 yards overall per game through their first three games, were held to 61 yards under their offensive average and failed to score a touchdown in two red-zone possessions.
"Overall, I think we did a lot of things well," Caldwell said. "I think from a defensive standpoint, our guys played with a lot of energy (and) made very few mistakes. I thought the pursuit was excellent. To be able to hold a pretty potent offense without a touchdown in the ballgame is pretty significant. I certainly was pleased with the way in which we played. We tackled well, but we still have to improve. That's the great thing about it. We still have a challenge ahead."
Middle linebacker and defensive captain Gary Brackett, who is second on the team with 31 tackles, said the unit still has work ahead.
"I think we can still do better," Brackett said. "This team still has a lot of improving to do. We continue to grow, but I think we can build on this."
Defensive tackle Dan Muir said holding the Chiefs to three field goals was good, just not good enough for a defense that holds high standards for itself.
"(Sunday) was a great indicator of how good we can be, but nine points is still too much," Muir said. "We can't be satisfied….our job is to not let anybody score. That's our job, and that's what we want."
If there has been one thing the Colts can count on defensively, week in and week out, it has been the play of two-time Pro Bowl safety Antoine Bethea.
Bethea, who leads the team with 36 tackles, has two quarterback pressures, three passes defended and one forced fumble. He has led a depleted and young secondary this season.
It was Bethea who set the tone for the defense in the home opener with a hit on New York Giants wide receiver Mario Manningham on the first play from scrimmage, and it was his hit Sunday that forced Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles to fumble in the second quarter in Colts territory.
"He has been solid and has been playing at a very high level," Brackett said. "With Bob being out, we really depend upon him a lot as far as leadership in that secondary. He truly has been, really since he has been here, a guy that has not missed a whole bunch of games, been consistent and really has just been playing strong. We are really lucky to have him back there in that secondary."
Defensive back Kelvin Hayden, who is third on the Colts with 29 tackles and has five defended passes and a forced fumble, explained what Bethea means to the secondary and what the defense takes from his example.
"He has meant a lot and is one of those core-anchor guys, and he has been showing that thus far in the season," Hayden said. "That is only going to become contagious with guys wanting to continue to play well, continue to play fast and physical. Hopefully, what he brings to the table will rub off on everybody."
Caldwell said building consistent play is a challenge the defense is looking to meet.
"I tend to think that these guys have a lot of pride in what they do, and when they don't perform well they usually try and find a way to correct that problem," Caldwell said. "We have a bunch of guys that aren't necessarily externally motivated. They get motivated by being better, doing better at what they do."
A LOOK AT HOW THE STORYLINES PLAYED OUT FROM LAST FRIDAY'S PREVIEW 1. Chiefs have had success running and stopping the run this season
Going into Sunday's game against the Colts, the Chiefs were averaging 160.7 yards per game rushing this season. In their previous game, the Chiefs had rushed for 207 yards on 39 carries against the San Francisco 49ers.
On Sunday, the Chiefs were held to 113 yards rushing, almost 48 yards fewer than their yearly average. On the first drive of the game, Kansas City rushed 10 times for 55 yards as it drove deep into Colts territory, but on the other nine drives of the game, the Chiefs only rushed for 58 yards on 17 attempts, an average of 3.4 yards per attempt. The Colts also limited the Chiefs to only three rushes of 10 or more yards, with 14 yards being their longest gain of the day on the ground.
On defense, the Chiefs had been stingy against the run, ranking fifth in the league allowing only 225 yards on the ground through three games. The Colts rushed the ball 31 times against the Chiefs for 97 yards, 22 yards more than the Chiefs average allowed. The Colts' 31 rushes were a season-high against the Chiefs defense.
2. Colts Offense vs. Chiefs Defense on Third Down
The Chiefs went into Sunday's game allowing their opponents to convert third downs into first downs only 26.7 percent of the time, ranking fourth in the league. On Sunday, the Colts converted eight of their 17 third-down opportunities (47.1 %) as the Colts were able to extend drives. In their last two games, the Colts have gotten a first down on 15 of 27 third-down attempts (55.6%).
3. Colts at home coming off a loss
Going into the Chiefs game, the Colts had won the last 10 games they had played at home coming off a loss in a previous game.
That streak is now at 11 games after the Colts' victory on Sunday. The last time the Colts extended a losing streak with a home loss was November 3, 2002.