INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts' front seven was wounded on Sunday and the New York Jets took full advantage of it.
With starters Fili Moala, Robert Mathis and Pat Angerer out, and Cory Redding leaving the game in the first half with an injury, the Jets were able to have a successful afternoon on the ground.
Jets running back Shonn Greene had career-highs of 161 yards rushing and 32 carries, to go along with tying another career-high by scoring three touchdowns. The outburst kept the Jets ahead on the scoreboard most of the day, turning an early 3-0 deficit around in a 35-9 win. The loss put the Colts at 2-3.
"We hit (Greene) in the backfield a number of times, but didn't make the tackle," Colts Interim Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians said.
Early in the week, Arians talked about how the Jets game plan would be to "ground and pound" Indianapolis.
The Jets did just that as New York quarterback Mark Sanchez threw for just 82 yards, but the offense relied on its rushing attack behind three Pro Bowl linemen.
"Defensively we gave up too much in the running game, and that's something we can't do," outside linebacker Jerry Hughes said. "It's something that we have to pick up and stop teams from doing that."
The back-breaker for the Colts came late in the third quarter. Down 21-6, the defense was looking to continue its solid start to the second half but Jets running back Joe McKnight had other ideas.
On a first-and-10 from the Jets 33-yard line, McKnight was able to avoid Colts cornerback Darius Butler and took off for a 61-yard gain to set up a Greene touchdown.
The Colts defense had started the second half with a pair of three-and-outs, and the McKnight run helped start the Jets scoring in the second half.
"Big plays here and there, that really fueled them on some drives," Hughes said. "We just have to get back to the film room and see how we can fix that."
With the injured regulars out, defensive end Clifton Geathers and defensive tackle Antonio Dixon made their debuts in a Colts uniform.
Hughes had a busy afternoon filling in for Robert Mathis. Hughes had eight tackles and recorded his second sack of the season.
For the fifth straight game, inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman led the defense with 14 tackles. Freeman has had double-digit tackle totals in every game this season. He is starting in the absence of Angerer, who was felled by a foot injury on the first play of the preseason.
Colts cornerback Vontae Davis was active on Sunday but did not see action. Cassius Vaughn made his second straight start in place of Davis.
Next week, Hughes and the Colts defense will face the Cleveland Browns and one of the top rookie running backs in the league in Trent Richardson. Cleveland earned its first win of the season on Sunday, a 34-24 home triumph over Cincinnati.
Hughes was a bright spot in place of Mathis, but that is of little value to him without returning to Indianapolis with a victory.
"Feeling comfortable but would feel better with a win," Hughes said of his performance. "It was a great experience but a win is way more important."