INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus today talked to local reporters via video conference. What did he have to say about the turnaround performance by his unit last Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, the strategy against mobile quarterbacks and more?
You can catch that entire session above, but here are some top takeaways:
» Eberflus had confidence his team would start making more plays in the second half last Sunday against the Browns; he was right: The Colts were able to put a halt to the Browns' league-leading rushing attack the first half of last Sunday's Week 5 contest — Cleveland entered the game averaging more than 200 rushing yards per contest — but quarterback Baker Mayfield was instead finding success through the air the first two quarters, completing 19-of-28 passes for 228 yards with two touchdowns during that span.
A few of those pass plays made by the Browns were circus-catch-like sequences from the likes of Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry; sometimes you've just got to tip your cap to a team when they're doing things like that against you.
But Eberflus thought the tide would turn in the second — and it did. Mayfield had as many completions (two) as interceptions over the final two quarters, and the Indy defense did all it could do to keep the team in the game.
"I mean there is always a balance there," Eberflus said. "I think when I was younger – because I am kind of an intense person – I would get more heated than I do now. I believe that comes with experience and I think that as group you understand that there are going to be some plays made by the offense and you've just got to hang in there and persevere – and the guys did that. They stuck together.
"The message was at halftime was, 'Hey guys, they made a couple plays on some 50-50 balls. Up in the air we have to do a better job with timing, space and making those plays. We'll do that and just hang in there and just keep playing. Let's just play our defense better. Let's pay attention to detail, focus on our assignments and play them physical and violent. Then good things will happen,'" Eberflus said. "Then we just stayed at it, stayed together as a group and we thought we played better in the second half."
» The Colts will continue working on being smart and disciplined as pass rushers against some of the more elusive quarterbacks in the league: Already this season the Colts have had to face the likes of Gardner Minshew II, Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield, who are some of the NFL's more mobile quarterbacks in terms of feeling the pressure and escaping the pocket to make plays.
Down the road, the Colts will be playing the Baltimore Ravens' Lamar Jackson and, of course, the Houston Texans' Deshaun Watson, who are arguably two of the top three or four most elusive QBs the NFL has to offer.
It's not like the Indy defense has struggled to consistently contain the mobile quarterbacks to this point, but they have been able to escape the pocket to make some big plays from time to time. Eberflus said it's critical to turn those "close-but-no-cigar" type pressures into something productive, whether it's a sack, a forced interception, a tackle for loss or, at the very least, an incompletion or very short gain.
The Colts this Sunday face off against another elusive-type quarterback in the Cincinnati Bengals' Joe Burrow; while the 2020 No. 1-overall pick out of LSU isn't going to be a ton of rushing yards each week, he can certainly figure out ways to make plays with his feet and get the ball where it needs to go down the field.
"You look at the basic rudiments of pass rush – you've got six rush lanes, you've got four players. There is always going to be two of them open. You've got two A's, two B's and two C's so you have four guys rushing," Eberflus said. "How do you cover up those gaps? Well, you cover them up through games. You cover them up through smart rush. You cover them up through rush lanes and level rush, but two or three guys on each player are going to have one-on-ones. Those guys have to win the one-on-ones and it's not going to happen every time. That's just the reality of it. They are going to take a good pass set. They are going to slide a player to one of our good players and that's the reality of the game. We've just got to stay at it. It's about perseverance and about staying determined in your pass-rush lanes and staying determined.
"You just have to do a great job of four equals one, and you can do some other things," Eberflus continued."You can pressure with five, six or seven and be able to cover those lanes as well. We do some of that and you have to pick your poison and keep going."