INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus today spoke to local reporters via video conference. What did he have to say about yet another strong defensive performance last Sunday against the Jets, the statistics that really matter to him, rookie safety Julian Blackmon's first-career start and more?
You can catch that entire session above, but here are some top takeaways:
» Simple execution, Eberflus says, continues to be the main factor behind some standout defensive performances the last couple weeks: Two weeks ago, the Colts shut down Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings' offense to the tune of just 175 yards allowed with three interceptions and a safety forced. Last Sunday it was much of the same against Sam Darnold and the New York Jets, who had just 260 total yards of offense, while the Colts once again picked off three passes — two of which they returned for touchdowns — and also forced another safety.
Through the first three weeks of the regular season, the Colts have the league's No. 1 defense by a wide margin, and are at or near the top of many key statistical categories.
Eberflus credits his players with buying into the gameplan each week in practice and simply going out and executing when the time is right.
"They've done a good job of really working hard during the course of the week and executing the details and getting the plan together," Eberflus said, "and then bringing it all together and really focusing on the walkthroughs and the attention to detail as we go."
» Speaking of statistics, Eberflus keeps an eye on three key areas on a week-to-week basis: There are plenty of numbers out there to try to wrap your mind around when evaluating the play of the defense each week, whether it's total yards allowed, third down percentage, rushing average, yards per attempt — and the Colts are currently excelling in all of them.
But Eberflus has three others that he really prioritizes.
"To play good football on defense, I believe it's eliminating explosive plays," he said. "And then at the end of the day you want to say that you tackled well, and you want to say that you had strip attempts at the football."
According to Sharp Football Stats, the Colts rank 12th in the NFL in explosive run rate allowed and 11th in explosive pass rate allowed through three games; the last two weeks, Indy has been the fifth-best team at limiting big plays through the air.
The Colts also rank 17th in the league in terms of total tackling grade, according to Pro Football Focus.
And in terms of stripping the football, the Colts currently have zero fumble recoveries on their end, but their six interceptions lead the league, and their +3 turnover differential ranks tied for fifth in the NFL.
So, in other words, while the Colts' defense is by most accounts playing extremely well here in the early goings, Eberflus won't be totally satisfied until those particular numbers improve.
"If you tackle well and limit explosives and have strip attempts, that means your guys are on the details, and you create momentum through those three things," he said.
» Eberflus continues to be impressed with rookie safety Julian Blackmon: Blackmon last Sunday earned the first start of his career, as he replaced veteran Malik Hooker, who suffered a season-ending Achilles injury the week prior against the Vikings.
What's even more impressive: Blackmon still hasn't hit the 10-month post-surgery mark after tearing his ACL in his final collegiate game at Utah last December, which could factor in to an early-season pitch count for the time being; he played 44 total snaps last Sunday against the Jets, including 41 on defense.
The stat sheet will show Blackmon finished the Jets game with just one tackle, but Eberflus said he felt the rookie performed well the few times he was even given the opportunity to be around the ball, which is not surprising given his strong efforts in practice of late.
"He was solid in there, and like I said, we're excited about him, where he is," Eberflus said. "He plays the middle part of the field really well and the varying coverages that we have. I think he had a solid start.
"He had an outstanding week of practice last week," Eberflus continued. "I thought his week of practice last week was just A-plus, and we're expecting that from him again."