Run Defense Must Improve This Week, Sanders Says
INDIANAPOLIS – Bob Sanders said the goal this week is clear.
Sanders, the Colts' two-time Pro Bowl safety, said it's not just that the Colts on Sunday will play one of the NFL's top runners, nor is it just that they need a victory to avoid their first 0-2 start since 1998.
It's more simple than that, Sanders said. The 2007 Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Sanders said the Colts' defense considers itself a top unit, particularly against the run.
On Sunday, the Colts allowed 183 yards rushing.
And Sanders said that just can't happen.
"That's what we pride ourselves on – stopping the run and being great in the run," Sanders said Monday, a day after Chicago rookie running back Matt Forte rushed for 123 yards and a 50-yard touchdown on 23 carries in a 29-13 Bears victory at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday.
"When you come into a game like that, you prepare so well during the week, you want to stop the run and force a team to be one-dimensional. When they have two options, running the ball and throwing the ball, it's tough.
"We need to come back and figure out what we need to get corrected and be ready to go this week."
The Colts, who finished 32nd in the NFL in run defense at 173.0 yards per game in 2006, improved in 2007 to 15th in the category, allowing 106.9 yards a game.
"We did some things that are uncharacteristic of how we play," Colts middle linebacker Gary Brackett said. "We just have to get those things fixed."
Said Sanders, "A lot of it is minor. A lot of it is mental. A little bit of it is making the tackles. We missed some tackles last night we could have made and in the past, we've made those same tackles.
"It happens, but you have to come back and just try to do better the next time."
Dungy during his weekly next-day press conference Monday said the Bears' longest run – a 50-yarder by Forte for a first-quarter touchdown – was a combination of a good call by Chicago and an Indianapolis error.
"We were in a passing front," Dungy said. "They ran a trap and broke the line of scrimmage and we have two safeties who have to squeeze it and make it an eight- or nine-yard gain. Forte made a move and got outside of (third-year safety) Antoine (Bethea), which can't happen in the Cover 2 look. The safeties have to keep all the runs inside them.
"It was a good play call on their part to get a seven- or eight-yard gain and get the first down, but defensively you say, 'They can't go 50 yards.'''
Said defensive tackle Raheem Brock, "It was our fault. It was definitely our fault. When we go out and execute our game plan, we don't think anybody should beat us. But they outplayed us. We have to take our hats off to them. They did a great job executing and we didn't play like we were supposed to."
Without the 50-yard run, the Colts allowed 133 yards on 38 carries, a 3.5-yards-per-carry average, but Dungy said the Bears ran effectively throughout.
"They ran the ball well against us," Dungy said. "Even when you take out the long run, which was a missed tackle and a good run, they were running a lot on 2nd-and-10 and coming up to 3rd-and-3 rather than 3rd-and-7 or 8. That put them in a lot of short third-down situations they converted."
The Colts on Sunday will face the Minnesota Vikings, a team that features second-year veteran running back Adrian Peterson, who last season set an NFL record for single-game rushing yards.
SATURDAY IMPROVING: Colts center Jeff Saturday, who missed the regular-season opener with a knee injury sustained in the preseason, could return soon, Dungy said.
Saturday, a Pro Bowl selection each of the past three seasons, had missed two starts since 2000, with each instance occurring in 2004.
"I talked with Jeff last week and he feels like he'll be able to practice," Dungy said. "He's making great progress. Whether he plays this week or the following week, that's still up in the air, but my sense is it will be sooner rather than later."
A SOLID DEBUT: With Saturday missing a start for the first time since 2004, rookie Jamey Richard – a seventh-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft from the University at Buffalo – started at center for the Colts.
Richard, a seventh-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft, played between two other players who did not start at their position for the Colts a year ago.
Third-year veteran Dan Federkeil, who played 10 games in the last two seasons, started at right guard and Charlie Johnson – a third-year veteran who started 10 games at tackle last season – started at left guard.
"They did pretty well, actually," Dungy said. "Chicago crowded the line of scrimmage and showed us some blitz looks. They didn't come all that often, but when they did, we picked it up well. I think we pass protected well. They did their job."
TAKING THE BLAME: A day later, Dungy said there was at least one decision Monday he perhaps would change given the chance.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Colts trailed 22-13 and faced 4th-and-1 at the 50. The Colts opted to run backup running back Dominic Rhodes up the middle, a play that lost two yards, giving the Bears possession of the ball and momentum.
"That was probably my fault," Dungy said. "I suggested something we don't normally do and we should have just done what we do. We had a couple of options there. I thought we had the run in that look and didn't make it. That was definitely a big play.
"You can always in hindsight second-guess yourself and that was one of the things that ended up being a big play and turning the game."
Asked what he would do if he had a chance to rethink the decision, he smiled.
"I'd probably stay out of it and let (Offensive Coordinator) Tom (Moore) make the call of what we practiced and what we'd done," Dungy said.
ETC., ETC.: Sixth-year tight end Dallas Clark underwent an MRI on Monday after sustaining a knee injury against Chicago. The results were not known as of early Monday afternoon, Dungy said. "We've got tight ends who can play," Dungy said. "If that's the case, we'll adapt. I'm hoping he'll be OK. He was running and trying to get himself back in the game (Sunday) night. We'll see what happens, but if it is going to be a couple of weeks, we'll adjust." . . . Dungy also said he didn't yet know the status this week of rookie guard Mike Pollak, who missed the opener with a knee injury. . . . Running back Joseph Addai, who sustained a head injury in the second half, was cleared and ready to return Sunday, Dungy said. "He was ready to go back in the game," Dungy said. "Had it been a one-score game, we would have put him back in."