Colts Linebacker Talks About This Weekend's AFC Championship Game
In his seventh year in the league, linebacker Gary Brackett wears a variety of hats for the Colts, including middle linebacker, defensive captain and on-field orchestrator. During the regular season, Brackett totaled 115 tackles, giving him his fifth consecutive 100-tackle season. And in last week's Divisional Round game against Baltimore, Brackett was his usual self, helping stifle the Ravens' rushing attack and finishing with five tackles and the team's only sack. On Wednesday, Indianapolis' do-it-all defender stepped to the podium and answered questions about the team's upcoming showdown in the AFC Championship game versus the New York Jets.
Q: What concerns you the most about the Jets' running game?
Brackett: "They are a physical group of guys. Obviously, their offensive linemen are very savvy. Those guys have been healthy the whole season. They are leading the league in rushing, I think because they are not afraid to run the ball. No matter what the score is, it seems like they are still running the ball, so it's definitely something we want to get stopped."
Q: The Ravens seemed surprised at your speed. Has your defense caught teams off guard?
Brackett: "I don't think so. That's been our mantra for the last seven years, speaking on the defensive side of the ball. We take pride in ourselves. Anytime someone thinks they can come in and run the football, we feel as though it's our job to get them stopped."
Q: How is New York's rushing attack different, at all, than Baltimore's?
Brackett: "Very similar. Actually, their plays are very similar. I think what they do is they cutback a little more I would say with (Jets running back) Shonn Greene. He's doing a good job cutting back, making people miss, and that's a tribute to some of his longer runs."
Q: Do you feel as if you are underrated at all in terms of the national spotlight?
Brackett: "I think I've been playing long enough now, it depends who's rating you. Obviously, because of our offense, a lot of our defensive players are under the radar. But I don't think you win 14-15 games in a season without having a good defense. Across the board, our guys have been competitive; we've been getting the job done. Looking at statistics, we are 14th, 15th overall, but I think anytime there is a play to be made, our defense steps up and makes it."
Q: Do you feel as if your run defense is better than it was in years past?
Brackett: "I think so. Our defensive tackles are doing a great job shedding blocks, creating one-on-ones. Those guys have been making their fair share of plays for us."
Q: How is the team's defense different from when Tony Dungy was the head coach?
Brackett: "I just think we have more coverages. We open up to how we do things. Before, we had about three or four coverages to draw on. Now, it's anywhere from eight to 10, depending on the game plan. (Defensive Coordinator Larry Coyer) has done a great job of bringing us up to speed, in terms of putting different things in, giving our offense a different look, so to speak. We're not the same scheme down-in and down-out. I think he has done a good job of mixing it up, and when guys they get their number called in the blitz scheme they are making some plays."
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about Jim Caldwell and what his stamp has been on this team?
Brackett: "Coach Caldwell, one of the things he has preached to us this year is that we are going to be the hunters. No matter what someone else has to play for, no matter what attitude, bravado, whatever it is they bring in here, we are going to be the hunters. Defensively, you've definitely seen that, with some of the aggressive things we've been doing, and even offensively. We are going for it more on third and fourth down, and I think that comes with him, being the hunters, being aggressive and wanting to set the tempo for every game."
Q: What have you learned about Caldwell this year you didn't know about him when he was a position coach?
Brackett: "He's pretty funny. He has some one-liners he uses during our meetings. But I think he does a good job of communicating effectively with us. I think what he's been as far as keeping our bodies fresh, what he does in practice the latter part of the season and his time management is excellent. He's a very smart man and knows what he is doing as far as taking care of this football team."