INDIANAPOLIS — Robert Mathis has, of course, built his career by terrorizing opposing quarterbacks, so one might understand some sense of concern after his start to the 2016 season, which has produced zero sacks in the first five games.
Is there something wrong with the six-time Pro Bowler?
Well, yes and no. Mathis says he's been dealing with a nagging foot injury the past few weeks. something that has required constant treatment, rehabbing and icing "around the clock." But when asked Tuesday night on “The Robert Mathis Show” with Query and Schultz, "Where are things health-wise for Robert Mathis?" the 35-year-old offered no excuses — albeit in the third person.
"Robert Mathis is working to stay on top of his health," Mathis said. "Robert doesn't use excuses for anything — Robert just needs to get to the quarterback more."
Indeed, getting to the quarterback has been a struggle for Mathis so far this season. Through five games, he's been credited with 10 total tackles — one for a loss — and one quarterback hit. This kind of production is unfamiliar for a guy who ranks No. 1 all-time in Indianapolis Colts history with 118 regular season sacks.
But Mathis' sacks drought is certainly not unprecedented. He's gone at least five straight games, including the postseason, without recording a sack five different times in his 14-year NFL career, including a career-long stretch of six games without a sack in 2009.
For Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, the decision to keep putting Mathis out there week in and week out isn't a tough one. Pagano says Mathis still earns a ton of attention from opposing offenses, meaning he's creating opportunities for other teammates in the process.
"We all want to see Rob do well. Rob wants to see Rob do well," Pagano said on Monday. "We will continue to figure out ways to make that happen. He still garners attention and things like that. It takes all 11 (players) to make the whole defense work. We will continue to work towards that."
A visual look back at the amazing career of Robert Mathis. (2003-present)
Indeed, the Colts' defense, as a whole, hasn't been able to generate a ton of pressure thus far. Their seven total sacks as a team ranks tied for 27th in the NFL; only two teams — the Kansas City Chiefs (five sacks) and the New York Giants (four sacks) — have fewer.
"It takes all 11 (players) and it doesn't fall on one guy, it doesn't fall on the front, the linebackers and the back end," Pagano said. "They are all in this thing together, we are all in this thing together."
For Mathis personally, he doesn't worry about if he'll get it going again — he believes it's only a matter of when.
After missing the entire 2014 season with a torn Achilles — and then suffering a series of major setbacks in his recovery — Mathis said depression eventually kicked in. He wondered, "Is this the end?"
But with the help of those close to him — especially his wife, Brandi — Mathis said the fact he was able to make a full recovery and return to the field last season and still record seven sacks gave him the confidence that he can take on any challenge that comes his way.
"Like the foot and the nagging things that I have now, it's nothing compared to what I've been through," Mathis said. "So I know that I will come out of this slump, and I'm fully confident that I will."
Mathis' defensive coordinator believes it's only a matter of time before he gets going, as well, starting on Sunday night against the Houston Texans, a team Mathis has recorded 16.5 career sacks against.
"I have a great deal of confidence in Rob. I'm not concerned about Rob," Colts defensive coordinator Ted Monachino said. "We have to find creative ways to get him free and get him going. What'll happen is, there's a lot of confidence involved in that technique and that skill and those confidence rushers, once they get rolling, sometimes it's hard to slow them down and that's how we have to get Rob going. We have to get him jump started in some way and then get him going where he can string a few games together."