INDIANAPOLIS –Defensive back Joe Lefeged made the Colts last year as an undrafted free agent.
Lefeged found playing time on the defense a little rare to come by, so he played on special teams. He appeared in all 16 contests and had three tackles.
Lefeged was like all other Colts players who saw a regime change happen in January. That meant one of two things – a new regime might clean house and bring in new players, or there would be a chance to impress the new staff and play oneself back on the roster.
Lefeged is a level-headed guy who went to work and with a heavy emphasis on special teams play under new position coaches Marwan Maalouf and Brant Boyer, he has found action again on coverage units.
Last week in Chicago, Indianapolis downed two punts early in the game inside the Bears' five-yard line. Both times, Lefeged batted the punts back into the field of play, where Justin Hickman downed the ball.
After the first instance, linebacker Jerrell Freeman swiped a Chicago pass and ran the interception back four yards for a score.
Plays like that make a difference in a game. While the Colts did not capitalize on those plays with a victory, Maalouf knows the hidden yardage gained in those situations greatly benefits a team.
"That was something we practice all the time, especially during punt days," said Maalouf. "We're stressing field position. The more (field) the defense has behind them (the better). If they have 95 yards behind them, we have always have a chance. That could turn into possible turnovers for them on a short field, just like Jerrell (Freeman) ended up having. Anything we can do to help them is huge."
Lefeged was a hustling presence on both punts, shedding blockers as a gunner to move his way into position to create a difference-making play.
"He's somebody we've been expecting a lot of things out of," said Maalouf. "So far, it's only been game one, he's done a really good job. He just has to keep building on it, too. The more he does, the more other teams are going to start keying in on him."
Lefeged was the last person to take credit for the two plays that truly helped the team. He chose to praise others.
"Pat did a great job just putting the ball where he did," said Lefeged. "He's been doing it in practice. As a gunner, you have faith in the punter placing the ball in that area. You just have to get to the spot. He did a great job, and the coaches have been doing a great job of teaching me the techniques to beat the double-press and being able to get down the field."
Getting down the field is a dedicated effort since a gunner faces resistance the entire way, and from more than one guy. Lefeged is up for the fight.
"You get the double-press. They can hold you, they can grab you, push you out of bounds. They can pretty much get away with anything out there," said Lefeged. "You just have to have determination and technique and try your best to get down there. You might start seeing double (teams), sometimes you might get tripled, if they bring a guy off the box. Technique will take care of most everything. If you use your technique, you'll be fine."
Players will do whatever it takes to play the game for which they have passion. Lefeged knows his ticket to get into action.
"Yes, that's going to be my only way to be able to play right now. I'm not a starter. The best thing to do to get on the field is to play special teams," said Lefeged. "I take a lot of pride in that. I try to go out there each day and work hard."
COLTS FRIDAY NOTEBOOK (QUOTE-UNQUOTE): CHUCK PAGANO (on if pass rush waned at Chicago after Dwight Freeney went out and if it's coincidence) "I think, what they (Chicago) do is as soon as that happens, when you don't have to tend to one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, now all your focus goes to the other guy (Robert Mathis), who ended up having two sacks and started the game with a sack. You saw, especially on third down, they knew we were going to pressure them. They were going (with a) seven-man protection. They're leaving a tight end on one side, hanging him in the back on the other side. They made it difficult. There were times, especially on first and second down, when you saw a bunch of those chunk plays we talked about, those deep throws, they're going on max protect. They're keeping everybody in. You've got two- and three-receiver routes. Two or three of the guys are going to get doubled, and there's only going to be a couple singles. Most of the time on those early downs we're only rushing four, so one or two guys have to convert and try to win to create some pressure, but they weren't going to let us get there after what happened early in that game. What did he (Cutler) start out, one-for-10? They made sure they got off and said 'Okay, let's start running the ball a little bit and make sure we protect this guy.' " PAGANO (on having five turnovers in opener) "I told them today that any time you're minus-four, you won't beat Carmel High School or Zionsville, is exactly what I told them today. You won't, I don't care who you're playing. At the end of the day, if you're minus-four in the turnover stat, it's really hard to overcome."PAGANO (on if he needed Dwayne Allen to block more at Bears, or was he just a victim of circumstance as far getting touches) "You'd love to get him the ball a little bit more in the pass game, but again protection was obviously vital and became very, very important, so we had to use him in that mode. I thought our backs did a nice job on the edges at times chipping them. The one time Donnie (Brown) did a great job on (Julius) Peppers chipping him, and then, unfortunately, we dumped the ball off to him. (He) put his eyes down the field too soon, which is uncharacteristic of Donnie. We'll find ways, Bruce (Arians) will find ways to get the ball to Dwayne." PAGANO (on run defense vs. Chicago and how does it need to be against Minnesota) "I just watched them briefly, took a quick peek at them against Jacksonville and (Adrian Peterson) looks as good as he's ever looked. We've got to do a great job because if you don't have an edge, the saying that we have around here is, 'No edge, no chance.' If you don't put an edge on the defense this week, it was at a premium last week with (Matt) Forte but this week, this guy can take it the distance. You know, again, the backside (is important). He does a great job of cutting the thing back, putting the foot in the ground and getting north and south. There were times that we looked really good as far as the run defense goes. All it takes is one guy gets hooked here, one guy gets out of his gap, a misread at the second level by a linebacker and you've got a seam in your defense. Again, with the new fronts, different calls, things like that, there's going to be growing pains as we move forward. When you look at the tape, if it was effort and a lack of toughness and physicality and things like that, I'd be really concerned, but it's not. These guys will play and play hard. They'll give everything they've got for 60 minutes. We just have to clean up some technique things." PAGANO (on if he needed to be vocal or reassuring after a loss) "It's pretty easy to see once you break it down, you put the stats up, and you go back and look at the areas that you always talk about – running the football, stopping the run, third down, red zone, two-minute, turnovers, all of the things that played major factors, all the situational stuff. We can play a whole lot better in all those areas. You just lay the facts out. It's certainly not a time to go in there and beat anybody up. You go in there and you point out, 'Here's what we've got to do in these areas to get better.' It all starts with taking care of the football. You go back to turnovers, if you're minus-four, it's going to be hard to beat anybody, especially at this level. We've got enough veteran leadership in there. I know we've got a lot of young guys, but we've got a lot of young guys that understand what the expectations are. For us to start riding this rollercoaster (is pointless). What I told them today, I said, 'Who won the Super Bowl last year?' They all start scratching their heads. I said, 'It was the Giants, right?' And they said, 'Yeah.' I said, 'What's their record now? Same as ours, right?' I said, 'Fourteen games into the season, a year ago, what was their record? 7-7. What was Green Bay's record at the end of the year? They went 15-1. Pretty good season, right?' The key was they made it to the tournament. That's our goal – get in the tournament, catch fire and see what happens. So 15-1, they make the tournament, but the Giants happened to catch fire and beat them in the first round and knock them out. It's certainly not how you start, it's how you finish." PAGANO (on how the line played in week one) "In spurts, they played well. We've talked about it at length. It seems to keep coming up about the offensive line. There are a bunch of new guys in there. They're learning a new system. We make no excuses. They'd be the first to tell you that they're going to play better. They want to play better. There was solid blocking in the run game. We had some long runs, obviously Donnie (Brown) did. Protection-wise, there were only a few times where…if you have a bunch of free runners, just guys getting beat clean (it's a problem). One time, they (Chicago) ran a pirate stunt, scraped (Lance) Briggs around the side (and) we didn't get the pass off. That's one thing. If we can stiffen up in certain situations and firm up the protection for Andrew. Obviously, if he can step up in the pocket, he's going to find guys down the field and make plays." PAGANO (on if Anthony Castonzo will get help with Jared Allen) "You see everybody on tape doing the same thing. They've got a back over there, they've got a tight end over there. Anybody that has the sack production that Jared (Allen) has earned that right. It's just like people taking care of Dwight (Freeney) and Robert (Mathis), all the time. That's all you hear about is those guys complaining about, 'Hey I'm getting doubled, I'm getting chipped, they're sliding the protection to me.' Obviously, we are going to do what's necessary to keep our quarterback upright and clean." PAGANO (on what is a good, balanced offense) "Obviously, you'd love to be more balanced than we were (against Chicago). Again if you dig yourself a hole and get down 31-14, then it's hard to be balanced if you're trying to get back in the game. Certainly, we don't want to come out of a game and have our quarterback having to throw 45 times. That's not the balance we're looking for, and we've said that since we've got here as a staff. We want to be able to run the football which sets up everything else in the pass game. Definitely 45 times throwing the ball is not what we're looking for. At the same time, if people are going to load the box up on us to take away the run game, then we got to execute the short pass game – the 'look' passes, the 'now' passes, things like that and be able to get yards after the catch." PAGANO (on why so many 40-point games on opening weekend) "The athleticism, people spreading you out, the tight ends, the number of tight ends now that can run and catch, play action pass, the big-chunk plays down the field. Wide receivers, they are getting bigger, faster and stronger. They are just not making the defensive backs the same way as they're making the wide receivers. They are just not growing at the same rate (laughs). You have some mismatches on the outside that way. That's where this game is headed. That's why you saw a guy like Ray Lewis drop 20 pounds because of where the game's going. He gets down to 235 instead of (255). You don't see people lining up in two-back, I-formation and running leads and isos (isolations), playing smash-mouth football, where your mike linebacker had to be 250-260 to hold up in the run game. You just aren't seeing that anymore." PAGANO (on if it drives him crazy that defensive backs can't breathe on receivers anymore) "Yeah, it seems like (receivers) get to do all the pushing and shoving. You're going to have the battles in the end zone, and I think everybody is going to see it and probably call it different week-to-week. You can't change the way you play. We are not going to grab and hold. We are going to play within the framework of the rules, but you still got to be aggressive with those guys. Otherwise, the 6-4, 6-5 guys that we faced, they'll push you all over the place and body you out of the way, big tight ends, things like that. You got to play aggressive with those guys." BRUCE ARIANS (on proper offensive mix) "Each game is a little different, but first play of the series, balance. Then the first three quarters you'd love to be 50-50, and then play the fourth quarter whichever way the game plays out, ahead or behind. That one (Chicago opener) didn't quite do it, you know? We went into that game thinking to throw on run downs and run on throwing downs, just to match up against that front. Then we got caught into a throwing game after the turnovers."ARIANS (on having 48 dropbacks in a game) "That's too many in any game, unless you're just killing somebody. You don't want to get over the 35 mark. Normally, it's a 65-play game, so 30-30, 32-32 is what you're looking for." ARIANS (on how and when Trai Essex can help) "He should be able to help this Sunday because he knows the offense. He's been in it for a long time. He gives us great balance. He's started in all five positions over the last seven years. He played a full game at center with one week of practice. He's that type of guy. He's very versatile and very smart. He's a really good addition to our ballclub. He brings great depth." ARIANS (on if he were surprised by anything in Luck's first game) "I was surprised on the underthrow to Donnie (Avery). I thought that was a touchdown. He thought it was a free play, I thought it was a free play, obviously, and just let it go. If you can overthrow Mike Wallace and Donnie Avery, I want to see it. Don't underthrow those guys. Those are good lessons learned."GREG MANUSKY (on the challenge of Adrian Peterson) "He's a great running back. Over the years, a lot of yardage, a lot of carries. He's still a physical runner, good sight lines, still has the speed to take it outside. He's a talented guy coming off knee surgery. He actually had a good week last week. We just have to make sure to corral him." MANUSKY (on the challenge of defensing WR-Percy Harvin) "(He's) an explosive player that has a lot of speed and quickness. He plays all over the field. He plays in the slot. He plays X. He plays Z. He's in the backfield, so we just have to make sure that we corral him as well. Two players, Adrian Peterson and of course (Harvin)." ANDREW LUCK (on offensive line at Chicago) "I thought they battled their butts off against a really good front four, front seven. I think if we get a little momentum going early, maybe it's a different story in terms of that, but I think they did a great job the whole day." LUCK (on if happy to get first game behind him) "Not really. I didn't view it as 'Okay, just got to get this game over with.' I went into the game trying to win, not worried about anything surrounding the game. I guess that one is over. Now, I'm excited for this next opportunity."LUCK (on if there was lack of offensive balance at Chicago) "I think what gets lost is that in some of those runs there are little one-step slants or other passes that I think five or six times I ended up throwing the ball on those. I think that creates a wider distance between the two in terms of numbers. I think the nature of how the game goes, too. Obviously in a two-minute drive, you're behind and you're going to be throwing. But running the ball is something that I think we're going to have to do, and it'll be a focus the whole season." LUCK (on Minnesota) "I think they're a high-motor, very fundamentally good defense with a lot of good players, some great ones in the front seven. It will be a real challenge for us." LUCK (on Colts fans) "I think they're a very knowledgeable fan base. Even walking around it's interesting hearing when people come up to you and say a couple of words, it's, 'Wow you know a lot about football, maybe too much about football (laughing). I can't answer that question.' In the preseason games, it's been fun to see how in tune the fans are, to the offense and defense, different situations. I know it's a little different than it was at Stanford where folks weren't so into that part of the game." TRAI ESSEX (on joining Colts) "There were other teams. Most of the offers came in on Sunday night after the first round of games were being played. Indianapolis called, and it definitely was a clear-cut favorite, being that I'm from Fort Wayne. I'm familiar with the coaches. I think they have a good thing going here, even though he was a Ravens guy. I heard he was a great guy. He hasn't disappointed me. I'm happy to be here." SAMSON SATELE (on dealing with Chicago loss) "We lost. We're going to take it bad. We thought we beat ourselves. It wasn't as much that they beat us, we beat ourselves. We just have to clean up some stuff, and we'll see a different team out there this week." CORY REDDING (on defense's game at Chicago) "It's almost collectively like everybody kind of messed up. (We have) the makings of a good group. Everybody is like, 'Okay, you know what? We messed up. We lost the game. Put it behind us. Shake it off. Let's go back to the basics. Do what we're supposed to do. Get our fundamentals right. Trust one another and continue to build on those things.' What we did great, that was awesome. We scored on defense. We were shutting them down. We did everything right. Then (there were) a few missed plays here and there. That's what practice is all about. That's what preparation is all about. That's what trusting one another is all about. That's what getting ready for next week is all about. We'll learn from those mistakes and move forward." REDDING (on if winning at home is important for this being young team since road is tough) "Young or old team, it really doesn't matter. Whenever you take a step back, you want to take two or three steps forward. You don't want to keep going backwards. You learn from those mistakes, and we put those mistakes behind us with the preparation of this week moving toward Minnesota. That's all we're thinking about – how to beat Minnesota, how to stop the run, how to stop the pass." REDDING (on if he sees Minnesota as a 3-13 team) "No. I see a bunch of pros who have a sense of competing about themselves and wanting to win, just like us. Anybody who is in the NFL and puts that shirt on, there's a sense of pride and a sense of manhood about themselves. They want to go out and compete, no matter what the stats were last year or the record was. That's last year. They are a team that's very dangerous, a lot of weapons across the board. You have to stop the run first and foremost with 28 (Adrian Peterson). You have to keep your eyes on 12, (Percy) Harvin. Take away what they do well, and try to make them one-dimensional. That's the game plan." MIKE McGLYNN (on if it just a matter of time for the line to gel) "The time is now. Week-to-week it has to be full-tilt, 100 percent." COBY FLEENER (on if he would talk about personal success since team lost) "Absolutely not. We're trying to improve for the next game now. We lost the game. I think that's the big story line, and I think we'll try to build off what we can." ROBERT MATHIS (on keeping patient after one game) "It's a marathon. Don't jump off the boat too quickly. We'll get it together."