Session Sets Tone for Hard-Hitting, Run-Stuffing Colts Defense
INDIANAPOLIS – To Clint Session, it's about the team.
So, when the Colts' third-year linebacker last week was asked to discuss his hitting ability – just how it is he seems to hit so hard, so consistently, so often – he said the message he sends when he does doesn't really have all that much to do with him.
Yes, it is about sending a message. And about making an impact.
But Session said making a difference by hitting is what the entire Colts' defense is about this season, and it's not a small reason the Colts are one of two teams still playing.
"I think it's more like describing what we represent," Session said as the AFC Champion Colts (16-2) prepared to play the NFC Champion Saints (15-3) in Super Bowl XLIV at Sun Life Stadium in South Florida on February 7.
"We're a hard-hitting team. We play relentless. We want to continue to hit you so that you remember that every time you come this way. That's what we do. It's not just me. Sometimes I get a better shot than others, but that's what separates players. Some guys do it, some guys don't.
"It's all about the overall scheme of what we're trying to get across."
Session, a fourth-round selection in the 2007 NFL Draft from the University of Pittsburgh, is in his second season as a starter, but his first at his current position. He started at strong-side linebacker last season, then moved to weak side, where he has started this season.
It's a change that fit, and coincided with an improvement in the Colts' run defense.
The Colts, after ranking 24th in the NFL against the run last season, ranked 24th again this season, but while the Colts average 124.5 yards per game allowed this season, that average was skewed by the three final games of the season, when Jacksonville, the Jets and Buffalo rushed for 589 yards in three games after Indianapolis had clinched its playoff seeding.
In the post-season, the Colts have yet to allow 90 yards rushing in a game, and in the AFC Championship Game last week, Indianapolis held the Jets to 86 yards on 29 carries.
The Jets ranked No. 1 in the NFL in rushing during the regular season with 172.2 yards a game.
While the improvement of defensive tackles Dan Muir and Antonio Johnson has been a factor in the improvement, Colts linebacker Gary Brackett said Session has been a major reason as well.
Brackett, the Colts' defensive co-captain and a starter since 2005, has played alongside David Thornton, Cato June, Freddy Keiaho and Tyjuan Hagler, among others.
Session, Brackett said, plays the run better than any of them.
And a big reason, Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said, is a unique aggressiveness that gives him unusual power.
"He is extremely aggressive," Caldwell said. "He has a natural intensity about him, and not only that, he just absolutely loves to play. You've seen him bouncing around prior to ballgames, and that's not an act because the guy is ready to get at it. He's ready for that whistle to blow, so he can go out and do what he does best."
While Session is shorter than the prototype NFL linebacker, Caldwell said size is hardly a detriment.
"He has this natural ability, natural leverage," Caldwell said. "His height is not a disadvantage, but gives him the ability to pack a real punch, and he can do it in such a short distance. Oftentimes, you'll get a chance to watch him in very close quarters be able to deliver a blow, and it's almost like he took a 15-yard running head start.
"He just has so much power, and he can deliver in such a short area that it's incredible."
Session, after starting 15 of 16 games last season with 99 tackles, started the first 14 games this season, and despite missing the last two games, he finished third on the team with 104 tackles. He also had two interceptions, two quarterback pressures and half a sack.
And if not every tackle was a big-time hit, a lot were. A whole lot.
"There were a couple of times he made a hit and it set the tone for the whole game," Colts safety Melvin Bullitt said. "It makes you want to hit like that, but I couldn't take it. I'll just keep tackling the way I tackle and Clint can take care of all the bone-crushing hits. Everybody wants to be the guy with the big highlight. My hat goes off to Clint because he can make some big hits."
As Session sees it, a big hit not only helps the team, it takes something away from the opposition as well. A bit of momentum, perhaps, or it might just make the opponent think. Just enough.
"We're all human," Session said. "I don't care how (many) weights you lift, if somebody keeps hitting you, you're going to be a little timid coming back in that area. Every time you're in that area you're going to think twice."
And that can't help but help the team.
"Anytime I can get the crowd (going) with something that I like to do, I love it," Session said. "They like to see that kind of stuff. It gets the crowd hyped. They want to get them one, too, after that. They feel like, 'Hey, Clint got a big hit, now it's time to get me one.'
"All that right there gets the overall camaraderie of the team in the right place."