“They probably got tired of everybody in this room saying we had nobody that could rush the passer as soon as Robert (Mathis) was hurt,” Pagano said Wednesday. “Maybe they’re playing with a little bit of a chip on their shoulder and I thank you guys.”
Coaches love to provide players with motivation, or in this case, use media criticism to fire up players. When news spread that suspended outside linebacker Robert Mathis wouldn’t be back this season after tearing his left Achilles tendon, a popular question centered on if the Colts as a team could come up with 19.5 sacks, what Mathis had last season as the NFL’s sack leader.
Skepticism was to be expected after coordinator Greg Manusky’s defense had only one sack in the first two games. But the Colts have opened some guys since then with 16 sacks in the last four games. They had a season-high five in the last game at Houston.
Colts defensive end Cory Redding was asked about how the Colts have been able to generate a consistent pass rush in a season when sacks have been on the decline — the team average is 12 and NFL defenses have had 100 fewer sacks this season compared to last year through Week 6.
“No, I can’t pinpoint anything,” Redding said. “The fact that guys are playing real good coverage in the backend, we have two solid cornerbacks, our safeties are rolling down and helping out over top. Our ’backers are really covering the tight ends and the backs that come out of the backfield.
“The guys up front, whether it’s four, three or five dialing it up, we’re getting some pressure on the quarterback. It’s all coming together. I don’t know why around the league it’s so low. I know what we’re doing right, and we’re having fun doing it.”
“The one thing I learned from Wade Phillips is you’ve got to adapt to what you have, whatever you have,” Manusky said. “If it means you’re a Tampa-2 team or a quarters team, a man team, a match team, whatever, and you’ve got to adapt to the personnel that you have.”
The Colts typically bring blitz pressure on third down and the last four opponents haven’t been able to account for the extra attackers. Manusky’s defense is No. 1 in stopping foes on third down at 29.7 percent (19-of-64). And the Colts have come up with 12 turnovers, four more than the league average.Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.