Defense anxious to bounce back

Colts defenders were humbled by Pittsburgh's 51-point performance. Monday night's game at the New York Giants is primetime opportunity to show they're much better than that.

The Indianapolis Colts will enjoy a later bye weekend than usual after facing the New York Giants on Monday night.

Not that the defense is looking past this next game.

A humbling 51-34 loss at Pittsburgh last Sunday left this team salty, especially defenders like inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson. They are anxious to get back on the field in East Rutherford, N.J., to prove the defense is better than it showed last time out.

“Honestly, that’s the first time I’ve heard that, bye week,” Jackson said, when asked about the upcoming time off. “We’re not even talking about it. We’re focused on this game. There’s a lot of pride in this locker room. Against the Steelers, that wasn’t a good showing in any shape, way or form. We understand that.”

The Colts entered Heinz Field as the NFL’s No. 1 defense in stopping opponents on third down. They also had 20 sacks in the previous five games. They didn’t get a single sack against Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh converted 8-of-13 third downs.

Pittsburgh used six- and seven-man blocking fronts to neutralize the Colts’ blitz. That begs a question: How do the Colts get pressure on Giants quarterback Eli Manning if the same blocking scheme is used?

“You’ve always got to go back and see what you’ve done, and then what teams have done against you,” Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said Friday. “In every week that we go through it, we’re going to see what was successful for us and what was bad for us.

“You know what you’ve got to do and you’ve got to maybe sometimes change it up a little bit.”

The Colts will have cornerback Vontae Davis back from a knee injury, which sidelined him early against the Steelers. But defensive tackle Arthur Jones (ankle) and outside linebacker (hip flexor) will sit this one out. And the Colts have also ruled out safety LaRon Landry, who has yet to be activated after returning from a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Jackson, signed as a free agent in the offseason, has become the Colts’ defensive leader. His team-high 65 tackles rank 11th in the NFL. He also has three sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

But after five weeks of solid play, the Colts’ defense couldn’t have regressed more against the Steelers. Roethlisberger passed for a franchise-record 522 yards and six TDs.

“We’ve got to be mindful that we have a bullseye on our chest,” Jackson said. “We’ve shown the rest of the league that we can play dominant defense. We understand that going into this environment, (the Giants) coming off a bye, they’ve had an extra week to prepare, they didn’t have a pretty good performance on offense (last game). We understand that. We’re going to be ready.”

The Colts shut out Cincinnati 27-0 on Oct. 19 before giving up 51 points to the Steelers. It’s the first time an NFL defense has blanked an opponent and then allowed 51 points since the Chicago Bears in 1991.

“It goes to show you that you’ve got to play every week,” Jackson said.

The Colts will score points. They’ve put up at least 20 in every game and are averaging 31.3 per game, second in the NFL. But can the defense hold up its end?

“This team is going to be as good as the defense can really be week to week,” Jackson said.

Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.


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