It’s been a continual concern for years, although the Indianapolis Colts insist their run defense isn’t as porous as the numbers suggest.
How can they say that? The lasting image of January playoff losses past has been of New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount obliterating Colts tacklers.
In the Colts’ 27-14 opening loss at Buffalo, the Bills ran for 147 yards and two rushing touchdowns. Now the Colts host a New York Jets team on Monday that ran for 154 yards and two TDs in a 31-10 home win over Cleveland.
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano suggested Thursday his team was decent at stuffing the run at times, but a few plays skewed the numbers. But realistically, those few plays still count, right?
“Again, you look at the overall numbers and it looks, 147 yards I think it was. It’s not what you want, but 41 of them was a quarterback scramble,” Pagano said. “Guy gets out on you a couple times and then makes it look bad. It’s like anything else, you can play great run defense for 35 snaps and then No. 36 if it goes 70, it’s a terrible day.”
Pagano was referring to Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who actually scrambled for a 31-yard gain, not 41.
“I think we did some great things, and I think we did some things that we can build on. Now we’ve got to play consistent and play better because they do like to run the football. They’re good on the offensive line. Really, really good on the offensive line. They’ve got a fullback in there and tight ends that can block. They got some runners that are downhill, between the tackles. Violent guys that break a lot of tackles and very seldom lose yards.”
The coach was probably referring to how the Colts handled Bills running back LeSean McCoy, who was dropped for losses on five carries and finished with 41 yards rushing on 17 carries. It should be said McCoy has been dealing with a hamstring injury.
Throw out Taylor’s 31-yard scramble and the quarterback ran for 10 yards on eight other carries.
So those numbers are encouraging, if you can ignore the bigger ones.
Bills rookie running back Karlos Williams had a 26-yard TD run and needed just six carries to amass 55 yards, an average of 9.2 yards per carry. Wide receiver Percy Harvin gained a first down on a 9-yard end around (yes, those count as rushing yards, too).
The Colts ranked 18th in run defense at 113.4 yards allowed last season. That’s not going to get it done in the big games, like January’s AFC title game, when the Patriots ran for 177 yards and three scores in a 45-7 rout.
But the Colts insist it’s a new year, and this shortcoming will prove to be a past concern. That’s undoubtedly cause for many to shake their heads, but that’s what they’re saying now.
“You know you can’t really listen to the outside noise,” outside linebacker Erik Walden said. “We know what we messed up on. We’ve just got to get it corrected, and I think everybody is aware of that.
“Everybody has got a positive mindset about this game. That’s what we’re focused on.”
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.