Colts contend defense isn't NFL's worst

Colts defenders insist they're better than their No. 32 league ranking, although D'Qwell Jackson admits, 'The numbers don't lie.'

A No. 32 ranking in any NFL category is an obvious dubious distinction.

The Indianapolis Colts insisted Wednesday they don’t have the league’s worst defense, despite being ranked dead last in total yards allowed at 408.6 per game.

Inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson shook his head about the ranking and said, “Yeah, I would argue my points all day. It’s not. No. No. We’re so far better than that.

“The numbers, they’re there for a reason, but we’re far better than the bottom of the league.”

Jackson leads the NFL in total tackles with 79, 10 more than the next player, an indication he’s been on the field a lot. The defense has been on the field for 487 plays, most in the league. Another equally telling statistic is the Colts rank 30th in time of possession at 27 minutes, 38 seconds per game, which means the defense has played 32 minutes, 22 seconds on average.

As for the other numbers, the Colts are 20th in points allowed, which some contend is the most important defense statistic. They’re 23rd in run defense, 29th in pass defense and 31st in turnover ratio at minus-8. Just three teams have fewer than the Colts’ seven takeaways, but only one team has fewer than the Colts’ 15 giveaways.

An analysis of the turnovers reveals the obvious, that the defense too often has been placed in adverse short fields. On nine of the 15 giveaways, opponents took possession on the Colts’ side of the field. And the Colts allowed 40 points after those nine giveaways.

Opponents have started possessions at the Colts’ 3, 9, 13, 23, 26, 27, 43 and 44 twice. Overall, the Colts have allowed 50 points after committing a turnover.

Defensive end Kendall Langford was unaware of the No. 32 ranking, but didn’t hesitate to refute the contention the Colts are the NFL’s worst defense.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “By far. By far. A lot of it gets out of hand, a play here, a play there.”

Head coach Chuck Pagano said he isn’t a “bean counter,” suggesting he doesn’t get caught up in all the numbers. He said the team will be judged at season’s end.

Always one to put a positive spin on negative subjects, he said he’s seen the defense do some good things. He mentioned two pick-sixes from safeties Mike Adams and Dwight Lowery and said he thought the run defense had improved, although the No. 23 ranking is five spots lower than at 2014 season's end.

Eventually, Pagano conceded his team had room to improve.

“Are we where we want to be? No,” he said. “Have we done some good things? Absolutely. Now we’ve got to be consistent.”

The Colts (3-4) visit the Carolina Panthers (6-0) for Monday Night Football. The Panthers have the NFL’s No. 1 rushing offense at 144.7 yards per game. 

“We’ve got to be better at creating third-and-long,” Pagano said. “We’ve got to do a better job of putting pressure on the quarterback.”

The Colts are 16th in stopping opponents on third down and 30th in sacks per passing play. Their 10 sacks translates to about 23 for a full season. That would be the lowest team total since 21 in 1993.

“Every game has been a tough game, whether we’ve won it or lost it,” Jackson said. “The numbers, I thought we had been playing pretty solid on defense at times, but we’ve got to do it more consistently.

“The numbers don’t lie. But all we can do is come out next game and we can always change that. … We can’t be satisfied with being at the bottom of the league.”

Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.

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