Kendall Langford raised his voice at halftime.
The eighth-year defensive end doesn’t usually do motivational speeches. That he was yelling got the attention of his Indianapolis Colts teammates.
“He cussed us out,” said outside linebacker Robert Mathis.
Langford laughed at Mathis’ summation. Yes, indeed, naughty words were spoken. But what’s said in an NFL locker room stays there.
What happens after players leave that locker room, well, everyone could see. The Colts blanked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second half, finished with a season-high five sacks of quarterback Jameis Winston and celebrated a 25-12 triumph at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Colts were down 12-6 at halftime. They had not stopped the Buccaneers (5-6) from scoring in three long drives that culminated in two field goals and one touchdown.
Langford went off. He sensed the Colts needed to get fired up.
“I just felt like it needed to be said,” he said. “Instead of just sitting back and watching and ignoring the obvious. The message got across clear and the guys came out and executed.”
The Colts (6-5) rallied for their third consecutive victory, and first by double digits this season, to stay tied with the Houston Texans atop the AFC South Division.
“Kendall came out and basically chewed us out,” Walden said. “And guys responded. It was right on time. It was perfect.”
A Colts offense limited to a pair of first-half field goals also woke up.
Wide receiver Donte Moncrief caught eight passes for 114 yards. Each of his his eight receptions gained first downs. Half of them converted third downs.
“I give a lot of credit to our older guys for being really unselfish, whether it’s the guys that were here in the past or Andre Johnson or T.Y.,” Hasselbeck said of Moncrief. “T.Y. and Donte are really, really close. It’s not always normal when you have older guys and someone’s maybe stealing their catches a little bit.”
The Colts’ defense took care of the rest.
Winston and a Buccaneers offense that had obliterated Philadelphia for 45 points last week got stuffed after a holding penalty on the initial second-half series. The next series was another three-and-out as Walden sacked Winston on second down.
Tampa Bay drove into Colts’ territory the next time it had the ball, but missed a field goal. When the Bucs got the ball back at the end of the third quarter, the Colts were ahead 19-12.
Walden and Irving sacked Winston on back-to-back plays to end that series.
The Colts effectively put the game away with a touchdown drive on the ensuring series.
Buccaneers running back Doug Martin, who had gashed the Eagles for 235 yards rushing last game, had 97 on 14 carries in this game. He ripped off a 56-yard rush, but other than that, was quiet.
Winston was intercepted late by safety Dwight Lowery. The rookie passer finished 20-of-36 for 245 yards with one touchdown pass and the one interception.
Afterward, Colts defenders sung the praises of Langford for speaking up when it was needed. Langford had only one tackle, but was a defensive MVP, as is most vocal player.
“It’s something that we hadn’t seen from him,” said inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, who was credited with a first-half sack when Winston slid behind the line of scrimmage. “He showed a level of passion, like I said, we hadn’t seen. We heard it.”
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