There was just 1:46 left in the half and the Colts were out in front by a count of 17-14. New England quarterback Tom Brady took over from his own 38-yard line and started moving his team closer to field goal position. And then with 28 seconds left at the Indianapolis 40-yard line, he decided to try to catch the Colts napping and threw a deep pass over the middle intended for tight end Ben Watson. Brackett was on Watson's heels and Bob Sanders was waiting deep, placing himself between the big tight end and the goal line.
"I was running down the middle of the field on the play where Bob made the interception, and I felt a little tweak in my hamstring," Brackett told ColtPower this week. "I started to run a little bit and felt it tightening up, so I went to the training room and got some attention. And then I realized that I had torn my hamstring a little bit and I was going to be out for a couple of weeks."
Brackett watched from the sidelines as rookie Freddy Keiaho stepped in to the
key role on the Colts defense with just a couple of days of preparation. When
the Colts realized earlier that week that Brackett's backup, Rob Morris, wasn't
going to be able to make the trip to New England, Keiaho got a crash course in
how to handle the job. The Colts' third-round draft pick had collegiate-level
experience as an inside linebacker, but had been learning the strongside
position this year behind Gilbert Gardner and Rocky Boiman.
"Freddy did a good job," Brackett said. It was a position he had only been familiar with for less than a week. And being able to take that and go out on the field and play like he did, I think he did a good job for us. I was on the sideline trying to help him as much as I could when he would come off the field."
But as much as Brackett admired the rookie's debut, when asked if Keiaho is better suited for the middle linebacker spot or perhaps even the weakside position in this defense, he'll tell you Keiaho is fine just where he is.
"Well, hopefully not middle linebacker," he replied with a
good-natured laugh. "Strongside fits some
of his attributes. He's a very strong linebacker and a guy who will really get
after it, so I think SAM will be a good spot for him."
Brackett's certainly should know. After all, when you talk about someone who knows how to "get after it" he's one of the first players who comes to mind. Back out there in the thick of the action on Sunday night against Philadelphia, he posted a team-leading eight tackles and was credited with a pass defense as well.
"It's a great feeling being able to come back after missing two weeks and being able to run around, make plays and feel good," he said. "My conditioning was just a little off due to being out for a couple of weeks, but the leg felt fine."
Although he had to work through a painful injury, Brackett was one of the lucky ones. While he was able to bounce back in less than three weeks, other key players on the defense haven't been so fortunate. Safety Bob Sanders has missed eight of the last nine games due to knee problems. Mike Doss was lost for the season with an ACL tear. Defensive tackle Corey Simon didn't make it out of training camp because of knee problems and is on injured reserve. Lined up next to Simon last season was Montae Reagor, who has been out for six weeks following a car accident and who isn't likely to return much before the end of the season at best.
Add the free agency loss of strongside linebacker David Thornton into the
mix, and you have a defense that quite honestly doesn't always know who will be
playing where beyond the upcoming game.
"It's tough going out there week-to-week, having different guys lining up around you," Brackett said. "We've been banged up a lot this year, but our guys are stepping in and playing real well for us. I think our run defense is improving and we'll continue to improve as the season goes on."
The Colts run defense faced another strong test this past Sunday night when Brian Westbrook took the field. Although he ran for 124 yards and tacked on 46 more yards receiving, the Indianapolis defense limited the talented Eagles running back to just one touchdown.
"Westbrook is a phenomenal back. He's cut from the same mold as LaDainian Tomlinson in that he can hurt you on the run and in the passing game," Brackett said. "He has great ability and we knew coming into the game that we had to limit his big plays ... and I think we were able to do that."
This weekend, Indianapolis faces a Tennessee Titans team that gave them quite a battle back in early October. While they came out of that clash with a 14-13 victory, running back Travis Henry surprised most onlookers with 123 yards rushing, averaging 6.5 yards per carry. Since then, he's gone over 100 yards three times over the last six games. But just like Westbrook, Henry didn't do much damage on the scoreboard. In fact, he didn't cross the goal line at all.
Brackett says the Colts will have to keep a close eye on Henry this Sunday,
keep him in front of them and wrap him up when they get close enough to make the
tackle. But he also knows that the Titans have a quarterback who now has a bit
more experience than the last time they met -- and who is showing flashes of the
brilliance that he displayed during his collegiate career with the Texas
Last week against the Giants, Vince Young had his best day as a pro, personally providing 318 yards of offense (249 passing, 69 rushing) while scoring two touchdowns through the air and one on the ground. He finished the day with a quarterback rating of 107.9.
"Vince Young's a very athletic guy. He can make plays with his legs," Brackett said. "We just have to limit him. He's a guy who can scramble and hurt you, so when he's out in the open field we have to treat him like a running back and get him down."
Kickoff is at 1:00 ET this Sunday live from Tennessee. And here's one thing you can count on. Colts middle linebacker Gary Brackett will once again be flying to the ball and playing with the passion that has helped him establish himself as the leader of this Indianapolis defense.
ColtPower Insiders can hear a little bit more about Gary Brackett's fire and passion in an exclusive audio clip from our interview. Early in the game, Eagles linebacker Jeremiah Trotter made an axe-chopping motion after he made a tackle for a loss. Not long after, Brackett made a big hit of his own, stood up and mimicked Trotter's display. Brackett tells our Insiders what that was all about and what he was thinking when he did it. Don't miss it!
In-story photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images