Colts Q&A With Gary Brackett

Following a terrific defensive effort against the Texans, Colts middle linebacker Gary Brackett talked to's Ed Thompson this week about what he saw during his big interception play, why the run defense has improved this year and much more!

Ed Thompson: Congratulations on a great game -- 9 tackles, a forced fumble, an interception and a pass defensed that resulted in Rocky Boiman's interception. Did you feel like you were in a bit of a zone in that game or did it just feel like another game from where you were standing?

Gary Brackett: I guess about the third quarter I felt like the quarterback was picking on me a little bit, so I wanted to make the most of my opportunity with that guy.

ET: Why did you feel like he was picking on you?

GB: Anytime, as a defensive player, the quarterback is coming your way, you want to make him pay for it. During the third quarter we had one situation where I tipped the ball to Rocky, and then the interception I received -- obviously in the Cover-2 scheme -- when he tried to throw it through a tight window.  You definitely have to make quarterbacks pay when they throw in tight windows.

ET: Talk about the interception. What did you see when Matt Schaub came up to the line, and then walk us through how the play developed.

GB: They had a regular pro formation, they motioned the receiver back to the right slot, there was one tight end on the right, two receivers on the left. The formation in the backfield was I-near, the formation was actually offset to the tight-end -- just recognizing the set, recognizing there was a void in the middle of the defense that they wanted to attack. So it was just pre-snap formation and then dropping back into my pass responsibilities.  Looking at his eyes, he gave a half-pump to my left trying to get me to open up my hips to the other way and commit. I was staying with my initial read, being able to read his eyes when he came back and just be underneath where he wanted to hit.

ET: Did you see much room to run on the return or was it just a free-for-all out there?

GB: I saw some daylight and I guess in my younger days I might have got there, but where I'm at now you see a lot of open field, but that's a lot of grass you have to cover -- really sideways -- and I just wanted to get as much as I could get and get the ball back to our offense.

ET: You guys are playing without Anthony McFarland, last week without two of your starting linebackers, and yet you're still playing some great defense out there. What is it about how the Colts organization prepares you guys and grooms these young guys that makes that possible?

GB: That's it.  We have great system here and obviously great leadership under Coach Dungy. What we do is not hazing our rookies when they get in -- allowing them opportunities to soar and really just get along with the group. I think Ed Johnson has been a great fit for us, obviously to get him after the draft -- a big body, upfront a physical guy who really makes a big difference in the middle. With a pro player, Raheem Brock, I think in his second year out there at defensive tackle he's really settled down and I think he's doing a great job for us.

Gary Brackett celebrates
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

ET: I talked to Tyjuan Hagler last week and he really respects your leadership out on the field. He said you're always talking. Is that primarily shouting out what you're seeing and assignments? Or is it also comments that motivate your teammates?

GB: One, I'm the middle linebacker, so I'm calling the plays and getting everyone lined up.  But it's also a lot of pre-snap communication. One thing with our defense is you never know what their offense is doing, but you can prepare yourself. Out of certain formations they have tendencies to run and do certain plays, so just alerting everyone to that so when a play starts to develop guys have already been alerted to some things. Part of being a good football player is knowing the area the offense wants to touch.

ET: Looking back at the Texans game, what was the most challenging aspect of their offensive attack from where you stood on the field as the middle linebacker?

GB: I would say their running game. Last year they put up great numbers in the running game, so we definitely wanted to shore up the running game and try to get off the field on third down.

ET: What's been the biggest difference in the running game for you guys this season?

GB: Every offseason we have a chance to scout ourselves and look at our defense and see what areas we want to improve for next season. Obviously we all felt that we can play consistently in run defense -- consistently meaning lining up and gap responsibility. A lot of our guys last year were out of position or didn't make a play when they had the opportunity.  If we can eliminate those things we can get that accomplished and we can start making teams one dimensional. We have two of the best defensive ends in the game.  When you give them a corner to rush with a third-and-eight or a third-and-ten, it's tough to block both of them, let alone our defensive tackles in the middle.

ET: You've got Denver ahead this weekend and you'll be facing a guy you're very familiar with, WR Brandon Stokley. I guess you'll be seeing a fair amount of him over the middle in this game?

GB: Yeah definitely, I think that's what he does best. He's a very quick guy, he's great for the slot position in the National Football League. So I'm guessing we're just going to try to limit some of the things he does, and when he comes across the middle and catches it we'll make a play.

ET: I know you haven't seen film yet, but what's your early impression of the biggest challenges that Denver will bring to Indianapolis this weekend?

GB: I would think their running game.  That's what Denver's always been about.  Running the ball, their offensive line getting a hat on everyone on defense, creating little seams and separations, allowing their running backs to make one cut and hit a seam where someone's out of position and really expose the defense.

ET: Let's wrap this interview up by getting you to rewind back to the Super Bowl for a moment since I haven't talked to you since then. As you think back, what are some of the first images that come into your head when you put yourself mentally back in Miami?

GB: I think when you accomplish what we did last year, you just have to appreciate the journey. For me, that's been walking-on in college, five years in the league and having the opportunity to play on one of the biggest stages in sports. Getting there, convincing myself that this opportunity doesn't happen often and I really need to make the most of it.  So for me it was really just trying to go out there and play hard and play a game that when I get older I can say I did everything I could to get a championship ring -- and it came to fruition.

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