Behind Enemy Lines- Colts Part 1
Guest Ed Thompson, NFL writer for Scout.com and editor ColtPower.com, the Indianapolis Colts affiliate on the Scout.com network.
Much is being made of Dwight Freeney's new contract for his performance over the past few years. What type of year is he having, and was he worth the money?
Ed Thompson: While his stats haven't been all that flashy - outside of his four forced fumbles - Freeney has been worth the investment just because of what he's able to do for the rest of the team. He's consistently drawing attention from two players, sometimes three, which cuts down on the number of receivers getting out onto routes or opens up an opportunity for the lineman next to him. During the team's Monday Night Football game against the Jaguars, Freeney almost always had a tight end or a running back to his side to help the Jaguars' offensive left tackle. At times, the tight end would chip Freeney while the offensive tackle dropped back a step to square-up. So he's giving the defense an advantage simply by forcing opponents to dedicate more than one man to him on practically every play.
The Colts are undefeated at 7-0 again for the third consecutive year. Is being undefeated at this point in the season something that's talked about, or do the players take it for granted once they get there?
Thompson: They don't really talk about it much. They seem to focus on each week's opponent and truly see each one as a challenge. They've learned the hard way in previous years that they can have plenty of talent, but if they don't execute properly on the field, they won't make it to the big game. I think their respect for their opponents really helps them stay focused on what they'll need to do to win the game, not just go out and play.
7-0 is impressive, have the Colts really been challenged by their opponents this year, or were the games mostly well in hand despite some close scores?
Thompson: They've had a couple of contests where they got off to slow starts but then made adjustments as the game progressed and opened up big leads in the second half - the season opener against the Saints and last week's game at Carolina are two good examples. Tennessee gave them a tough game earlier this year. They really haven't bullied anyone, they've just come out and played good, solid football through four quarters. And as the other team stumbles and makes mistakes, the Colts' lead increases as they just keep plugging along.
Indianapolis has flown well under the radar up until this game. Some players have said they like it that way. Do you think being an underdog, and having the Patriots steal the limelight up till this week is motivation for the Colts?
Thompson: I think it is for the defense. They're an emotional, fiery bunch that has become a very physical unit. If anyone's going to get a lift from it, it'll be them. The offense is a very business-like group that seems to be just fine with not having to deal with the distraction of being in the limelight. So in both cases, it works to their benefit.
What do you expect the Colts to try to do to slow down the Patriots high-powered offense?
Thompson: If they stay true to their identity and what they do best, they will focus on stopping the run first and trying to force the Patriots to be one-dimensional. As crazy as that may sound with the kind of year that Tom Brady is having, it plays to the Colts defense's strength as well. With the pass rushers they've got on this team and a very physical secondary group, I think they'll be content to take their chances against Brady and his receivers. Every time the ball goes into the air, it's a chance for a steal, an opportunity to knock the ball loose with a big, well-timed hit, or to force a few ill-timed drops on a third down that forces a punt. And it also gives the Colts pass rushers a chance to not only sack Brady, but force fumbles - something that they are very skilled at doing when they get near a quarterback. As the game progresses, their nickel and dime packages should be more prevalent, but that won't necessarily be a detriment to stopping the run. They bring in Tim Jennings at cornerback and slide starting cornerback Marlin Jackson inside to cover the slot receiver, putting one of their best hitters inside in case there is a run. He's also an effective blitzer from that spot. In the dime package, it's usually hard-hitting Matt Giordano who is inserted, giving Indy another guy on the field who can lay out a running back or wide receiver.
Running Up The Score?