AFC Playoffs Q&A: Colts Safety Jamie Silva

While the Indianapolis Colts prepared to host the Baltimore Ravens, second-year safety Jamie Silva talked with's Ed Thompson about the Ravens running backs, blitzing the passer, high-pressure downs and much more during an exclusive interview.

Ed Thompson: This is your second time heading into the playoffs. Does this one feel any different to you?

Jamie Silva: I didn't play in the game last year, so yeah, for sure.  This year I know I have a big role on special teams. You always look forward to what you're doing at the present time, so this a big one.

Thompson: The Ravens got out to a fast start last week against the Patriots with a huge 83-yard touchdown run by Ray Rice, but this week they face a Colts defense that is tops in the league at limiting big plays of 20-plus yards. Why do you think the defense has been so successful at limiting those big gains?

Silva: I think it's our preparation. We'll give up a few yards here and there, so it's like bend, but don't break. We take pride in not giving up big plays.

Thompson: What are the differences you've seen in Ray Rice versus Willis McGahee as running backs?

Silva: McGahee is a big back. He weighs 230-plus and runs hard. Ray Rice is a smaller guy, but he's fast as he's shown all year. In the Patriots game, he showed that he's quick and has good vision. Both of those guys are really good backs and it takes a lot to stop them--but that's what we've been preparing to do.

Silva's football instincts have served him well on defense and special teams.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Thompson: The Ravens are running the ball well and will obviously want to establish the run, but the Colts defense is eighth in the league at limiting the number of yards allowed on first down. That's obviously going to be a key battle in this matchup.

Silva: Yeah, that just goes along with our focus to limit the run. They obviously have a strong running attack and they have great backs, and you know that they're going to make some good plays, but we've just got to limit them. We've got to rally together-- have our guys rushing when they need to and covering when they need to. We just need to work in sync and make it right.

Thompson: Joe Flacco only threw ten passes last weekend against New England. You've faced him in the past, so what makes him a quarterback who shouldn't be taken lightly this week?

Silva: He's got one of the strongest arms that you'll see. He's capable of going out there and throwing it all over the field. Against the Patriots, he didn't need to. Their running game was on point and controlling the game. Hopefully, we'll be able to stop the runs until they start throwing more. Then we have to be on top of our game so he doesn't go out there and just sling the ball all over the place.

Thompson: The defense is blitzing more this season and it's paying off. The average opposing quarterback's passer rating against a Colts blitz is just 66.78, the seventh-lowest rating in the league. And in addition to how effective you've been at applying pressure, I've got to think that having more chances to blitz is more fun.

Silva: You're right, it's fun changing things up a little bit more. I think it was a good improvement, but you've got to execute to make it successful. You can put in lots of schemes that look good on paper, but it you don't practice them, prepare well, and do them correctly, it's not going to work.

Thompson: When the Colts defense gets an opponent into a third down and 6-plus yards, you guys only allow them to convert the first down 14.6 percent of the time--sixth best in the league. Casual observers would primarily credit Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, but there's more to that success, isn't there?

Silva: Yeah, those two are great coming off the edge and the rushing the passer, but it takes good coverage as well. Sometimes coverage gets sacks, and sometimes sacks make the coverage look good. I think it's the whole unit working in sync that makes us a good defense in those situations.

Thompson: Teams all over the league try to get their players to avoid costly penalties. Indianapolis has only allowed five scoring drives all year that included a penalty that handed the opponent a first down. That's the second- best mark in the league. Why is your team so successful at limiting those mistakes?

Silva: I think it comes from Coach Caldwell. Even during practice, he stresses the penalties. He wants to see improvements everyday. 

Thompson: Another impressive note regarding the Colts defense is how you've been performing in high-pressure situations. When the Colts are defending a goal-to-go situation, your defense is tied for the league in creating turnovers and you're first in limiting touchdowns--just 54.5 percent of the time versus a league average of 68.3 percent. And you're second-best on fourth down anywhere on the field, allowing your opponent to convert just 31.6 percent of the time versus a league average of 50.1 percent. That certainly shows the character and the no-quit attitude of this defense.

Silva: Yeah, I agree. I think there are a lot of tough guys on this team that like to play football, who follow all of their assignments and execute what they have to in order to be successful. In those pressure situations, we just do what we're taught. We follow through with our fundamentals and it pays off in stopping them.

Thompson: So what's the outlook in Indianapolis right now? Are you guys ready to go?

Silva: Yeah, for sure. Everybody is excited to play, everybody knows what we're going for. We've worked hard all week at practice and we're ready for this game.

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