Colts Defense: Under the Microscope

Some of you have been a bit critical of me giving the defense so much slack this season, and that's fine. If I wasn't cool with criticism I wouldn't blog. I kind of comes with the territory. The reason I've given them slack is mainly do to the injuries they've sustained. I know it's been repeated a lot, but when a team loses both its starting DTs for the season for reasons that aren't football related, it will affect your team's performance. Fans and the media don't like hearing things like that though. It's perferred to blame someone: Dungy, Meeks, Gardner, Manning (he gets blamed for everything so why not throw him in there), etc.

It's easy to find scape goats. Look at Dallas. Apparently, Drew Bledsoe was the sole reason the Cowboys started the season so poorly. Had Romo been in there, this team would be undefeated, right?

Wrong.

The biggest reason for Dallas' turnaround is their defense, which finally showed up to play. Tony Romo has not played well against good/average defenses. Against the NY Giants, he was downright aweful (3 TOs, no TDs). However, their defesne kept them in the game, not allowing the Giants to score TDs themselves. This gave Dallas's offense the luxury to suck for 3 quarters, only to pull together  a game-winning FG drive at the end. This is what a good defense can do for a team, it's because of this that Tony Dungy is so worried about his:

A porous defense affects the offense. Quarterback Peyton Manning directed only nine possessions against the Titans, just three in the second half. The defense isn't giving the offense an opportunity to occasionally fail, which magnifies every dropped pass, every penalty, every stalled drive.

Asked if he would tell his players things are not as bad as they seem after Sunday's loss, Dungy replied: "No, it's as bad as it seems. Yes, it is. And what we've got to do is do what it takes to get it back.

"You can't say, 'Aw, everything's fine,' because everything isn't fine."
It's for this reason everyone is writing off the Colts for the post-season. Traditionally, when the offense has not been "perfect" in the playoffs, the defense has not stepped it up. The Pittsburgh game was a prime example. The score was 14-0, and the game plan was out the window, before the second quarter started. The playoffs are not the regular season, folks. It is rare you score over 30 in a playoff game. This is why they say "defense wins championships." Offense will sell tickets. It will bring in money (which is important for small market teams). It will get you to the playoffs and win your division (remember, you've got to get there first).

However, in the playoffs, defense is key.

Now, defense is not the only factor in the playoffs. Denver walked into the postseason in 2003 and 2004 with a top 5 defense both times, and the Colts blew them out both times. You have to be able to score at least 22-24 points to win in the playoffs, and that takes a good offense. So, offense in the post season is important as well, along with special teams.

This Sunday, I will look at the defense extra close and, if they perform at the same level they did against the Titans last Sunday, then I might have to sing a swan song for this season. As Colts fans, we know why the team is 10-2: Peyton Manning. He's the league MVP, moreso than Tomlinson. Without Tomlinson, the Chargers can still win 10 or 11 games. Without Manning, this Colts team, as it is now, wins 5 or 6 games. No question.

Such realities define a league MVP, and it's a reason why Manning is probably one of the best QBs ever.

Now, morons and general idiots (like Boomer Esiason on his morning radio barf fest) will say Manning's contract is what prevents the team from getting a good defense. Like all football jocks, Boomer didn't major in math and he should stick with talking about things he actually knows something about, like blonde male hair dye. Tom Brady is counting more against New England's cap this year than Manning does against the Colts, and Manning's contract is more cap friendly. Michael Vick makes more, and has a longer contract, than both those guys. The last three drafts, the Colts have invested heavily in defensive players (June, Sanders, David, Jennings, Doss, Jackson, etc.). They've signed defensive free agents like Corey Simon. They've traded for players like Booger McFarland. They've locked up players like Brock and Brackett. These are all excellent moves, but injuries have tested the limits of this organization's pool of talent.

Despite all this, I expect to see a better performance. Bill Polian essentially called out LBer Gilbert Gardner on his radio show this past Monday. Let's see if Gilbert responds. I personally still question why he is still starting. If he can't get it done after 12 weeks, he simply can't do it. Replace him.

I understand injuries have hurt this team, and I have given them slack. But injuries do not account for all the silly mistakes certain players have made. If this defense does not show me something against a very good Jacksonville team, playing the QB they always should have played (Gerrard), then the naysayers might indeed have a point. This team will go no where if the defense does not step up.

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