Before you look at the stats at Football Outsiders, NFL.com, or Pro Football Reference, tell me who has the #8 scoring defense in football.
I take it you've figured out I'm setting this up as yet another post to laud Tony Dungy's genius, because the #8 scoring defense in the NFL belongs to the Indianapolis Colts. And if you at one time criticized the Colts defense as "too small," then Tony Dungy is laughing at you right now:
Tony Dungy chuckles when critics contend Indianapolis’ defense is too soft, too small or lacks the flashiness of other teams.
He’d rather win this way: with speedy opportunists.
Over the past six weeks, the defense has forced enough turnovers and created enough chaos to outplay some of the league’s best teams and put the Colts back in position to make another playoff run.
That's a nice so subtle way of saying All y'all that doubted me and my boys can kindly kiss our collective assI Another way of saying it:
One of the more annoying criticisms many wannabe football analysts (and some football personnel people) make is that the Colts players are too "small" to play great defense. But, pesky little things like FACTS often get in the way of the ignorant assessment of defense. In 2006, the Chicago Bears defense was clearly bigger than the Colts defense. Despite this, the Colts offense dominated Chicago's defense, and Indy's defense destroyed Chicago's offense.
In football, size (ie, a player's height) is the most over-rated attribute when evaluating a player. More info on the defense:
The Colts have given up just 3.7 yards per carry and two 100-yard rushers in the last eight games.
This from a supposed "small" defense that is "soft" and can be "pushed off" the line of scrimmage. Now, I admit certain key positions on the defense do require a player to have a certain height and weight. The nose tackle for a Tampa-2 style defense needs a player who is roughly 290-305 pounds, and stands no taller than 6'3. Too tall and he may lack a low center pf gravity needed to gain good leverage when attacking the center or guard. Too fat, and he may lose valuable speed. Again, the Tampa-2 puts more emphasis on speed than power.
"We’re probably a different type of defense. I think people look at us and our size and they’re always going to feel like people can run the ball on us. That’s part of it. We don’t play, necessarily, to have those kinds of stats, great run stats or great third-down stats. We’re playing for points allowed and takeaways," the Colts coach explained.
"It’s a little bit different style. We’re never going to be a team that smothers people and only gives up 10 or 12 first downs a game and 200 yards. We just don’t play that way, but I think we can be effective."
As always, I stress that there is no one "best way" to build a defense. The #1 defense in the NFL is the Pittsburgh Steelers, who run a 3-4 blitz scheme. The #2 defense is the Tennessee Titans, who run a 4-3 Tampa-2 style defense with a few wrinkles. Currently, the top 5 defenses in football are 1) A 3-4 blitz (Steelers), 2) A 4-3 Tampa-2 (Titans), 3) A 4-6 blitz scheme (Ravens), 4) A 4-3 blitz package (Giants), 5) A hybrid Tampa-2, 4-3 blitz scheme (Bucs). All these defenses are different, with some valuing speed or power, big linebackers over small ones, coverage guys over blitzers, etc.
Antonio "Mookie" Johnson has been a big mid-season addition at NT
As for the Colts, this defense has come a long way from the 260-plus rushing yards they gave up to the Jaguars in Week 3. Since then they've added DT Antonio Johnson (who has made a big difference) and gotten SS Bob Sanders and DT Daniel Muir back from injury. They've also gotten great contributions from SS Melvin Bullitt, DT Eric Foster, and LB Clint Session. Session, who is indeed short as a SAM backer (even by Tampa-2 standards), has made a tremendous impact. Literally:
First-year starter Clint Session has given the Colts a Sanders-like hitter at strong-side linebacker. Session had a couple big hits Sunday and the week before hammered Cleveland running back Jamal Lewis with such force he broke Lewis' facemask.
"At Pitt, I cracked my helmet in half the last game of my college career," Session said after the Cincinnati game. "It's full speed and whatever's coming, that's what I'll hit him with."
Session has the rare explosiveness to incite his teammates and the crowd.
Clint Session asks, Are you not entertained!
Compared to what they were the first four weeks of the season, this Colts defense has made tremendous improvements. Once again, Tony Dungy and Ron Meeks work their magic.