Editor's note: Promoted from FanPosts and edited slightly to look better on the front page. -bbs
Don't worry, I'm not going to cite our conference rivals trading for Fat Albert and OchoStinko as to why this Colts team is in trouble. I know too much about football to suggest that. I'm not worried about Peyton Manning's lingering neck issues. Peyton Manning will be, well, Peyton Manning. I'm not worried about our offense - they proved last year that they can survive injuries. And I'm not worried about our lack of off-season activity, as of yet.
But what I am worried about, is our defense. Not necessarily personnel, because we have stars (Freeney, Mathis, & Bethea) and solid role players (Brackett, Angerer, Powers, Hayden, Bullitt). I'm worried about our philosophy. Forget about the Colts for a second. I'm putting you in charge of an NFL team, any team - and I tell you that this team has one of the greatest QB's of all time, one of the best offenses in the league, and quite possibly the best pass-rushing duo in the league. What would your philosophy be on defense?? I certainly know what I'd do as the Defensive Coordinator - force long passing situations. The easiest way to force long passing situations is to 1. Stop the run, and 2. Pressure/eliminate the short passing attack. Well how do you do that? You can't stop short, quick passes by sitting back in a soft Cover-2, in fact, you're pretty much inviting short, high-percentage passes by sitting back in the Cover-2. You need physical, man-to-man CB's who are willing to play close to the line of scrimmage. This throws off the timing of the offense, and forces QB's to take longer drops, waiting for intermediate patterns to develop. All of this means that the QB holds onto the ball longer, allowing pass-rushers to get to the QB.
I'm sure you all realized from the start that I was, of course, referring to Peyton Manning/Dwight Freeney/Robert Mathis and the Indianapolis Colts. And my philosophy was pretty easy to understand, and very simple in theory. Yet our team essentially plays the exact opposite of what's intuitive. We don't stop the run. Our front 7 plays small. Our CB's play far off the line of scrimmage. We sit back in a Cover-2 way too often. The way to beat the Colts is really a simple blueprint to follow, and teams have caught on: commit to the run, and utilize a short, quick passing attack. It's how the Texans kicked our ass Week 1. It's how the Jaguars beat us up in Week 4. It's how Dallas beat us in Week 13. It's exactly how the New Orleans Saints beat us in the SuperBowl. It plays away from every single strength that our team has. It shortens the game by minimizing the number of possessions per team. It keeps Peyton Manning off the field (and out of rhythm) with long, meticulous, clock-eating drives. It negates our greatest strength on defense: our pass rush. And finally, it tires our defense out. We continually build our personnel around speed, not size. We are undersized across the board on defense, and asking these smaller players to stay out on the field for 10-12 plays, 5:00-8:00 per drive is irresponsible.
Personally, I don't know if it's too late to fix our defense. I was holding out hope that we'd pursue a dominant Defensive Tackle, or at least sign a couple of bigger bodies up front to help against the run. I was hoping that Larry Coyer would work away from the traditional Cover-2, and more towards a physical, man-to-man coverage scheme. We have the players - Powers, Tryon, and Kevin Thomas all fit the bill. But I just don't see it on gameday. I want our defense to take chances. I want our defense to force difficult, down-the-field throws. In fact, I want our defense to give up some big plays. We keep priding ourselves on STOPPING the big-play; but meanwhile, teams aren't trying to hit that homerun against us - because they know they can simply march it down our throats. Why can I live with our defense giving up the occasional big play? Because it means the QB had to throw a perfect 30-yard-pass, that the WR had to get separation down the field and make a difficult catch, that we forced their tackles to try and block Freeney & Mathis for a few seconds longer than they're probably capable of. I can live with the occasional big play. Because it was a high-degree-of-difficulty play. Because at the end of the day, the trade-off will be more sacks, more forced turnovers, more 3-outs, and ultimately - getting Peyton Manning back on the football field.
So this is my plead - to Bill Polian, Chris Polian, Jim Caldwell, Larry Coyer, whoever is in charge - please fix our defense. Please man up, and stop playing so soft. Get bigger up front. Get more aggressive in your play calling. Stop sitting back in a Cover-2 and hit somebody in the mouth. Too often we let the opposing offense dictate the flow of the game. It's time for our defense to step up and impose our will.
That is all. Go Colts.