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B.Y.I.B.- Bring Your Inner Bob

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Bob Sanders is a difference maker, and the difference made is the Colts defense.
The defense now has a nickname: The Hit Squad.
B.Y.I.B. -- Bring Your Inner Bob.

That is the game-day attitude galvanizing a more physical Colts secondary.

"We really enjoy playing with each other," [Marlin] Jackson says. "Coming into this season, the only guy who was really known was Bob. We all took it upon ourselves to try and raise our game and compete on Bob's level.

"We just try to have fun, make plays, hit people and live up to our nickname, 'The Hit Squad.' "
The nickname was Jackson's. But Sanders is "The Hit Squad" leader.

I have to give USA Today credit; that article was great. With all the other stories swirling around this league, one that got a little lost is the Peyton Manning-led Colts now have a very ferocious defense. for years, the one supposed weakness of the Colts during the Manning-era was a lack of defense. Manning would need to score 49 TDs in order for the Colts to win 12 games. Then, in the playoffs, a team like New England or Pittsburgh would show up and bury the Colts, usually because Indy did not have the kind of tough, hard-nosed defense required to win in the NFL's postseason.

But something happened last season that really altered the dynamic of the Colts: Bob Sanders became as important to the Colts as Peyton Manning is.

Dwight Freeney was the known super star on defense, but as great as Dwight is, he does not have the same impact on the Colts as Bob Sanders does. USA Today writer Jim Corbett provides perspective:

The Colts became the first Super Bowl champions to allow 100 rushing yards in every regular-season game; they were the first to win the Lombardi Trophy despite ranking dead last in rush defense; and their 173.0 yards allowed on the ground per game were by far the worst of any Super Bowl winner (the '73 Dolphins are next at 142.2 yards).

But with Sanders on the field in the playoffs, only the Bears cracked the century mark among Indianapolis' four postseason opponents. The Colts surrendered 82.8 yards per game on the ground when it mattered most.

That has carried over into 2007.
In addition to free safety Antoine Bethea, cornerbacks Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden join Sanders in forming arguably one of the league's surest-tackling secondaries.

"This is the best group since we've been here, by far," Colts president Bill Polian says. "They're all four tough guys in their own way. They do a really good job of tackling, which is critical in our defense. What we ask them to do is be very sure and punishing tacklers in the run game and short passing game."

With his trademark, low-flying tackles, the compact Colt with the comic-book superhero arms has been a consistent force. "He's something else," Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak says of Sanders. "He's the best safety in football. And there are some great ones out there. ... He's a difference-maker."

While Bob Sanders was not the sole reason the Colts defense turned it around last year, he was a big reason why the Colts won the Super Bowl. Since his rookie year, Bob has developed into more of a leader on defense than someone like Dwight Freeney. Freeney is an amazing player, but he is not one to really take on a leadership-type role. Guys like Bob Sanders have, along with defensive captain Gary Brackett, who is quietly having a Pro Bowl season.

In a season marred by injuries, the emergence of Indy's defense into an elite category has been a tremendous bright spot. Unlike years past, the defense is carrying this team. That will come in handy down the road, big time.