Stampedeblue and our readers has been saying it for three years now: Antoine Bethea is the Colts' best and most important player in the secondary.
Even when we had Bob Sanders (when he played of course) Bethea was the cog to the unit. Of course Sanders brought a toughness and energy but Bethea has always been the anchor, safety valve, whatever you want to call him.
Finally he is getting his proper respect.
More after the jump...
After really taking over the starting job in 2008, Bethea has averaged just over 100 tackles a year. This season was his finest season. Not only did he have a career high in tackles (107) he also was holding together and leading an otherwise ghastly secondary.
How did he do it? Efficiency and tackling accuracy.
In an article in which Paul Kuharsky heaps an unusual amount of praise on a Colts' player, ESPN's AFC South point-man highlighted how Bethea recorded 80 tackles while missing only two. Impressive.
As Kuharsky astutely pointed out, "Missed tackles can kill." Bethea's tackling proficiency was the single handed reason that the Colts' season didn't go down in flames. At least defensively.
According to Kuharksy (really ESPN stats), Bethea's missed tackle rate of 3.6 ranked fifth best in the league among all defenders. However, of the four players above him, only Donte Whitner had more tackles.
Again, impressive. As Kuharsky correctly stated - and something that a lot of Colts' fans were screaming about - Bethea should have been awarded Second Team All Defense, especially considering when he played along side Aaron Francisco who rated second worst with among defensive backs missing 17.6 percent of his tackles.
As Colts' fans we owe Bethea a huge thank you. Without him we would have been royally screwed. What is terribly frightening is the lack of upgrades at the safety position. Because Bethea was so good however, we never really addressed a position of desperate need. Bethea covered for the unit, but we are one injury from being worst than the Texans secondary, which by the way was truly atrocious. Coincidentally, my favorite line of the whole article "Perhaps Bethea can put on a clinic for Tennessee and Houston?"
Nice work Paul.