In the Andrew Luck Era, the Indianapolis Colts are 0-3 against the New England Patriots. While there are a number of reasons contributing to this, the biggest of them has been the Patriots' run game absolutely dominating the Colts' run defense. In the three matchups, the Patriots have rushed for 595 yards and 12 touchdowns while averaging 5.17 yards per carry. They are averaging nearly 200 yards and four touchdowns per game rushing against the Colts in that span, which is ridiculous.
So it's pretty clear that one of the biggest priorities for the Colts in this weekend's AFC Championship game will be stopping the Patriots' run game - something they haven't done yet. One player on the team who has yet to play for the Colts against the Patriots but who has had an impact on Indy's run defense is lineman Arthur Jones. Signed as a free agent last offseason, Jones has dealt with injuries this season that forced him to miss some time, including November's game against New England. He is back healthy now, however, and his return has been cited by many as a reason for the Colts' improved defense.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick noted Jones when mentioning that this is a different Colts team that they are facing and that it will be a tough task to face the improved team. The first thing Colts' defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said on Thursday when asked why the Colts' run defense had improved: the return of a healthy Arthur Jones. "I think Arthur coming back was a big help," Manusky said, "a bigger body framed guy that could separate and get off blocks."
Head coach Chuck Pagano was asked on Wednesday about Jones' impact on the defense, and he too had good things to say. "Huge," Pagano said about getting Jones back. "It's made a huge impact. It was too bad that we lost him early for that span, I forget how many weeks it was, I know it was several. Then when we did get him back, he tweaked it again, we lost him again. Right now he's feeling really good and he's very disruptive. He does a great job along with those other guys of forcing double-teams. He commands a double-team. He's sideline-to-sideline. He's a great effort, great energy guy, can give you some push in the middle of the pocket in the pass game. Certainly, it's good to have Art playing at the level that he's playing at."
One of Jones' teammates along the defensive line, Cory Redding, also agreed when talking with the media on Wednesday. "Having a healthy Art Jones makes our defense that much better," Redding said. "He commands double teams. Just like Chappy (Josh Chapman), he loves it. He's a huge competitor. Good pocket presence in the middle, he can push the guards into the quarterback. He just loves football. When you have a guy in the trenches that loves eating up double teams, demands it, and if you block him one-on-one, he's going to bull-rush to the quarterback or either run down the line and make tackles. It just makes our defensive line that much better. Having Art back in the lineup is huge for us."
The Colts signed Arthur Jones this offseason for one reason: to stop the run. Unfortunately, he has been hurt some this season, but his return has sparked the Colts defense, as many players and coaches will tell you. The biggest test of that run defense and Arthur Jones will come this weekend, however, as the Colts face a Patriots team that has run all over the recently. Hopefully Jones and the rest of the Colts defense is up to the task.