The Colts went into this Sunday’s game against the Bears with one goal in mind, stop David Montgomery and the Bears’ rushing attack. Well they accomplished that goal as they held the Bears to just 28 yards rushing on the day (1.75 yards per carry) en route to a 19-11 win on the road.
Obviously there were many factors in stopping the run in this game from yet another dominant performance from DeForest Buckner to the linebackers all playing a extremely aggressive all afternoon. The biggest key in my opinion though was the under the radar and underappreciated play of starting 1-Tech DT Grover Stewart. Today we will look at why he was so big in shutting down the run and why he he needs to continue this strong play against the Cleveland Browns next week.
DeForest Buckner started this game off the right way with a huge hit on running back Cordarrelle Patterson on the first possession. A big reason why he made this hit though? The play of Stewart on the inside. Stewart moves laterally on the zone run while moving the the center deeper into the backfield. By driving his man back like this, he forces the running back to plant his foot and get upfield. This leads the running back straight into Buckner’s arms for the big hit and short gain on the play.
Grover Stewart driving the center into the backfield and forcing the running back to cut inside where DeForest Buckner is waiting for the big hit. pic.twitter.com/yuxIZpoBuz— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) October 5, 2020
We have known since he was drafted how strong he is but it is still a marvel to see it on display in game action. The play is made by Al-Quadin Muhammad but look at Stewart on the interior. He fills his backside gap perfectly and holds the center back with one arm. He even switches hands and tosses the center into the running back as he hits the hole up the middle. This is how a 1-Tech dominates at the point of attack when he is not doubled. Here he is winning with pure power, maintaining his gap integrity, and helping the defense get the stop on the play.
Al-Quadin Muhammad makes the tackle but look at Grover Stewart on the interior controlling his gap on the backside. Holding the center back with just one arm! Lol. Cody Whitehair was overmatched all game pic.twitter.com/Pe4IZwfrOK— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) October 5, 2020
One area that I wanted to see improvement from Stewart coming into this year was deconstructing blocks and making plays on his own. We know he is a great space eater and can fill his gap but to take the next step, he has to get better at shedding blocks and making plays. Here he does just that as he controls his block at the point of attack, moves laterally, and sheds the block for the tackle. Excellent hip flexibility too by the giant DT as he is able to stop on a dime and dive back inside for the stop.
Grover Stewart standing up the center and quickly discarding him on the zone stretch run. Makes the quick tackle for the stop on the play. pic.twitter.com/vZx7wz6XVU— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) October 5, 2020
It was the little things that made this performance from Stewart so great. He won’t get credited for any kind of stat on these type of plays but he is why this play is made by the linebackers. He strafes down the line while keeping his arm extended on the left guard. He eats up space on the interior while also staying square and ready to attack the runner if he stays inside. As the runner starts to cut back, he stops his momentum and forces the runner to pursue backside, where the Colts have multiple defenders ready to make a tackle. It may be dirty work that gets no credit but this was an outstanding play by Stewart.
Again Grover Stewart just winning at the point of attack. He gets to his gap, sits in the run lane while holding off the guard, and forces the play back to his help on the backside. Just a stout 1-Tech for this team. pic.twitter.com/zIvuiRKfSH— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) October 5, 2020
Finally, let’s get to one of the biggest plays of the game. Late in the fourth quarter, the Bears have a huge third and two in their own territory. As the Bears begin to run to the outside, look at the penetration in the middle by big Grover Stewart. He drives the center 4-5 yards into the backfield and blows up the play before it starts. The Colts were able to get the ball back after this and run most of the clock out. Bears center Cody Whitehair is a solid player but he was overmatched all game in the interior. If Stewart keeps playing like this, teams will have to double team him more which will lead to more one on one situations for DeForest Buckner. A true win-win for the Colts.
Biggest play of the game as the Bears had a 3rd and 2 in the fourth quarter. What happens? Big Grover Stewart drives the center four yards into the backfield and blows up the play. The Colts have a gem in this 1-Tech. Extend him now please pic.twitter.com/uuBHaq8qZk— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) October 5, 2020
Big Test Coming
While we are still celebrating the win in Chicago, it is hard to not look at the upcoming game against the Browns. The Browns are red hot right now as they, like the Colts, have won three straight games. While the Colts are relying on their defense to win, the Browns are leaning on their strong rushing game.
The Browns currently lead the NFL in rushing yards (818), rushing average (5.88), and rushing touchdowns (8). Even with star running back Nick Chubb likely out for this game, the Browns have a rushing attack that is deadly.
The main reason for this success? The performance of their offensive line. What once was a bottom tier unit now looks like one of the best in the league. On the interior alone, the Colts have to be ready for a trio of Wyatt Teller (who is playing like an All-Pro this year), J.C. Tretter, and Joel Bitonio.
The point of me saying all this is that while Grover Stewart and DeForest Buckner have been outstanding the last few weeks in run defense, they need to bring their A+ game this upcoming weekend.
The @Browns & @dallascowboys game was over at the first offensive snap for Cleveland. This is their first snap vs an 8-man box in the run game. They avg 10 yards on 1st down runs. Anyone like new lines of scrimmage? @NathanZegura @MaryKayCabot @KeithBritton86 #NFLGamePass pic.twitter.com/IbYh7XFl8k— Dan Orlovsky (@danorlovsky7) October 5, 2020
Grover Stewart is an animal on the interior. He may never get the credit he deserves but he is a big reason the Colts have been great against the run since the middle of last season. Since Stewart took over as the starter at 1-Tech last year in week 5 (which is 16 games now), the Colts have allowed 959 yards rushing and just 2.7 yards per carry to opposing offenses.
Overall Stewart is an outstanding, ascending young player who is doing all the dirty work for the team. This week will be a huge test as he goes against perhaps the best interior offensive line in the NFL. If he can be a big part in shutting down this red hot Browns rushing attack, he will earn a nice little payday this upcoming offseason.