Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Colts' Defense May be Better Than Their Offense

Vontae Davis rocks Giovanni Bernard
The Indianapolis Colts bring the NFL's second-rated offense to Heinz Field on Sunday, so it's almost easy to overlook how good their fourth-rated defense has been this year. It is jelling into a unit that has to be in the conversation as possibly the best defense in the NFL today.

It's getting better as the season goes on. The Colts not only shut out Cincinnati last Sunday, they completely stymied the Bengals. Even without injured receiver A.J. Green, nobody would deny the Bengals have a lot of talent; they entered that game against the Colts ranked No. 5 in the NFL on offense.

Yet the Colts forced the Bengals to three-and-out 10 times, held the Bengals to just 1-of-13 on third-down conversions, and kept Cincinnati on the wrong side of the 50-yard line until the fourth quarter.  Time of possession for the Bengals: 20:17.

Vontae Davis and Josh Gordy contesting a pass attempt.
That's dominant.

No doubt that performance has gotten the attention of Todd Haley, Ben Roethlisberger and company. But it wasn't just the Cincinnati game; the Colts have been coming together on defense all year.

It's a cohesive unit that is getting better and better.

Safety Sergio Brown: "Our secondary is playing lights out. Our linebackers are playing lights out. Our defensive line is playing lights out.''

Give Chuck Pagano credit. The former Ravens defensive coordinator is doing exactly what he set out to do when hired to become head coach of the Colts, which is to build a defense modeled after the dominant squad he led in Baltimore.

Patience Required
Down goes Dalton.
If the Steelers' overall game plan is to limit Andrew Luck's time on the field, it will be up to Roethlisberger to orchestrate an offense that can convert third downs regularly and score touchdowns instead of field goals. Haley and Roethlisberger are going to have to be patient. They are going to have to resist the temptation to force plays that aren't there.

Blunt Force
With that in mind, this is the perfect game for the Steelers to finally put running back LeGarrette Blount to work in earnest, early and often. Blount has had more than eight carries only once this season, and that was just 10 carries vs. Carolina (for 118 yards). It's time to give him some work.

"Blunt Force" may be the Steelers' best weapon against the Colts.

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