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Frank Slade
09-18-2005, 08:09 PM
Updated: Sep. 18, 2005, 7:32 PM ET
Colts defense beats up Leftwich


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By Len Pasquarelli
ESPN.com
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<TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 width="100%" border=0><TBODY><TR><TD vAlign=top><!-- begin leftcol --><!-- template inline -->INDIANAPOLIS -- More than the numbers on the scoreboard, more than the statistical recap of a tense game, it was the heavily-bruised body of Jacksonville quarterback Byron Leftwich (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?statsId=6343) that served up the most graphic representation on Sunday afternoon of how well the Indianapolis Colts (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/clubhouse?team=ind) defense has performed in its first two outings of the season.

Swathed in more ice than the body of Ted Williams, bearing huge discolored splotches and limping noticeably, Leftwich settled in front of a locker stall following a 10-3 defeat, looking like one oversized 250-pound welt. Had the Colts been charged with assault and battery by the local constabulary, the prosecutor would have only had to present a naked Leftwich to the jury, and deliberations would have lasted maybe 30 seconds.



http://espn-att.starwave.com/media/nfl/2005/0918/photo/g_leftwich_275.jpg
Dwight Freeney drills Byron Leftwich during the Colts' 10-3 win.


He was bloodied, bowed and beaten by the belligerent Colts' pass rush. If the Colts' two first games of the season are any indication, Leftwich likely won't be the last quarterback to be swatted around like a human piñata.

The Indianapolis Colts, a team synonymous with great defense, right? As incongruous as it sounds, people might actually have to get accustomed to it.

"This is what we want to do, hit the quarterback, you know?" said Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?statsId=5897), who collected one of the Colts' half-dozen sacks, and who absolutely planted Leftwich on several other occasions after he had released the ball. "Whatever it takes. I mean, I'll do cartwheels, back-flips, whatever I have to do to get to the passer. And with our group (of defensive linemen), once one guy gets a hit, then everybody else wants to get in on the action, too. Today, it was a like a heavyweight fight out there."

That the Colts survived a close decision, the powerful Indianapolis offense held scoreless until the final nine minutes, was attributable far more to patience than potency. On the only touchdown drive of the game, Peyton Manning (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?statsId=4256) was essentially an expensive hitting tee for his tailbacks, holding the ball up for 14 runs on a 17-snap series. Facing a scheme divined by the Jacksonville coaches that usually dropped eight defenders into coverage, Manning completed just 13 of 28 passes for 122 yards.

But on a day when the Colts' meager 10 points were the sixth-fewest that Indianapolis has scored since Manning arrived in 1998 -- and the second-fewest points in a victory during his 114-starts tenure -- the defense stepped up big. Usually because the unit kept stepping into Leftwich, who demonstrated remarkable courage in constantly picking himself up, inventorying his remaining body parts, and soldiering on. The bottom line, though, was that for all Leftwich's heart, the Jaguars scored just three points.

So in two weeks, the oft-maligned Indianapolis defense, the component characteristically cited as being the element that has kept the Colts out of the Super Bowl, has permitted a scant 10 points. That includes the meaningless, last-minute touchdown Baltimore scored in the opening week after Ravens coach Brian Billick extended the game calling timeouts as the Colts tried to run out the clock.

Continued... (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/columns/story?columnist=pasquarelli_len&id=2165628&num=2)

Updated: Sep. 18, 2005, 7:32 PM ET
Colts defense beats up Leftwich (Cont.)


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<TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 width="100%" border=0><TBODY><TR><TD vAlign=top><!-- begin leftcol --><!-- template inline -->"Not bad, huh, just 10 points in two games?" said Colts free safety Bob Sanders (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?statsId=6803), who on Sunday cemented the win by swatting away Leftwich's pass intended for wide receiver Jimmy Smith (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?statsId=2017) as time expired. "I mean, it's only two games, but I really do feel like we are maturing as a unit. The pressure was on us today. Probably in the past, this was the kind of game we would have lost, because you always think our offense is going to put up 30 or more (points). But a win like this means something special to us. We're off to a really good start on defense."

Fortunately, for the Colts, that is the case, because the high-octane offense isn't hitting yet on all cylinders. In the first halves of their two games, victories over the Ravens and Jaguars, the Colts have managed only three points. Overall, Indianapolis has just three offensive touchdowns, and Manning has throw for only two scores. The Colts have tallied just 34 points in two games. They scored at least 34 points eight times during the 2004 regular season.

In what appears to be the new blueprint for attempting to slow the Indianapolis offense, the Jaguars deployed a three-man front on nearly half their 66 defensive snaps Sunday, and the strategy limited Manning to a 44.0 passer rating, the third lowest of his brilliant career. Only once in the game did Manning manage more than two straight completions against a Jacksonville secondary that backed off and played "Cover 2" liberally, and that didn't come until the fourth quarter, when he completed his final five passes.

<!---------------------PULL-QUOTE TABLE (BEGIN)---------------------><TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=2 align=right border=0><TBODY><TR vAlign=top><TD width=4><SPACER width="3" type="block" height="1"></TD><TD>“</TD><TD width=225>"This is what we want to do, hit the quarterback, you know? Whatever it takes. I mean, I'll do cartwheels, back-flips, whatever I have to do to get to the passer. And with our group (of defensive linemen), once one guy gets a hit, then everybody else wants to get in on the action, too. Today, it was a like a heavyweight fight out there. ”</TD></TR><TR vAlign=top><TD width=4><SPACER width="3" type="block" height="1"></TD><TD></TD><TD width=225>— Dwight Freeney, Colts DE</TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE><!---------------------PULL-QUOTE TABLE (END)--------------------->

He didn't have consecutive completions until the final two minutes of the first half. His longest completion of the day was for 20 yards. And there were three stretches of three or more straight incompletions from Manning, who was uncharacteristically errant even in warm-ups, coach Tony Dungy revealed. On just three of their 10 offensive possessions did the Colts have the ball for more than six snaps.

Still, except for an interception that killed off a promising opening possession, the Colts didn't turn the ball over. And sensing the soft spots in the Jacksonville three-man front, the always cerebral Manning went more to the run. The Colts finished with 146 yards on 38 rushes. Tailback Edgerrin James (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?statsId=4652) had 27 rushes for 128 yards, his first-ever 100-yard performance against the Jaguars. No. 4 tailback Ran Carthon (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?statsId=7086) scored the winning touchdown on a six-yard burst off the right side, when Manning audibled out of a pass play he originally called in the huddle.

Coming off his record-setting campaign of 2004, when he tossed 49 touchdown passes, Manning acknowledged Sunday evening that he had "a little talk" with himself during the offseason. The upshot of his inner dialogue: All he wants this season is enough victories to get to a Super Bowl. The other things will take care of themselves.

"It got to the point last year, where I was a three-question man," Manning said. "All anyone asked was: 'Can you sign an autograph? How many touchdowns are you going to throw? When are you guys going to beat New England?' There's more to it, I know now, than those things."

There is much more to the Indianapolis defense now, too, than a year ago. For one thing, this is Dungy's fourth season here, and the players who have been with him during that time have become considerably more comfortable in the scheme. Dungy and Ron Meeks, the Colts' defensive coordinator, have more of the type of players they need to play a scheme predicated on speed and quickness. And the Colts possess a defensive front that loves to pin its ears back and rush the quarterback on third-and-long.

Colts linemen, who basically play their one-gap, upfield techniques on every snap, kept shooting into the Jacksonville backfield, as if launched from the starting blocks in a sprint to see who could arrive first at the target in the pocket.

Defensive tackle Montae Reagor (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?statsId=4708), who didn't play in the opener, had three sacks. Raheem Brock (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?statsId=6096), the starting left end who usually moves inside to tackle on third down, Freeney and "nickel" end Robert Mathis (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?statsId=6474) had one each. About the only thing the line didn't do, Dungy pointed out, was recover any of the three fumbles it forced on a day when the Jags put the ball on the turf six times.

"Looking at this team from the outside, you might not realize just how good the defensive line is," said new tackle Corey Simon (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?statsId=5035), who unofficially played 26 snaps and who forced a fumble. "But they all get off the ball and they're all very active guys. It's a good, young defense that is going to keep getting better."

Those should be ominous words for the rest of the AFC since it's a given the Indianapolis offense isn't going to be contained every week. The statistics from Sunday's game might not necessarily show it, since the Colts surrendered 303 yards, but this is a unit capable of keeping people out of the end zone. As Meeks noted, many of the yards Baltimore rang up in the opener were "garbage" yards at the end of the game. So while the Colts might not be very high in the league rankings, it seems they are rising to pretty lofty heights.

"This is the kind of game that, in the past, we might have lost," conceded Freeney, who may now be the NFL's most accomplished pass rusher, given that he just keeps spinning to the quarterback and never quits moving his feet. "Maybe before, we would just have folded in this game, but this time we finished if off."



And, in so doing, nearly finished off Leftwich as well. Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here (http://sports.espn.go.com/chat/sportsnation/story?page=ChatArchivePasquarelli) http://espn.go.com/i/in.gif.

http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/columns/story?columnist=pasquarelli_len&id=2165628&num=2
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t1hs0n
09-18-2005, 08:53 PM
"Whatever it takes. I mean, I'll do cartwheels, back-flips, whatever I have to do to get to the passer."


hahahah

Unclebuck
09-18-2005, 10:50 PM
That is an excellent article. I actually learned a thing or two

Pacers#1Fan
09-18-2005, 10:54 PM
I know that this is only the second week of the season but I think the entire Colt's D should get MIP.

Suaveness
09-18-2005, 11:19 PM
He and Clayton are quite good really. One of the few things left at ESPN worth enjoying...

pizza guy
09-19-2005, 12:10 AM
Yeah, I generally enjoy Lenny P. and J. Clay. They're probably the most knowledgable guys on ESPN.

Great article. I love how our defense is getting so much POSITIVE attention for a change.

SoupIsGood
09-19-2005, 12:15 AM
I like the guy, but Clayton's voice kind of annoys me. He is a quality analyst though.

Unclebuck
09-19-2005, 05:04 PM
The coverage for the NFL is so much better than it is for the NBA. They actually discuss the games. Across the board the difference is night and day. Even ESPN has pretty good NFL coverage.

efx
09-19-2005, 07:42 PM
I think it's because there are fewer NFL games than NBA games hence more time to give them indepth discussion. Plus, popularity which is much greater for the NFL probably factors in in how much time the networks give them.

Believe_in_blue
09-19-2005, 10:52 PM
"Whatever it takes. I mean, I'll do cartwheels, back-flips, whatever I have to do to get to the passer."


hahahah
:laugh: