Today, we’re going to discuss some almost-good run defense, injury updates, excitement and anticipation of Pagano’s return, and, of course, a bit of the deep ball. Join me. Have a Colts Notebook with your coffee. As usual, all quotes are from the Indianapolis Colts PR Department.
Last week in Houston, the Indianapolis defense played well for much of the game, even managing to contain several Houston’s normally devastating bootleg plays. They also did a respectable job against Arian Foster, one of the league’s premier running backs…for about 55 minutes.
Leading up to Houston’s final drive, in which the score was still 26-17 in favor of the Texans, the Colts had limited Foster to a good-not-great 20 carries for 90 yards (4.5 ypc). While not a dominating performance by the defense, it certainly didn’t qualify as such for Foster and the Houston zone blocking attack either.
However, after a short pass by Matt Schaub to start the final drive, Foster took over: 7 carries for a staggering 75 yards – 51 of which came on two runs – in a bout 3:30 of play. When the Colts finally stopped Houston, it was field goal time with 1:05 remaining. 29-17. Game over.
As has been the case several times this season, the Colts’ run defense held strong for most of the game, only to be burned for a couple big plays, often late in the game. According to Bruce Arians, it’s about gap control and fatigue – two issues that are usually fixable. “You’ve got to keep fighting and battling every play,” Arians said. “One guy starts getting out of the gap and their great running back is going to find it. You’ve got to have great gap control, you can’t miss tackles and we started getting chopped a little bit late in that game and offensively we needed to get our defense off the field and keep them off the field and our third down completion percentage was so poor we put our defense back on the field so much. That’s why it’s a team game. They needed to rest a little bit more and we had to maintain possession of that football some more.”
Looking Forward to Chuck Pagano's Return
Normally, an interim coach is in the strange but opportunistic position of filling in for a former boss and trying to shake things up to win over management and players in hopes of securing a permanent head-coaching job. Obviously, the situation is much different for Bruce Arians. He is filling in temporarily for a close friend, not shaking things up but carrying on the same message and building upon the same foundation as the head coach, all the while feeling much of the same emotional strain his players feel as Chuck Pagano fights against leukemia.
Arians has been charged with motivating a very young, inexperienced team to win through very difficult circumstances while never losing sight of the fact that he is not really the head coach. Because this has been his modus operandi, the transition back to Head Coach Chuck Pagano should be both smooth and celebratory – as it should be.
“He’s done a great job. He done a hell of a job with coach being out,” Safety Antoine Bethea said of Arians. “B.A. might get some looks next year (laughing). He’s done a great job just keeping the team intact, keeping the team focused. I can’t express how much he’s done.”
As for Pagano’s return, Bethea said, “It’s going to be crazy. It’s going to be crazy. It’s going to be a great moment, just having him back on an everyday basis with the team, knowing that’s what he really wants, back with us coaching and back on the sideline. Obviously, we know it’s going to be emotional. It’s going to be a great time.”
“It would mean the world to us,” added OLB Robert Mathis. “Just for him to fight this, well he’s not fighting it alone, we are here, heart and mind and souls are with him. He’s coming back to whip this thing and get back to work.”
Bruce Arians’ injury update: “First on the injury front, we’ll have to change Tom Zbikowski to questionable. He’s moving along really well and is going to try and do some things today, so he is not out as I reported earlier this week. He has really started to make some great progress so we’ll wait and see what he can do today and as the week goes on. Then the other two guys Samson (Satele) and Kavell (Conner) are still out. Everyone else is questionable.” He added that RB Delone Carter is still out as well.
A Few More Quotes: No Dinking and Dunking
Andrew Luck on the offense’s seemingly stubborn adherence to a downfield, vertical passing attack and whether that is just the team sticking with what they always do: “Yeah, I think so. That’s (Bruce Arians) mentality and we are behind him 100 percent. If we can execute what we do, if Colts aren’t beating Colts, then we have a chance.”
Arians on using three step drops to combat the relentless pressure on his quarterback: “We have it, we use it some. There are times for it. Last week we were running the ball too well we didn’t need to so when we were passing we were taking shots. It’s probably the philosophy, I’m not a dink-and-dunk guy, I never will be. That doesn’t mean we don’t throw the ball short.”
The Colts offensive coordinator knows more about football than most of us. That being said, it’s probably a relief to many fans knowing the Colts have some shorter pass plays up their sleeve.
Luck on whether he looks forward to having a full offseason to work with T.Y. Hilton next year: “Yeah, I really haven’t thought much about the offseason, if any. Don’t want to think about it. But, I guess it’ll be nice.” That’s right. Players who are and intend to continue winning in the winter months just don’t think that far ahead. It really is one game at a time.
Robert Mathis with a gem of an assessment of the atmosphere at Arrowhead Stadium: “It starts with the ‘Home of the Chiefs’, star-spangled banner. They have very passionate fans. They are going to get on you, talk about your mommas and try and do whatever they can to get into your head. You just have to play football.”
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