INDIANAPOLIS - The Indianapolis Colts' run defense, albeit early, has shown much improvement in 2012. And it's been tested. Matt Forte rushed for 80 yards on 16 carries in the season opener for the Chicago Bears. Adrian Peterson managed 60 yards on 16 carries for the Minnesota Vikings in Week 2.
Up next: the 2011 NFL rushing champ Maurice Jones-Drew.
"I told our guys, if you try to hit this guy high and you don't wrap up, you'll bounce off him like BBs off a tin can. We've got to gang tackle this guy. He's strong as heck and he breaks a ton of tackles. And he's quick and he's got good vision. Basically the one thing that's the same size on all these backs is their ankles. So if you wrap him up and slide down and you get his ankles and bring them together, you've got a good chance of bringing this guy. He's just a physical, physical back."
Pagano might have to pay a copyright fee on his "bowling ball" analogy, but we get the point. MJD led the league with 1,606 rushing yards and hasn't shown much rust after holding out the entire preseason.
The Colts' run defense ranks No. 14 and has allowed 104.5 yards per game in two weeks. The unit was No. 29 in 2011 (143.9). The evolution from the 4-3 to the hybrid 3-4 is still a work in progress, but the numbers have moved in the right direction.
"Our goal is never give up a 100-yard rusher," Pagano said. "If you can hold people to 3 yards per carry, I think we go 3.2-3.3, you're going to be in the top 10, if not the top 5, in rush defense every year.
"That's kind of our benchmark. ... These guys have gone a long way in a short period of time."Follow Kareem Copeland on Twitter @kareemcopeland.