Colts worried about porous run defense

INDIANAPOLIS -- The list of running backs who have gained more than 100 yards against Indianapolis is long enough to last an entire season.

Born to run


In three games this season, the Colts have allowed four 100-yard rushers. In 17 games (including the playoffs) in 2007, just two backs reached the century mark against Indianapolis.

100-yard rushers vs. the Colts in 2008:
Week 1 vs. Bears:Matt Forte, 123

Week 2 vs. Vikings:Adrian Peterson, 160

Week 3 vs. Jaguars: Fred Taylor, 121;

Unfortunately for the Colts, they've just played three games.

Chicago rookie Matt Forte opened the season with 123 yards in the Bears' 29-13 win. Minnesota's Adrian Peterson followed with 160 yards in Week 2, but the Colts came back to win 18-15. Jacksonville's Fred Taylor (121 yards) and Maurice Jones-Drew (107) ran all over Indianapolis in the Jaguars' 23-21 win on Sunday.

Last season, the Colts allowed just two runners, Taylor and Denver's Travis Henry, to reach the century mark. This season, Indianapolis has one of the league's worst run defenses.

The Colts insist that their personnel and scheme are fine, they just need to tackle better.

"You just wrap the guy up," defensive end Robert Mathis said. "It's nothing different. Everybody who's in the NFL knows how to tackle, so you've just got to rely on your fundamentals."

The porous run defense is the main reason the Colts head into their bye week with a 1-2 record. The Jaguars controlled the clock for 26 minutes in the second half Sunday and finished with 236 yards rushing.

"Unacceptable," linebacker Gary Brackett said. "We have to get the ball back for our offense. We have to get off the field on third down."

Colts coach Tony Dungy felt the defense gave a poor effort against Jacksonville.

"I thought we didn't hustle as well as we normally do, and it's something that we stressed -- that those guys (Taylor and Jones-Drew) were going to make some people miss, and you had to fly around and hustle to the ball," he said. "In the second half especially, we didn't do that."

Safety Bob Sanders missed the game against Jacksonville and could miss another month after spraining his right ankle at Minnesota.

Sanders was a difference maker in 2006. The Colts gave up 199 yards rushing per game during the regular season while he missed 12 games after having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in September. He returned for the playoffs, and the Colts allowed just 80 yards rushing per game on their way to the Super Bowl title. Sanders followed that by winning the 2007 Defensive Player of the Year award.

The Colts refuse to blame this season's poor run defense on the absence of one player, no matter how talented.

"Football is a team sport," Brackett said. "It's an 11-man sport, and there's no way that one guy can come in and be the savior for what's going on. The first two games, Bob was out there, and they were still running the football."

The Colts also are without Ed Johnson. The defensive tackle was arrested on a drug possession charge and waived after starting against Chicago.

Dungy said neither situation offers a legitimate excuse for Sunday's performance.

"We've got to get back to the fundamentals of things and not spend so much time worrying about who's not in the lineup," he said.

The fact that the Colts reversed their run-stopping fortunes in 2006 is one reason they won't making knee-jerk changes.

"What we have to do as coaches is not hit the panic button and understand what we've got to get fixed," Dungy said. "That's one of the things our team has done over the years is focus in on the things that are really important."

Everything hasn't been bad for the defense, which has allowed just three touchdowns and has forced opponents to settle for 10 field goals. Indianapolis' pass defense ranked second in the league after Sunday's games.

"By no means am I saying our defensive football team is struggling all in all," Brackett said. "We did some good things, played some good opponents. We've just got to get better."

But Dungy isn't happy about the positions the bend-but-don't-break defense often has left the offense in.

"We've played a little bit better in the red zone," he said. "I'm not exactly sure the reason why, but we haven't gotten the ball in good field position for our offense enough. We haven't created enough turnovers, enough punts."

With Dungy saying he doesn't foresee personnel changes, it's up to the current players to get on track in time for the Oct. 5 game at Houston. The Colts still expect to be a contender for the Super Bowl come January.

"It's still a long season," Brackett said. "We're not out of anything yet."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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