Behind Enemy Lines: Patriots - Colts II

No Bob Sanders

To find out more about the Patriots' opponent this week -- the Indianapolis Colts -- we checked in with ColtPower.com Editor Eric Hartz. In Part 2 of this multipart series, we take a look at the Colts' defense.

Part 2 of a multipart series looking at the Indianapolis Colts (Part 1 Offense)


DEFENSE

1. The Colts are banged up in the secondary. Tell us how bad it is and what kind of impact the replacements have had (if any) so far.

Eric Hartz: On paper, it looks bad. Bob Sanders and Marlin Jackson are both lost for the year again, and Kelvin Hayden, who signed a lucrative free-agent contract in the offseason, has been limited as well and should be out a few more weeks. Antoine Bethea injured his hand in the preseason, but has played quite well despite that. Melvin Bullitt continues to be a capable replacement for Sanders, and rookie cornerbacks Jerraud Powers and Jacob Lacey have played remarkably well, considering their inexperience.

2. Some national broadcasters have waxed eloquently about Bob Sanders as a game changer, much like Troy Polamalu, Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher. Is one man (Sanders) really all that critical to the Indy defense (will the defense fail without him), or are there enough players to keep them going?

EH: Sanders is the ultimate boom-or-bust player, capable of big plays, but also big lapses in both performance and durability. The Colts' defense really is keyed by the ability of their pass-rushing duo of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis up front. The consistent pressure they get is what makes life most difficult for opposing offenses and allows the other players on the team to make plays.

3. How will the Colts defend Randy Moss, Wes Welker and the rest of the Patriots receivers with inexperienced DB’s expected to start?

EH: It will certainly be trial by fire, particularly when the Colts don't have anyone that can match up physically with Moss. Then again, neither does any other team in the NFL. Again, the Colts will have to rely on their Cover-2 scheme to limit big plays, and hope Freeney and Mathis can cause enough havoc in the backfield to force Tom Brady into some mistakes.

4. Have teams had more success against the defense by running the ball or passing the ball (can you give an example)?

EH: The Dolphins famously used their Wildcat scheme to run up over 200 yards rushing against the Colts and hold the ball for over three quarters of play in Week Two. Somehow, the Colts managed to win that game. However, the quick but undersized defense the Colts utilize will always be more susceptible to the running game. Where the defense really thrives, however, is in keeping teams out of the end zone and turning red zone opportunities into field goal attempts. With Manning and the offense, often field goals aren't enough to keep teams in the game.

5. Dwight Freeney is the third leading defender with 9.5 sacks on the season. Tom Brady (like Manning) is very good at avoiding sacks. With Freeney banged up, do you think he’ll be able to add to his total?

EH: Freeney suffered a calf injury earlier in the season against Arizona and was expected to miss a few weeks, but he is a "fast healer" and returned to start and record a sack in the very next game. He's now battling a knee injury, but is expected to play and will focus his considerable energies on bringing Brady down. Brady has called Freeney the best pass rusher in the league and will no doubt have an eye on him throughout the game. With his attention focused on his left side, it could be the perfect opportunity for Mathis to have a big game.

Eric Hartz writes for ColtPower.com, the Indianapolis Colts site on the Scout.com network You can find more of his work here: (Archives)


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