Colts defense emerging as one of the league’s best

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After an embarrassing defeat to division rival the Jacksonville Jaguars in week one the Colts have rattled off three straight victories, improving their record to 3-1. A big reason for those victories is the emergence of the defense, which ranks number one in the NFL.

In the games since the loss to Jacksonville, the Colts have beaten the Minnesota Vikings, 28-11, the New York Jets, 36-7, and the Chicago Bears, 19-11. According to ESPN, the Colts defense gives up an average of 236.3 yards per game and only 945 total yards through the first four games this season, which is the lowest through four games of a season since the 2010 Baltimore Ravens who gave up 943 total yards. The defense only gives up 14 points per game, while only relinquishing 56 total points on the season.

It was an impressive three game stretch for the defense as against the Vikings, they forced three interceptions and a safety. Sam Darnold saw ghosts all over again throwing three interceptions, two were returned for touchdowns and forcing another safety. Against the Bears, the defense surrendered only 28 rushing yards and forced a Nick Foles interception in the win. 

Since the loss in week one the defense has transformed into a wild pack of ferocious beasts flying to the ball, not allowing opposing offenses the ability to sustain drives to score points. The amount of growth on the defensive side of the ball has been surprising, considering the Colts had a middle of the road defense last season, finishing (16th) in the NFL. Offseason moves made by the organization and player development are the main reasons for the vast improvement. 

The Colts hot start recently came to an end losing to the Cleveland Browns. The defense could not stop the Browns offense in the first half as Baker Mayfield finished the game with 247 passing yards and two touchdowns. However, the run defense lived up to its No. 1 ranking, only allowing 125 rushing yards a week after Cleveland rushed for over 300 yards against the Cowboys. 

The defense stepped up in the second half forcing two interceptions by Baker Mayfield, and only allowing 12 points. It was a loss, but the defense played better after the rough first half, which is a good sign.

The big move the Colts made in the offseason was when they traded a first-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft to the San Francisco 49ers for pro bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. It was a bold move by General Manager Chris Ballard but has paid off as his pass rush ability has allowed other players to apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks while he takes on double teams. His leadership ability has really shown as the unit has improved week after week. 

The late addition of Xavier Rhodes has paid dividends as his play has frustrated opposing quarterbacks and receivers alike. His physical playstyle matches the identity of the defense and makes him a natural fit in the defensive scheme. 

Rookie safety Julian Blackmon has played great stepping in for injured Malik Hooker. He has played well batting away five passes, making seven tackles and he even intercepted Nick Foles to put the game away against the Chicago Bears. His play doesn’t resemble a rookie, rather an experienced veteran with a couple of seasons under his belt and that is what you want to see from young players.

The development under defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus has been tremendous. Each of his three seasons as the defensive coordinator have seen improvement and with players like Darius Leonard, Anthony Walker, and now Deforest Buckner leading the charge. Those three are hard workers and play with infectious energy that rallies other guys to play with unwavering confidence. 

With the efficiency that the defense has played with it puts the Colts in good position for a possible playoff spot. The schedule picks up with games against the Browns, Ravens, and Packers have lethal offenses that can score in a multitude of ways. The season is young, but the defense looks to continue to improve and wreak havoc on opposing teams for the rest of the season. 


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