INDIANAPOLIS 鈥?The Indianapolis Colts made a firm commitment to Matt Eberflus in January.They stuck to it after the man who initially hired Eberflus to be Indy’s defensive coordinator Cheap Alize Mack Youth Jersey
, Josh McDaniels, reneged on a deal to become the next coach, and they lived up to their promise after eventually hiring Frank Reich in February.It’s worked out well for the Colts.“He’s a consistent guy, he’s got a consistent message every day and he believes in the system,” middle linebacker Anthony Walker said Tuesday. “That’s what you want as a player, a guy who believes in the system.”The system looks awfully familiar to longtime Colts fans.Eberflus reinstalled the Tampa 2 defense, the zone concept popularized by Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy. General manager Chris Ballard saw it work in Chicago under Lovie Smith, one of Dungy’s former pupils, and Reich worked with it on Dungy’s staff when he first started coaching in 2006. Indy capped that season by winning the Super Bowl.The low-key personalities and focused approaches also proved a perfect match.But the real investment came in free agency and the draft.While Colts fans waited impatiently for Ballard to make a splashy move, he mostly avoided the high-priced free agents and instead went with less-familiar names who could excel in Eberflus’ system.The results have been remarkable.Linebacker Darius Leonard, a second-round pick, has a league-high 104 tackles and Walker has 67 tackles, nearly four times as many as he had in 2017.Defensive end Kemoko Turay has shown flashes of being a disruptive pass rusher and Tyquan Lewis showed promise in his first two games after missing the first eight with an injured toe. Both were second-round draft picks in April.“We’re getting to the ball, causing turnovers,” Leonard said. “We don’t do a lot, there’s not a lot of thinking, so it’s very easy for me to go out and play.”Not just for the young guys, either.Jabaal Sheard moved from outside linebacker to defensive end and already has matched his sacks total (5陆) from last season. Veteran defensive lineman Margus Hunt has gone from rotation player to starter and has had a career-best season.Safeties Clayton Geathers and Malik Hooker have been rounding into form after missing most of last season and part of this season with injuries, and outsiders have noticed a difference.“They hustle. They have great team effort. They have very good team speed. They stunt the front and they are all very good hitters,” Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden said recently. “They seem to really like each other. They seem to have a really good White Marlon Mack Jersey
, I think, overall down-to-down competitive nature about them.”The individual numbers tell only part of the story.After finishing 30th in the league in yards allowed per game in 2016 and 2017 and 26th or worse in four of Chuck Pagano’s six seasons as head coach, Indy has jumped to No. 20 this season. Through 10 games, they have 26 sacks and are on pace for their highest total since 2013.The Colts’ last four opponents have聽averaged only聽17.5 points per game, and only four teams have more takeaways than Indy (19).Not surprisingly, the Colts (5-5) have won all four, moving back into the playoff picture largely because of a defensive resurgence few expected in Eberflus’ first season.“I think you have to go through this process. Sometimes you take a couple steps forward and one step back or three or four steps forward and one or two back,” Eberflus said. “But it’s really about the guys buying into it.”It could be just the start.The young Colts are still getting acclimated to Eberflus and his scheme, are still learning how to play consistently well and still must demonstrate they can withstand the late-season rigors to make a playoff run.But for the first time in a long time, the Indy defense no longer looks like the weak link. Instead, Eberflus has demonstrated just how promising the future could be.“I think guys are buying into the style slowly, but it’s not consistent yet,” Eberflus said. “Today in the film room we pointed out all the loafs and all the missed assignments, so we can definitely get better week to week, and now it’s about being consistent week to week.”NOTES: With the likelihood of starting center Ryan Kelly out with an injured left knee, the Colts signed center Josh Andrews off the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad. … Indy also put cornerback D.J. Killings on injured reserve and waived cornerback Arthur Maulet.100View Gallery Gallery:View from the sidelines: NFL cheerleaders 2018Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports | Raj Mehta The Colts won in convincing fashion in the first round of the playoffs to send the Houston Texans on their way. The game was the perfect example of what this team is capable of when they are really firing, as they got out to two consecutive long touchdown drives to start the game with a defensive three and out in between. By the time the second quarter arrived, the game felt well in the Colts’ control, and only a badly called touchdown in the fourth quarter for the Texans saved it from being a shutout. There were plenty of winners to go around in this one, so let’s get started with them. WinnersBraden SmithPhoto by Tim Warner/Getty ImagesWhile Smith might not be the name that makes the most sense to lead off our winners as he is not the flashy big play guy Marlon Mack Jersey 2019
, he once again handled J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney like a seasoned veteran. While Quenton Nelson makes the Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro, Smith is also doing incredible things, and eliminating J.J. Watt is a big one. There were very few things that the Monday Night Football broadcast crew got right in their call of the game, but one of them from Booger was that J.J. Watt knocking down the ball was great, but ultimately, he had to start getting to Andrew Luck. He isn’t wrong. While batting the ball obviously can pay off as it resulted in an interception, he was unable to get to pressure on Luck, and as a result, Luck diced up their defense. Braden Smith deserves major credit for the year he has had.T.Y. HiltonPhoto by Bob Levey/Getty ImagesFrom the moment that he showed up to the airport with his Joker backpack we should have known. T.Y. Hilton doesn’t do much talking off the field. He is one of the “let my play do my talking” kind of guys. When he arrived at NRG Stadium in a Pennywise the Clown mask, it was a clear sign of how he felt about being disrespected by a player he has routinely dominated. The whole first drive of the game was the Luck and Hilton show. He had 85 yards on the day, but most of those came in the first quarter. He made big plays early that required the defense to pay attention to him, and the running game took over from there. Marlon MackPhoto by Tim Warner/Getty ImagesLet me say this loud one more time for the people in the back—the Colts are not signing Le’Veon Bell in the offseason. Why would they? Marlon Mack has been great as the lead back in a versatile running back room that has a solid coach in Tom Rathman. This is a group that will continue to get even better, and Mack looks like a completely different guy than last season. Despite only playing in 12 games this season, Mack is 16th in total rushing yards and 6th in yards per game for backs with at least 50 attempts. His 148 rushing yards set a new franchise record for the most rushing yards in a playoff game. That would be impressive in its own right, but that performance came against a team that Football Outsiders had as the top run defense in the league in 2018. What is even more encouraging than that? The team he’ll face next, the Kansas City Chiefs, ranks dead last in stopping the run. Andrew LuckPhoto by Tim Warner/Getty ImagesLuck did not have a remarkable day in terms of his statistical output. You’d have had to watch the film to see his brilliance. He didn’t rush throws, put good touch on the ball when it was needed, and threw darts into close windows when the coverage called for it. In short, he played efficient football and didn’t make mistakes. That was all that was needed given the success of the running game. He continues to make plays with his feet Youth Reggie Wayne Jersey
, both extending plays and hitting guys downfield, and scrambling for first downs when the opportunity presents itself. His lone interception was more about J.J. Watt’s good play than a bad throw or decision. It might not stand out as an iconic playoff performance, but it was a solid one that got the job done.Kenny MooreTroy Taormina-USA TODAY SportsHow have we made it this far into this story without talking about Kenny Moore? It has been the Kenny Moore show on defense the past two weeks as the Colts corner has really turned it on. His performance against the Texans was crucial, getting a sack as well as another QB hit and breaking up a couple passes in addition to snagging another interception. This is perfect timing for Moore, who has had a solid season, but over the past two games has kicked his play up a notch. If the Colts are going to continue winning, it will take more on defense than just Darius Leonard making plays, and while the defensive line has shown all year the ability to impact the game, having the secondary coming alive as the playoffs get under way is a huge boost to this defense. Clayton GeathersMark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsMuch like Ryan Kelly does for the offense, Clayton Geathers is a big impact player for the defense. His 9 tackles and pass defended don’t tell the whole story of what he brings in terms of defending the run, but his attitude and leadership on the field alone are notable. He is a more disciplined player than George Odum, who is best as a special teamer, and so having him their to defend the run and help keep contain was a big deal. The Colts often opened up the middle a bit too much and let Watson run there and pick up first downs. However, that was only taking place once the game was well in hand and if your defense is forcing the opposing quarterback to run the ball in order to win, they’re doing something right. Geathers being back gave some more heart to the defense and the Colts need him healthy throughout the rest of the playoffs to make a run.Frank ReichIndy Star-USA TODAY NETWORKThis game was about as expertly called as any we have seen all year. It was the picture of excellent preparation, flawless execution, and wrong-footing your opponent. Frank Reich has largely done an amazing job this season, which can make you forget at times that this is his first year as a head coach. Like the rest of the team and staff, he is still improving as a coach and growing. This was his best game yet, and he is raising his own game at the perfect time.Honorable Mentions: Dontrelle Inman Reggie Wayne Jersey Stitched
, Darius Leonard, Al Quadin Muhammad, Quenton NelsonLosersKansas City ChiefsDenny Medley-USA TODAY SportsEdit: So I see that I completely messed this one up, as many of you have pointed out correctly that the Chiefs would have played the Chargers in the divisional round with a Colts loss. I do still hold that the Chiefs lose here, because the Chargers are the team they know. While they have been playing well, we saw in our game how familiarity impacts the planning, and it showed in the Ravens vs Chargers game as well. Instead of a familiar face, the Chiefs will host an arguably hotter Colts team, and the Patriots get to be losers too because they have to deal with a Chargers team that is playing really well. They’re also losers because they’re just the worst. If you are the Chiefs, you should definitely have to be disappointed that the Texans didn’t get a win here. The Texans were one of the weaker teams in the playoffs and the Chiefs match up well against them in every way. Instead, the Colts are the ones they will host in Arrowhead. Chiefs fans are haunted by gutting playoff losses to the Colts, one of which provided a staple performance from Andrew Luck that most of us will never forget. While ultimately the past doesn’t matter, that doesn’t stop it from unnerving fans, as Colts fans know well. Instead of the Texans, the Chiefs will face a Colts team that is red hot, has no fear, and just seems to be getting better.