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Friday, September 19, 2008
Colts look to prevent big runs

By Paul Kuharsky
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
 
 David Stluka/Getty Images
 Minnesota's Adrian Peterson ripped the Colts for 160 yards rushing in Week 2.

Yesterday we looked at the Colts' struggles running the ball, but that's only half their problem concerning the ground game.

They've faced two power running attacks so far and came out of games against Chicago and Minnesota with the a run defense ranked 28th, ahead of only Houston, Cincinnati, Kansas City and Detroit. That's not exactly a bunch you want to hang around with in any category.

Indy cannot continue to give up 181.5 ground yards a game and survive. Now they are without strong safety Bob Sanders for four to six weeks with a high ankle sprain and maybe knee surgery.

The Colts have shown that even when they play their best defense, they will give up rush yards. They gave up 98.3 a game last year when they had the league's third-best yardage defense and No. 1 scoring defense.

The Colts facilitated a short Q&A for me this week with middle linebacker Gary Brackett about the run defense.

When the offense isn't running it well, does that put even more responsibility on the defense to stop the run?

Gary Brackett: "I think it does. Obviously, stopping the run gets them off the field on third down and gives us the ability to get our offense the ball back. I think it's more of our offense not having the ball enough to figure out what the defense is doing. So, we can help those guys out by getting off the field on third down."

How crucial is it that you aren't the team that Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew get it going against?

GB: "It's extremely crucial. Obviously, we want our offense to have as many chances as possible, and we want to start playing better run defense. Later on in the year, that's really going to be huge for us, how we stop the run, so we just want to get that started and get that trend started of us playing good defense and being solid in our run defense."

What's been the primary problem in run stopping so far?

GB: "I think just the big plays, a big play here and there. Obviously the long run [Matt] Forte had the first week, some of the long runs Adrian Peterson had last week, I think three of them, if you eliminate those plays, I think our run defense has been pretty stout. So, we just have to eliminate the big plays and I think that will take care of everything else."

It's common for run defenses to talk in such a fashion about the big plays, but those are the ones that kill the per-game average and tend to swing games. Just about any team failing in run defense can say the same thing.

The Colts have given up six runs of 10 yards or more, including Forte's 50-yard touchdown and Peterson's 29-yard run on his first carry of the game.

Jones-Drew has a big history against Indianapolis, with 200 all-purpose yards in three of his four games against the Colts. He's run for a 7.2-yard average against them, scoing four touchdowns on the ground and five total.