INDIANAPOLIS – The eyes of most NFL players, coaches and front office officials were fixated on the Seattle Seahawks' defense as it made Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning look ordinary for one of the few times in his future Hall of Fame career during the Super Bowl earlier this month.
The goal by those teams?
To put together a defense that can at least resemble Seattle’s, which is being called by some one of the best in league history.
“No question,” Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “We’re not the only ones that are thinking that way since it’s the last game and you saw how they were able to dominate that game and play so well on defense.”
The Seahawks used a fast and physical defense to lead the league in total yards allowed a game (273.6), passing yards a game (172) and points allowed a game (14.4) last season.
Colts general manager Ryan Grigson had no shame in admitting that they may end up taking some of Seattle’s defensive philosophies.
“This is a copycat league and people see someone doing things at a high level and being able to beat a quality opponent like the Broncos the way they did,” Grigson said. “Of course you’re going to look at that. With the Colts we’re always looking to get better. We’re not ashamed to say we might take a piece from here, a piece from there and use it or implement it. … If you’re going to be belligerent, you’re going to be stuck in the mud. And it’s not working? Well, that’s on you at the end of the day.”
Pagano is a defensive-minded coach whose unit hasn't lived up to his standards yet. The Colts showed flashes at times, but they were way too inconsistent for those in the organization last season. The goal is for them to close the gap between them and the offense.
The Kansas City Chiefs put up 44 points on them without do-everything running back Jamaal Charles in the AFC wild-card game and the New England Patriots ran for 234 yards in the divisional playoff game.
“We certainly had times during the season where we played very, very good defense,” Pagano said. “Played smothering defense, much like Seattle played, especially down the stretch. I know the playoffs didn’t turn out, obviously we didn’t play like we are capable of. We’ve just got to be more consistent. As we add pieces to the puzzle and guys get better at their craft, I think we’ll certainly one day say we play defense like that on a consistent basis.”
The Colts finished 20th in the league in total yards allowed (357.1). They weren’t bad in pass defense – 13th in the league – it was stopping the run that Indianapolis had problems with. The Colts were 26th in the league, giving up an average of 125.1 yards a game.
Pagano wasn’t just talking about consistent play on the field -- he was also referring to having players consistently play. Starting safety LaRon Landry, cornerback Greg Toler and defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois all missed time because of injuries last season.
“I felt like specifically, Landry before he got hurt, was leading the league in tackles and was all over the place,” Grigson said. “He’s got to be more comfortable in this defense. He has to make that commitment this offseason, and he’s going to. Ricky Jean, the same way. The flashes were there. We need those guys to turn those flashes, same with Toler, into consistency, and that’s all we’re looking for. We need consistency, be out there for 16 games, find a way.”