As great as rookie QB Andrew Luck has played, the Colts know they need more big plays from a "D" that has produced a league-low three takeaways on the season.
And although the takeaways have been few and far in between, Indianapolis has stiffened considerably in the second half during its three-game winning streak, yielding just 13 points combined versus the Browns, Titans and Dolphins, respectively, after the intermission. Of course, none of those offenses have consistently scared opponents this season, but the job defensive coordinator Greg Manusky has done ramping up pressure from his group and confusion for the opposition late in games would make head coach Chuck Pagano proud, we hear.
Against the Dolphins in Week Nine, the Colts finally got their two best defensive players, OLBs Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney, on the field together — but it was short-lived.
Mathis exited in the second quarter, shortly after notching his sixth sack, and didn’t return because of a back injury. But Freeney played his best game of the season, recording a sack and beating Dolphins OLT Jake Long repeatedly, and the Colts turned up the heat against Dolphins rookie QB Ryan Tannehill, limiting the Dolphins to just three points after intermission.
Word is Manusky again did a wonderful job increasing stunts and twists, in addition to finding greater success with his blitz packages, to give his stop unit a surprising edge against one of the league's better offensive lines.
The job Manusky has done working with a short deck hasn’t gone unnoticed by league observers, who continue to marvel at the Colts’ success without Pagano.