Intro: Indianapolis gained momentum with a 25-3 win over Houston, the club’s second-largest victory margin of the year. The Colts grabbed the lead from the outset and did not need any comeback in assuring an 18th winning season in Indianapolis.
INDIANAPOLIS – Three of the Colts’ previous eight wins needed fourth-quarter comebacks, and the club had not earned an advantage larger than one score since November 14 at Tennessee.
Indianapolis had been plagued by slow starts in the last six outings but ended all of that by scoring early and building a 17-point halftime margin in a 25-3 win over Houston.
The Colts gained a measure of momentum heading into a week 16 showdown with 11-3 Kansas City, a possible playoff foe.
The Colts were the only AFC division leader to win last weekend, and here are FIVE THINGS LEARNED.
RESERVES TRAIN LIKE STARTERS – Chuck Pagano and his staff have said numerous times that reserves train like starters. Trent Richardson yesterday credited the scout team (comprised also of practice squad players) for providing great ‘looks’ in practices that only help hone the starters. Joe Reitz, Fili Moala, Griff Whalen and Darius Butler figured to get heavy work Sunday. Tackle Xavier Nixon did not, but he went in early for Reitz at RG and played the duration of the game after never having played the position before. With Reitz starting at RG, the Colts were using their sixth different opening configuration. His early exit with a concussion almost makes this count as a seventh different opening bunch. Cassius Vaughn and Darius Butler have split starting time for Greg Toler, and both had multiple interceptions in the Colts’ last two wins. Credit coaches, credit players, but give credit when looking for one way how the team won Sunday.
EARLY ADVANTAGE, EASIER PLAY CALLS – Andrew Luck said the faster start yesterday made “a world of difference.” Pagano said it opens things up on both sides of the ball and makes calls easier because the outcome is not hanging in the balance with so much time left on the clock. The Colts won late against Oakland, Seattle and Houston, while making plays down the stretch to subdue Denver and Tennessee (twice). San Francisco (27-7) and Jacksonville (37-3) were the only real wide-margin days for a battling Colts club. It’s not that yesterday didn’t have stress, there was just less of it by finding a rhythm, getting an advantage larger than one score and finishing out an opponent.
RICHARDSON UNSELFISH – Trent Richardson lined up in different spots in the offense. He did so at blocking back. He works hard enough during the week when moved elsewhere that he wants to contribute as a receiver. He has caught nine passes in the last two games, and yesterday he produced a season-best 102 scrimmage yards. His adaptation to the offense has had fits and starts. Yesterday was a good day for Richardson, and he needs to remain a building block.
POINTS A PREMIUM – Yesterday’s 25 points could have been more had a handful of chances been cashed in better. A red zone turnover early led to Houston’s lone score. Takeaways that started possessions at Houston’s 17 and 44 produced field goals. Those happened in the first half when Indianapolis still built a 20-3 lead. Later, a long punt return set the Colts up at Houston’s 28, but a field goal was the result. Pagano cited these afterward as points left on the field. It did not bite harshly on Sunday, but there are other Sundays looming.
DEFENSE WAS NEARLY AIRTIGHT – Houston’s only points came off a 32-yard drive that only produced two first downs. The next 11 defensive possessions for the Colts ended with seven punts, two takeaways, a turnover on downs and a sack-strip-safety. Those 11 possessions netted nine downs for the Texans, while the Colts pitched first-down shutouts on five straight possessions just after halftime. Indianapolis held Houston to 16 yards on 10 plays in the third quarter. It was an overall performance that included four sacks, a two-thirds failure on third downs (the best since week five), 12 first downs and 26:49 possession time (the season’s third-lowest mark). Well done.
Tags: Cassius Vaughn, chuck pagano, darius butler, Fili Moala, greg toler, Griff Whalen, indianapolis colts, joe reitz, trent richardson, Xavier Nixon
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After Robert Mathis and Antoine Bethea, who is the third longest tenured Colts defender?
The answer might take a while before it pops into one’s head.
Moala, who was a 2009 second-round draft pick of the Colts, was activated off the Colts PUP list on Monday after he tore his ACL in late November last year.
“It’s been a long time so I’m excited to get back out there and see if I can still contribute,” Moala said on Tuesday.
“It’s all mental. I know my leg is solid. I’ve pushed myself. I’ve worked my butt off, put this thing in extreme situations but I have no doubt it’s more mental than anything.”
Since 2010, Moala has started every game (38) he’s played in with the Colts including eight starts last year in a new defense.
Moala is one of three Colts (Donald Brown and Pat McAfee) who are still on the roster from the team’s 2007-2009 drafts.
Each year, Moala is constantly welcoming new faces into the Colts locker room and he likes what he’s been seeing this season.
“There’s been a lot of changes but all for the good,” Moala said. “It’s bringing out the best out of all of us, top to bottom. I’m excited to see where this team can go. We got a glimpse of what this defense can do Sunday night and I just want to be apart of it, and contribute.”
Next up for Moala is getting back on the practice field with a goal being to play in one of the Colts final two preseason games.
“We will shoot for one of these games,” Moala said. “Right now it’s get out there, get acclimated and get used to playing the game of football again.”
“Those guys are having fun, hitting people and that’s what I love to do so I’m excited.”
Tags: Fili Moala
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Ryan Grigson’s connection with the Philadelphia Eagles helped contribute to three trades for the Colts last season.
The Colts general manager dipped back into that well on Thursday afternoon when Indianapolis acquired Eagles fullback Stanley Havili in a trade for defensive end Clifton Geathers.
How does this trade impact the Colts?
One of the first questions offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton was asked upon arriving to Indianapolis was if he would utilize a fullback.
In 2012, rookie tight end Dwayne Allen was the Colts primary fullback (h-back) and players such as running back Robert Hughes and inside linebacker Mario Harvey also saw time at the position.
With Havili, the Colts are adding a versatile threat out of the backfield and the USC product set a Trojans’ school record in receptions for fullbacks.
Last season, Havili played in 15 games for the Philadelphia Eagles carrying the ball six times and catching seven passes.
The 245-pound fullback will be entering his third season in the NFL and adds another dimension to Hamilton’s offense. The Colts offensive coordinator preached that he wanted multi-faceted players to line up in a variety of spots and Havili appears to fit that role.
On the other side of the football, Geathers played in eight games at defensive end for the Colts last season.
Geathers, who was signed on Oct. 3 by the Colts, added much needed depth during the season when the Colts began losing bodies (Fili Moala and Drake Nevis) at the defensive end position.
The Colts are expected to have Moala and Nevis back in the fold this season and have added Ricky Jean-Francois in free agency. That trio goes along with Cory Redding and Lawrence Guy (who both started in the AFC Divisional Round game against the Ravens). Kellen Heard and Ricardo Mathews also bring depth along the outside of the three-man front.
Tags: clifton geathers, cory redding, drake nevis, Fili Moala, Kellen Heard, Lawrence Guy, Pep Hamilton, Ricardo Mathews, Stanley Havili
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Throughout the first three months of the season, the Colts defense has had to deal with injuries in each respective position group.
Perhaps no position has been hit as hard as the outside of the defensive line.
Nose tackle Antonio ‘Mookie’ Johnson has been a mainstay in the middle of the 3-4 hybrid defense but the players flanking the nose position will be ever-changing the rest of the season.
Fili Moala and Drake Nevis were placed on injured reserve at different times this month, sending Ricardo Matthews into the starting lineup.
The loss of Moala and Nevis means more playing time for Clifton Geathers, who was signed by the Colts at the start of October when Moala was inactive for four weeks.
“It’s hard to see a player go down,” Geathers said. “Fili and Drake, they helped me out a lot but as football goes on I do look at this as another opportunity, another football game, another day to get better.”
Geathers and defensive end Lawrence Guy (signed on Oct. 17) will take on a greater role in the coming weeks as the Colts continue to plug in interchangeable parts along the defensive line.
“We’ve just done a good job around here of having guys pick up the baton,” outside linebacker Dwight Freeney said. “Really hats off to management on bringing the right guy in so that he can fit right in and it’s not really a big deal. Obviously, it’s a big deal because you don’t want to lose Fili, you don’t want to lose those guys but it’s football and unfortunately these things happen.”
Earlier this week, the Colts signed defensive tackle Kellen Heard and interim head coach Bruce Arians is anxious to see the 6-foot-6-inches, 339-pound Heard in action.
After injuries with outside linebackers Robert Mathis and Freeney early in the season, the Colts defense was just starting to get completely healthy in the front seven before the losses of Moala and Nevis.
“When I look out there right now, the core guys are there,” interim head coach Bruce Arians said.
“We’re going to miss Fili (Moala), but we didn’t have him for three weeks, we know how to play without him, it’s not the first time. So plug in the guys that we have and never use it as a crutch or an excuse.”
Tags: Antonio Johnson, bruce arians, clifton geathers, drake nevis, Dwight Freeney, Fili Moala, Kellen Heard, Lawrence Guy, robert mathis
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For the first time in over a month, the Colts were not celebrating a ‘Victory Monday’ when gathering at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center yesterday.
Veterans who had been used to treating the past few Mondays as an off day walked into the Colts complex looking to get back to the team’s winning ways.
“We cannot let the mistakes that we did on (Sunday) continue into the next game,” defensive end Fili Moala said. “We just have to fix the issues that we had and move on, look at is as an opportunity to get better.”
The Colts will wrap up their slate of AFC East games for 2012 on Sunday with the Buffalo Bills coming into Lucas Oil Stadium.
For numerous Colts players, Sunday’s contest against the Bills will be the first meeting against them but their offense is comparable with the Patriots.
“They have great wide receivers, a shifty running back and a offensive line that plays well together so if we don’t come ready and prepared to play this game the same outcome might occur, but that won’t happen,” Moala said.
Even though the Patriots loss was less than 24 hours old, Colts safety Tom Zbikowski was already looking towards the Bills and their offensive scheme.
“We’ve got an offense coming here that’s going to be very similar to what we faced,” Zbikowski said. “Get familiar with (the offense) because we’re going to see it again this upcoming week.”
The players will reconvene as a group on Wednesday afternoon to begin the week of practice in hopes of continuing a trend of a resilient football team.
Throughout the year the Colts have rebounded from a loss the previous week with a victory the next.
Week 12 of the NFL season is no time to start beating yourself up over a single loss and the Colts are straying far away from that with the Bills coming to town.
“We just have to make sure that we come in excited on Wednesday, excited to practice, excited to get better and not make the same mistakes that we made on Sunday,” Moala said.
Tags: Fili Moala, tom zbikowski
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Trying to guess who the Colts will have available in the front seven of the defense on Sunday is like solving a 1,000-piece puzzle.
Inside linebackers Jerrell Freeman and Kavell Conner, defensive end Cory Redding and nose tackle Antonio Johnson are the four players in the front seven who have been in the starting lineup for each of the Colts five games this season.
After those four, it has been a wait and see approach week-to-week for defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.
For the second straight week, the Colts will be without defensive tackle Fili Moala.
Outside linebacker Robert Mathis is hoping to return to the lineup after missing the Jets game with a knee injury.
Redding’s status is up in the air after leaving the Jets game in the first half.
Inside linebacker Pat Angerer is looking to see his first action of the season as a foot injury during the preseason has sidelined the Colts leading tackler from last season.
The Colts are already without nose tackles Brandon McKinney and Martin Tevaseu.
Defensive linemen Ricardo Matthews and Drake Nevis have seen action in every game this season and their health has been critical among a defensive front that has seen its fair share of fronts.
Currently three Colts defensive linemen on the active roster have been in Indianapolis for less than two weeks (defensive end Clifton Geathers was signed on Oct. 3, nose tackle Antonio Dixon was signed on Oct. 9 and defensive end Lawrence Guy was signed on Tuesday).
Offensive coordinator/interim head coach Bruce Arians doesn’t know who will be out there on Sunday, but can’t thank his staff enough for dealing with so many new faces.
“It’s a credit to the coaching staff to do what they’re doing. Our backup defensive line right now has a cumulative after today 10 practices. So, that’s a lot of new.”
“(Defensive line) Coach (Gary) Emanuel is earning his paycheck and he’s doing a heck of a job and we’ll see how it goes. We might get fortunate enough to get a couple guys back and they won’t have to play. But we’ll get ready for them to play and we’ll see how it goes.”
Freeman, the Colts leading tackler, hasn’t been in the NFL for more than a year but even he admitted that it seems like he’s introducing himself on a daily basis.
“New guys coming every day. That’s just the nature of this business,” Freeman said. “People come and go all the time. I just have to do what I can to keep my spot, keep my position.”
The middle of the front seven has remained intact (Johnson, Freeman and Conner) through the first five games but it’s the outside that has needed to be reshuffled.
Outside linebacker Dwight Freeney missed two of the first three games of the season and the Colts are still waiting to get their Pro Bowl duo on the outside together for longer than one game.
Mathis considers himself a fast healer and while he is hoping to play this weekend, he knows whoever is on that active roster must accomplish the task they were brought in to do.
“Whoever’s out there has to do their job. Everybody is here because they are special in some way. If you are on the field, you have to do your job, whether it’s pass rushing, defending passes, or throwing passes. You just have to get the job done.”
Tags: Antonio Dixon, brandon mckinney, bruce arians, Clfiton Geathers, cory redding, Dwight Freeney, Fili Moala, gary emmanuel, Greg Manusky, Jerrell Freeman, kavell conner, Lawrence Guy, Martin Tevaseu, pat angerer, robert mathis
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Fili Moala has seen, and excelled, in this defense before.
During his days at the University of Southern California, Moala was part of a dominant Trojans defense that wrecked havoc throughout the Pac-10.
Having the chance to play in a system that he has thrived in the past, has the four-year veteran anxious to get another season started.
“Similar, really similar to what we ran at SC, same kind of concepts, a lot of movement, just kind of a little more of the exotic side,” Moala said of the hybrid 3-4 defense. “I was excited once I found out this was the type of defense we were going to run and started to get a good grasp of how it was going to be run here.”
The Colts defenders have preached the importance of stopping the run throughout the first week of training camp. Moala falls right in line with his teammates, but he even took it a step further when asked how good this defense could be in 2012.
“I love this new defense. The defense is great, great concepts, great enthusiasm from the coaching staff,” Moala said.
“The players have taken to it and are running with it. I have no doubt that this defense is going to cause a lot of turnovers, get our rushing numbers down and play better team defense so I’m excited for it.”
For the Colts returning players on defense, Moala feels the new hybrid 3-4 system has ‘rejuvenated’ a lot of defenders.
Considering himself one of those ‘rejuvenated’ players, Moala provides the defensive line with some versatility and is ready to get back to the All-American player he was at USC.
“Personally, I feel like I’m improving each and everyday as well as everyone else on the team. I have nothing but good feelings about this defense and where the team is going,” Moala said.
Tags: Fili Moala
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