LaVon Brazill wasn’t expecting to hear his name get called.
With 4:28 left in the fourth quarter on Sunday, the Colts punted and stopped Pro Bowl returner Josh Cribbs for a four-yard gain.
However, a holding penalty forced a tired punt coverage group to have to head back down the field in hopes of neutralizing Cribbs one more time on Sunday.
As the unit made the trek back to the Indianapolis 19-yard line, Brazill heard his name get called on the sideline.
Brazill is a backup gunner for the Colts but admitted on Monday afternoon that he hasn’t seen a rep on the punt coverage unit in a long time.
Special teams coaches Marwan Maalouf and Brant Boyer inserted Brazill in for a winded Joe Lefeged as the Colts gunner lined up to the right side of the line of scrimmage.
It looked as if the Colts special teams were going to get off the field but now they would have to kick to Cribbs one more time without their special teams leading tackler.
“I was thinking man I’m tired,” linebacker Justin Hickman said on Monday. “We just knew in that situation, with the point we were at in the game, it was probably the biggest play on special teams all day and we just had to bust our (butts) to get down there and make sure (Cribbs) couldn’t bust anything.”
“I was thinking this was a situation where it can come back to bite you in the (butt). You go down and cover it good the first time and then you get a penalty. The second time he normally busts it loose. On TV that’s how you normally see it happen.”
Brazill made sure the Colts punt coverage unit wouldn’t find their way onto any future Cribbs highlight reel.
Prior to the snap, Browns cornerbacks Johnson Bademosi and Joe Haden lined up across from the Colts rookie.
Bademosi eventually slid inside to rush punter Pat McAfee but Haden, an All-Pro cornerback, still shadowed Brazill.
Knowing that Haden was winded from the first punt, Brazill made a move to the outside and immediately found himself barring down on Cribbs with Haden trailing him.
As Cribbs fielded the punt at the Browns 29-yard line, there was Brazill ready to make a vital stop.
“They had me doubled than one of the guys dropped down so my plan was beating (Haden) and go down there was to make up fair catch but Josh Cribbs is a great player so in his eyes he wanted to make a great play,” Brazill said. “I just broke down and wrapped up and held on.”
The Colts defense eventually forced a turnover on downs on the following possession thus preserving the 17-13 victory over the Browns.
McAfee was one of the first of many Colts teammates to congratulate Brazill and appreciates a coverage unit that held one of the league’s finest returners to just two attempts for 12 yards.
“We have an amazing group of gunners. Sergio (Brown) and Joe Lefeged have done amazing but after one rep, it’s all out so Joe was a little gassed,” McAfee said following the game.
“Marwann Maloouf and Brant Boyer decided to put in a fresh guy LaVon Brazill, who has been working all week for his chance. It was his fresh legs and a smart decision to put him in that really affected the game. That was a huge play and Brazill did an amazing job tackling one of the hardest guys in the league to tackle.”
Tags: Brant Boyer, Joe Lefeged, Justin Hickman, LaVon Brazill, Marwan Maalouf, pat mcafee
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It’s the phase of the game that is rarely talked about, yet plays a vital role in a team’s success.
When it comes to the special team aspect of the Colts team, this offseason saw an added emphasis in improving those units.
If Week 1 is any indication than the coverage units are ready for a successful 2012 campaign.
The Colts downed two of there first three punts inside the five-yard line against the Bears with the initial punt leading to an interception returned for a touchdown on the following play.
“That’s something we practice all the time,” special teams coordinator Marwan Maalouf said of downing the football inside the 10. “We’re stressing field position. The more field our defense has behind them (the better). That starts to maybe turn into turnovers for them with a short field.”
Both of those punts were downed by second-year safety Joe Lefeged and he realizes the importance of the ‘third’ phase of the game.
“It felt good, especially because we all know that special teams is an important part of the game,” Lefeged said. “To make a play like that it shifts the momentum in our favor.”
Last season, Lefeged was a mainstay on the Colts special teams while also returning kicks.
While he isn’t returning kicks this season, Maalouf still considers him a very valuable asset to the special teams unit.
“He’s somebody that we’ve been expecting a lot of things out of,” Maalouf said. “He’s just got to keep building on it because the more he does, the more other teams are going to start keying on him.”
Both Lefeged and Maalouf gave a lot of the punt coverage credit to punter Pat McAfee.
On Sunday, McAfee had two punts downed inside the five-yard line to go along with punts of 63, 57 and 54 yards.
Only one of his five punts was able to be returned against the Bears and it’s a two-way street between punter and coverage units for a successful special teams play.
“Pat is a great punter and I know where that ball is going to be. I know where he is going to put it,” Lefeged said. “You get a peak at the ball a little bit when you’re running down the field, if you beat the controllers.”
After having to deal with Bears returner Devin Hester last week, the Colts will once again have their hands full with Vikings returner Percy Harvin.
In his four seasons in the NFL, Harvin has returned four kicks for a touchdown.
Maalouf knows his coverage unit has another task to deal with on Sunday and will count on No. 1’s right leg to help neutralize Harvin.
“Having McAfee doing the kickoffs is huge,” Maalouf said. “He’s one of our best coverage players with his ability to kickoff the ball high and deep.”
Tags: Joe Lefeged, Marwan Maalouf, pat mcafee
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