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Lion Tamers?
Can the Colt defense make plays before the 4th quarter
written by Stephen Conway

Last week for three quarters, the New England Patriots seemed to move the ball at will versus the Colt defenders. They played their ball control clock-eating strategy to perfection. The Colts offered little resistance until the Pats approached the red zone on three occasions. They bent and nearly broke. 

Enter Peyton Manning and the vaunted Colt offense. It didn't matter that the team only had the ball 12 plays in the first half. It didn't matter that for the majority of the game, the Patriots looked to be the better team. What mattered was the defense put the ball in Peyton's hands when it counted most. Down 23-14, Manning led the team on two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter to put the colts ahead for good. Edgerrin James was key to the success of each drive, pounding away at the Patriots defensive linemen and linebackers for huge gains on the ground, including a 26 yard run to set up the winning score. 

A win is a win is a win. The Colts found ways to win despite poor performances on defense most of the afternoon and that's what matters most. No one is happier than this writer that the Colts were able to break the curse of the dreaded Patriots. BUT. The glaring weaknesses that were so evident last Sunday will not just go away. If anything, those defensive liabilities may have become even larger due to several serious injuries during the course of the game. Rookie linebacker and first round draft pick Rob Morris damaged a patellar tendon in his right leg and is out of the season. Defensive lineman Ellis Johnson suffered a knee injury and is questionable for this week's game as is Safety Jason Belser who suffered a concussion.

The Colts must face a defensive minded Detroit Lions team this Sunday, coming off a huge road win against division opponent Tampa Bay. The Detroit secondary is relentless and very opportunistic, leading the NFC in forced turnovers with 14 interceptions and 7 fumbles. The Colts' tendency to turn the ball over at least once a game will be sorely tested by this unit.

While the Detroit defense will not give ground easily, I fully believe that the Colts can score on any team if they are executing their plays to the best of their abilities. The question becomes: will the Colts defense put the team in a position to take control of the game with their offensive firepower or force them to play from behind?

Wholesale changes are not the answer. What is needed most by the defense is continuity, players working in concert with one another. Football is the ultimate team sport and what the Colts have seemed to lack the most on defense is trust. They may not be the fastest unit or the most athletic, but the Colts can mount a credible defense if they will play together. Each man must focus on his assigned task and avoid the mental breakdowns that have cost the team dearly in recent weeks. No more bullet dodging. Let's tame these Lions before they learn to bite!

Matchups
Breakdowns of the key matchups on offense, defense, and special teams.

Game Prediction
Much like Miami in the AFC East, the Lions have snuck up to second place in their division without much media attention. While the Lions offense has struggled, Detroit running back James Stewart had a break out game last week in Tampa. Given the penchant of the Colts to give ground on first and second down through the run, expect Stewart to see a great deal of action early. 

Put simply, this game hinges on two factors:  making Detroit punt and not turning the ball over. Last week, New England did not punt until the fourth quarter. We cannot expect to win games if this holds true every week. If we allow our offense equal time on the field and protect the ball, there is every reason to believe the team will walk out Sunday 6-2. Expect Edgerrin James to shoulder the Lion's share of the burden on Sunday. An effective running game will set up the play action for us.  Provided our defense can keep the Lions from dominating time of possession, I believe the Colts have too many weapons for the Lion defense to account for all game long

Score: Colts 27  Lions 20

Next Opponent
Detroit Lions
10/29/2000

when: 1:00
where: RCA Dome
TV: CBS

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Archive:

1999 Season
Issue #1
Issue #2
Issue #3

Issue #4
Issue #5

2000 Schedule
Issue #6

Issue #7
Issue #8
Issue #9
Issue #10
Issue #11

Issue #12

9/03 at KC

W  27-14

9/10 OAK

L   31-38

9/17 BYE  
09/25 JAX

W  43-14

10/1 at Buff W  18-16
10/8 at NE L   16-24
10/15 at SEA W  37-24
10/22 NE W  30-23
10/29 DET
11/05 at CHI
11/12 NYJ
11/19 at GB
11/26 MIAMI
12/03 at NYJ
12/11 BUFF
12/17 at MIAMI
12/24 MINN

 

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Updated:
04/19/06

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