We all know about the Indianapolis Colts' high-powered offense. Year after year, they remain highly productive yet the same cannot always be said for the other side of the ball.
If you happened to catch the AFC Wild Card game this past Saturday, you probably saw the Colts' defense let victory slip through their fingers as Peyton Manning remained helpless, forced to sit on the sideline and allow his defense the opportunity to help win the game.
The result was not reassuring.
The combination of blown plays combined with the repercussions of stupid penalties, cost Peyton Manning, and the Colts' offense the opportunity to go out and win the game.
I could complain about the overtime system, but I feel it would be far more relevant to analyze the future of the Colts defense because had they been able to come through in overtime, the Colts might be preparing to continue another Super Bowl run as we speak.
Don't misinterpret this article to be an attack on the Colts defense. It would be far too ignorant to criticize an entire half of the team due to the failures of one drive. My issue with the Colts defense stems further than their overtime let down.
The Colts have been known in recent years to always be the flashy team with an offense capable of massive production, but a defense that remains too inconsistent to make a legitimate postseason push.
I'm not throwing all of the blame on the defense alone but the purpose of this article is to try to attempt to figure out the best way for the Colts to fix their issues in this one aspect of the game.
The Colts defense is far from horrible. I've never thought that one game or even a good stretch of games should be enough to determine how good a player or team is necessarily.
In the 2008 NFL season, the Colts defense ranked quite high by only allowing their opponents to score 18.6 points per game. That ranks them seventh overall in the entire league.
The issue with the Colts defense is not their ability but rather their consistency. We've all seen what playmakers like Bob Sanders, Dwight Freeney, and Robert Mathis can do. The issue begins to arise when an otherwise good defensive squad seems to fall apart at the seams.
It appears as if they have both the potential and ability to make great physical plays on the field but than you sit back and watch them give up big plays.
The Colts do seem to do an excellent job in pass protection. During the regular season, they only allowed six touchdown passes through the air. They need to focus on becoming better capable of stopping the run.
I do not feel that this is a team that is coming short due to issues with the coaching staff. People usually wonder why the defensive success that Tony Dungy had in Tampa Bay has not seemed to happen in Indianapolis.
The reason for this is because Dungy has some truly great defensive players on the Buccaneers squad. Players like Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, and John Lynch all come to mind. That's three future hall of famers right there alone.
Great players make great plays for you and do so on a consistent basis.
Overall, the Colts defensive squad is not and has never been as talented as the Tampa Bay defense was in their prime under Dungy. They have some really good players, but not like that of the legendary Buccaneers defense.
So I do not see many issues with the coaching staff. I hate it when coaches get fired every time their respective teams fails to reach the often-excessive expectations set by the people.
If you don't believe me, all one has to do is go back to the 2006 season. That year we saw a Colts run-defense so poor that they surrendered almost 400 yards on the ground alone to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Later in the post season, we saw that same defense (with a healthy Bob Sanders this time) hold Larry Johnson under 40 yards rushing. That is perfect proof that if you believe in Tony Dungy and continue to play Colts defense the way you're capable of, you'll be just fine.
Another big issue is the reliance for Bob Sanders to remain healthy. Not only due to his individual contributions but we've all seen how differently the Colts defense plays with him on the field. I'm not certain if it's leadership or inspiration but what ever it is, the Colts are dependent on it.
After watching Sanders play for five seasons, I have little assurance that he is going to one day reach a point where he can remain healthy for extended periods of time. It's a shame to, because he is such a great playmaker.
My suggestions to fix the Colts defensive issues would be to do the following. Keep your coaching staff and do your best to continue to build on the success they've been able to achieve.
Next, I would spend the 2009 offseason both drafting and signing reliable talent. I know the Colts focus more on drafting 99 percent of their roster, but they must make a move on a star defensive player if the he has the potential.
I believe that a few small changes that can be corrected with the drafting and signing of some good players combined with well prepared execution can transform the Colts defense to be one of the better squads in the league.
Remember, consistency should be the main focus.