As a Colts fan, I admit that it is difficult to watch the Colts give up 200 yards rushing in a game even if they win. We all love hard-hitting football. I, personally, love defensive football. I love a hard-fought 4-3 win. Unfortunately, Bill Polian doesn't care what I think.
And so, in the game against Miami a few weeks ago, the Colts got ran over like a quadriplegic bullfighter. They won the game despite never altering their defensive strategy against the Wildcat to any extent other than using a safety as an eighth man in the box, and gave up 239 rushing yards in the process.
Is this a major weakness of the Colts? Can other teams utilize the Wildcat against them with similar effectiveness? To some extent, yes.
Just ask team president Bill Polian:
"We controlled the run against Miami from conventional formations about as well as we've controlled it the last two weeks," said Polian in his weekly interview. "What we did not control was the Wildcat and the ‘A’ formation."
"That begs the question, 'Can Tennessee do it?' The answer is, 'Yes, they can.' Do we expect they will? The answer is, 'Yes, we do.' They could run it with Vince (Young). They could run it with Kerry (Collins). They could run it with any number of people. I could see them running it with Vince and both backs in the game. There are any number of ways they can do it. We'll have to wait until Sunday night to figure out which one it is, but I'm pretty sure we're going to see one version or another of it. Maybe all three."
It was pretty clear by the Colts' lack of adjustment to the Wildcat in the second half of the Miami game that they are not going to risk giving up a big passing play by utilizing defensive backs to matchup better against Wildcat running plays.
Fans want a defense that holds run-based teams to 45 yards rushing, but Bill Polian doesn't care. The team isn't designed to do that, and that design started long before the Colts drafted Peyton Manning...it started when Bill Polian was with Buffalo.
The "bend-don't-break" cliche is understandably an undesirable moniker to assign to a team, but Bill Polian doesn't care. Polian has said that he only cares about two statistics: yards-per-pass-attempt and turnovers. Thus, he is perfectly willing to allow a field goal in order to prevent a touchdown, because he is banking on the offense scoring a touchdown. That is why he has spent seven of 10 first round draft picks on offense during his tenure with the Colts.
Would Bill Polian prefer a three-and-out every drive? Of course. Would he prefer limiting opponents to negligible running yards? Of course. All Colts fans would prefer that. But the team is clearly not willing to risk giving up big plays in the passing game.
Because of the way the team is designed, Polian was as critical of the Colts' performance against the Seattle Seahawks as he was of the Colts' effort versus Miami.
"We have a standard of performance here, and the standard of performance is high," Polian said about the Seahawks game. "For about three quarters Sunday, we met the standard of performance—albeit grudgingly on offense. Then, it all went to the dogs in the fourth quarter. We played maybe the worst fourth quarter in all three phases this season."
In the aforementioned fourth quarter, the Colts gave up two drives for touchdowns that featured zero running plays and 19 pass plays. The only run was a seven-yard scramble by quarterback Seneca Wallace, but the play-call was a pass.
When your measuring stick is pass-yards per-attempt, it is understandable that the team was disappointed even though those two drives came when the game was already well out of reach for Seattle.
Polian also said that the defense did not play up to the team's standard of performance against Miami, but he blamed the poor play not on the team's structure or system, but rather on technique.
"The thing with the Wildcat, it’s like any misdirection offense or any misdirection play—you cannot look in the backfield," Polian said after the Dolphins game.
"We were playing too high on the defensive line. We had far too many missed tackles. We had far too many poor entries in terms of gap control and things of that nature. We have lots and lots of work to do to get better on defense and get better specifically against the Wildcat and the kinds of things that people are going to do us"
"That you have to get corrected, but yes, you can do it," Polian said, "because it’s just a matter of technique."
The Colts are obviously not built around their defense, but if they can improve throughout the season, as was Coach Dungy's mantra, they are very well equipped to beat any team on a given Sunday. When Bob Sanders returns from injury the run defense will likely improve, and rookies Jacob Lacey and Jerraud Powers—who are both getting a good amount of playing time—will play faster and make faster reads as they gain experience.
Do the Colts need to make changes to their personnel or depth chart, or dramatically alter their defensive scheme? Probably not.
"As far as the game plan and how the game was played, they played to their strengths and we played to our strengths," Polian said when asked about the Miami game. "We won the game."