Colts middle linebacker
So when Brackett says Indianapolis' defenders feel more liberated under
"The Cover 2 scheme worked great for us in the past," Brackett said this week by phone. "We won a championship using that. We won 12 games six years in a row using that type of scheme. But I think, to a player, anytime you have an ability to blitz, to be involved in the passing game, to be able to run around, you're excited. In a Cover 2 scheme, you kind of get, not black-balled, but almost stereotyped that all you can do is play Cover 2. He's a Cover 2 corner. That's a Cover 2 middle linebacker. That's a Cover 2 safety.
"Now, guys are doing so much different stuff. Now we're 'football' players. If given the ability, if given the chance, we can play man coverage, we can play Cover 4, we can play Cover 3. We can mix it up, zone blitz, whatever the case may be. That's what you're seeing now, a lot of guys are showing their versatility that they can do more."
Under Meeks and former head coach
This season the Colts have been markedly more aggressive ... and creative. In the regular season they blitzed 146 times in passing situations and varied their coverages in the secondary. Previously their cornerbacks played zone almost exclusively, with two safeties deep. The goal was to protect against big plays and force offenses to drive the length of the field.
But this year they've played more one-on-one coverage and mixed their zones, splitting the field into quarters and thirds instead of halves. An offensive coordinator who has faced them multiple times over the past few years described the changes thusly: "They play more defensive fronts on all three downs. Before, they played only one front. They also disguise coverages a lot better. They substitute smarter than they have in the past. Before it was based on number of plays; now it's more by situation. They do better stuff with [ends]
"They've got to be the most underrated unit in football," says Texans coach
One AFC South assistant says he believes this might be the best defense the Colts have had since four-time league MVP quarterback
In the 2006 season Manning threw seven interceptions and only three touchdowns over four playoff games and did not throw more TDs than picks in any of them. The defense picked up the slack by limiting Kansas City to eight points, Baltimore to six and Chicago to 10 (the Bears also scored on a kickoff return in the Colts' 29-17 victory in Super Bowl XLI). Even in the one game the defense struggled -- a 38-34 win over the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game -- the unit limited New England to two field goals in five fourth-quarter series after allowing touchdowns on three of its first seven possessions.
"No one looks at the Colts and talks about defense," says safety
It will be easier to get it if they play as well in Super Bowl XLIV against New Orleans and its top-scoring offense as they did the past two weeks. The Colts limited Baltimore to a field goal and held the Jets to 17 points. More noteworthy: They have shut out opponents in six of eight quarters.
Some have said the Saints and quarterback
"We still play Cover 2, that's our bread-and-butter coverage and all our shells come from our Cover 2 look," says Brackett. "But there's a lot of rotation from the safeties now. Either one of those guys can roll down into the box for run support, and any of the three linebackers can blitz -- and we can play man coverage behind it. We're just doing a lot of different stuff. The way that Coach Coyer calls it, it gives us the ability to make some plays."