INDIANAPOLIS — The home confinement of Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner couldn't require him to be quiet, especially when helplessly watching on television as his defense got manhandled by the Tennessee Titans and NFL rushing leader Derrick Henry.
Adding to Buckner’s frustration about being on the reserve/COVID-19 list was the fact he didn’t have any symptoms. He was convinced that physically he could do his job that day.
Then he watched the Titans roll, 45-26, at Lucas Oil Stadium two weeks ago.
“I was a screamer,” Buckner said Tuesday. “My wife was telling me I need to go back to work soon. (Laughs.) I’m pretty sure I was driving her and the baby crazy.”
If anything, the loss showed just how important Buckner has become to this defense, which rebounded after the return of Buckner and defensive end Denico Autry with a 26-20 win Sunday at the Houston Texans. Buckner had two of the Colts’ five sacks of Deshaun Watson as well as three quarterback hits.
Perhaps the first two-sack game of his Colts career could be attributed to having some residual rage from watching the Titans debacle.
"Honestly, I was just pissed. I was pissed because I wasn’t out there. And then obviously I was pissed the way the game went because we’re a lot better team than what I saw on TV that day. All of us, we all know that wasn’t the team we wanted to show everyone. We kind of let the lead of the division slip out of our hands a little bit."
The Titans took a one-game lead on the Colts atop the AFC South Division, but the rivals are now tied at 8-4 after last week. The Titans hold the division-record tiebreaker advantage.
The Colts visit the Las Vegas Raiders (7-5) on Sunday in a matchup with AFC playoff implications. The Colts hold the seventh and final playoff spot while the Raiders are one game back.
What’s important is that Buckner is healthy and hungry.
“The good thing was over the past week guys responded well, took the film, learned from it and got us back on track,” he said of defeating the Texans.
As a three-technique defensive tackle, Buckner aspires to be the NFL’s best player at the position. Although he leads the Colts with 18 quarterback hits, the fifth-year pro had been frustrated by not getting more sacks before Sunday.
“It is always frustrating when you’re getting there, hitting the quarterback and you’re not racking up the numbers, but you’re still having an effect on him, you’re still having an effect on the quarterback,” he said. “It’s better to be hitting the quarterback than to be nonexistent and not even showing your presence and making sure he knows that you’re there.”
When he watched the film of the Texans game, and grateful he was in it, Buckner saw areas in which he needs to improve.
The Colts are just glad to have him back for the playoff stretch run. They welcome the chance to hear him scream after making plays.