Amid all the good feelings that are beginning to swell from Lucas Oil Stadium in the wake of the Indianapolis Colts surprising start under rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, it’s easy to gloss over some of the difficulties that this young team still faces. Looming large among the Colts’ list of rough spots is their ongoing transition to the 3-4 defensive scheme being implemented by a new coaching staff. The entire concept seems foreign to longtime Indy fans, especially when we see such anomalies as our hard-hitting defensive end, Dwight Freeney, lining up at linebacker. As the Colts prepare to take on the Miami Dolphins this weekend, though, the good news is that the defense will look a little more familiar on Sunday. That’s when another defensive end-turned-linebacker, Robert Mathis, will return to the lineup for the first time in three weeks after rehabbing a sprained knee.
Despite the time that Mathis spent on the sideline after the Colts’ comeback win over the Green Bay Packers, he still leads the team with five sacks on the season. Aside from his efforts, Indianapolis has recorded 10 other sacks and has had trouble bringing pressure into the pocket on a regular basis. As a result, the Colts’ stiffening run defense has been largely nullified by a lack of turnovers and the comfort zone that opposing quarterbacks have found in the pocket. That’s a bad combination when you consider that Indy’s secondary remains among the more porous units in the NFL.
Mathis’ return comes at an opportune time, with the Miami Dolphins coming to town for a battle of upstarts who weren’t supposed to do much while their rookie quarterbacks learn the ropes of professional football. Like Luck, though, Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill has impressed with his poised play and has led Miami on a mini-tear that has them talking playoffs. Unlike Luck, Tannehill enters this game pretty banged up, and it’s not yet clear whether he will be under center on Sunday. If he is not sidelined, what Tannehill needs most is the kind of contact-free luxury ride that the Colts have provided for most of their opponents so far this year.
With Robert Mathis back on the field, though, no opposing offensive player can feel sure of his footing.
Adam Hughes was raised, and still lives, in rural Indiana. He has been a Colts fans since the team arrived in Indianapolis on a snowy morning in 1984. The Blue and White eventually replaced the Chicago Bears as his #1 team, and Super Bowl XLI was a dream come true.