Special Teams Are Crucial To Beating The Colts

How do you stop the Colts? The obvious answer is to stop Peyton Manning from getting the offense in rhythm (easier said than done). Not only is Indianapolis playing well on offense (like they always do), but their defense this season is much improved. Collectively, the Colts are a very good team, an elite team. Fresh off a Super Bowl victory, the Colts week in and week out draw the very best out of their opponents, yet continue to put together impressive winning streaks.

If there is a chink in the Colts’ armor then it would be their special teams units; specifically, their coverage units. The Colts score fast and they score often, and as a result they find themselves in lots of kickoff situations. Injuries to their linebacker corp have caused the Colts to promote some of their special teams guys into starting roles. There is a domino effect when you lose starters on defense and replace them with special teams standouts. Recently, the Colts have struggled in kick coverage and if they start to score points against a weakened Chargers defense, it’ll be up to the Chargers’ special teams units to keep the game in reach.

Here's Tony Dungy on the Colts' special teams performance:

We’ve got to do a better job. They are outstanding with their coverage units. They’ve got a lot of speed, they’ve got kickers that hang the ball high and put it directionally and they’ve covered really well. Darren Sproles is their return guy and a tough guy to tackle and take a lot of pride in it. And with their formula of running the ball with Tomlinson, playing defense; field position does become critical. And we’ve got to cover better. We talked about it this morning that we’ve got to kick the ball directionally the right way, kick it with good height.

The trickle down effect we’ve had with the injuries is showing on our special teams. (LB) Tyjuan Hagler and (LB) Rocky Boiman are starting so you’ve got to replace them on special teams. You get someone hurt and those backup guys go in and know they’re not playing as well on special teams because of the substitutions. We haven’t had (FB) Luke Lawton because we’ve had to get extra linebackers, and he was one of our better players. Guys are going to have to step and our young guys are going to be counted on this week.

If ever there was a week to promote special teams ace Antonio Cromartie, now is the time. Cromartie is making an impressive bid for the Pro Bowl with his play on special teams, but has yet to be given the opportunity to return kicks. There isn’t a player on the field who can keep up with Cromartie running at full speed. The Chargers can get into a funk at times and having a spark plug like Cromartie go out there and make big plays could be just what the team needs to keep them going 110% for 60 minutes. Not to mention the fans, who pay good money for season tickets, are literally begging Norv Turner to put Antonio Cromartie in so we can watch his playmaking abilities week in and week out.

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November 7, 2007

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