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Colts Defense Poses Stiff Test

Posted Oct 11, 2013

The Bolts' offense has faced tough tests so far this season. The Colts may be the toughest yet.

The San Diego Chargers’ offense has faced a number of stiff tests over the first five weeks of the season, and for the most part the team has responded with stellar efforts.

The team ranks fifth in total offense (401.6 yards per game), fifth in passing (311.2 ypg) and 12th in points (25.0).

However, statistically speaking, this week’s game against the Indianapolis Colts presents one of the toughest assignments yet for Philip Rivers and company.

Indy ranks 11th in total defense (330.4 ypg), sixth in passing (201.4 ypg) and fifth in points allowed (15.8)

As such, Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt explained Friday the challenges his unit faces going up against the Colts, stating that the offense has to perform better than it did against the Oakland Raiders last week.

“Obviously we’ve got to be buttoned up in what we’re trying to get done,” he said. “It’s a good defense. They play hard. They’re well disciplined. There are a lot of similarities in what we face from our guys through the summer and training camp, but it really comes down to not making mistakes. That’s what hurt us last week. We made some mistakes early. It put us behind in down and distance, so we’ve got to be better this week.”

One way the team needs to be better is when it comes to turning the ball over, having coughed up the ball five times against the Raiders.    While Whisenhunt stresses ball security week in and week out, a heightened emphasis is placed on the matter while preparing to play a ball hawking unit like the Colts who with seven interceptions rank third in the NFL.

“We can’t do that,” said Whisenhunt.  “We turned the ball over in the red zone a number of times this year, and we weren’t as good in the red zone as we need to be, so that’s something that we talked about.  We’ve got to be better about that this week no question.”

 When talking about Indianapolis’ defense, the conversation inevitably turns to Robert Mathis.  The respected veteran leads the entire NFL with 9.5 sacks through five weeks and is someone the Bolts will look to take out of the game, much like they limited DeMarcus Ware in Week 4.

“He’s a very talented player,” Whisenhunt said.  “He plays hard every snap. He’s a good combination of speed and power and he really is a good football player.”

If there is one area the Colts have struggled thus far defensively, it’s on the ground.  However the Bolts also have room for improvement in that area  sitting in 21st place when it comes to the ground game and  earning just 90.4 ypg.  Last week, the team had its worst game yet, rushing for a paltry 32 yards. Similarly, the Colts’ rushing defense has been the weakness for the unit thus far, ranking 30th in the league, allowing 129.0 ypg.  With that said, winning the battle on the ground will be a main focus come Monday night, and is something Whisenhunt is stressing in the days leading up to the game.

“I think the first thing is we’ve got to be a little better than we were last week,” Whisenhunt said. “That was unfortunate that we didn’t do a better job running the football in that game. Once we got down, that kind of changed it. But whoever we’ve got, whatever that group is, it’s a group effort and we’ve got to do a better job as a whole. Talking about offensive line, tight ends, everybody. So our focus this week has just been on trying to clean up some of the mistakes that we’ve made. An important piece for us this week (has been) trying to run the football.”

Something else to watch on Monday night is the final 15 minutes.  After allowing a touchdown in Week 1, the Colts have gone an amazing four straight weeks without allowing a score in the fourth quarter.  It is a statistic Whisenhunt is cognizant of but knows it’s all boils down to the Chargers playing sound on offense.

“We’re aware of it,” he said.  “When you break teams down you look at areas they are good at and those things, but it’s really more about us executing.  If you look at us last week against Oakland, we were down (in the red zone) a number of times and had opportunities but we didn’t capitalize on them.  So that’s what it’s got to be about for us.  I know they’re a good defense.  I know they play well down there.   But for us, it’s about making sure we don’t make mistakes.  We had opportunities to make catches and had some mental errors.  So we’ll clean those up and take our chances.”

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