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INDIANAPOLIS – The things we knew about the Colts defense in 2018 covered about three definite traits:

-They were making a systematic change in moving to a 4-3 scheme, from a 3-4 look.

-They were employing a defense that was going to be predicated much more on speed.

-They were installing a simpler defense, one prided on effort and execution, as opposed to exotic looks and gobs of blitzing.

But even Frank Reich hesitates a bit at the surprise in seeing his team ranked 3rd in the NFL with 15 takeaways through the first seven weeks of the season.

“You are always hopeful…” Reich begins when asked about the Colts being so high in forcing turnovers with Matt Eberflus’ new defense bending, but not breaking, thanks to the playmaking.

The Colts have had at least 2 takeaways in 5 of their 7 games this season. That’s on pace for 11 multi-takeaway games in 2018. That would be the most for the team since 2007.

In Andrew Luck’s tenure, 9 multi-takeaway games in 2014 are the most Indianapolis has had in this new era.

One of the big reasons that Reich believes the playmaking is up comes from the Colts dialing up negative plays from their front.

The Colts rank 10th in sacks per pass attempt and 3rd in tackles for loss this season.

With the ability to stay foundationally/structurally sound in creating those plays up front, that has allowed the Colts to drum up the high takeaway numbers.

“I know our blitz percentage is low compared to league averages, so the fact that we are (high) in sacks and high in pressures says something,” Reich says. “Really, that’s one of the foundations and building blocks of the defense, get pressure with four, but it is the movement and stunts that we use up front.

“As we talk about running patterns, normally you talk about running patterns you think about running pass patterns, but we talk about running patterns on our defensive front. The same route disciplines that we use on offense for spacing and getting guys with the right leverage. It’s funny, now I get to hear that and hear defensive linemen talk about (it) like they are running routes. It’s kind of odd, but that really is the key to it—the discipline of running those patterns and staying in your lane and I think our guys have done a good job on that.”

From a yards allowed standpoint, the Colts are not in the top-half of the league right now.

Leakage has been there, especially through the air, but the elite playmaking has made up for it and kept the Colts in many more ball games than they should have been this season.

“You just look over time in football, when you can get pressure with four and play zone with vision on the quarterback, good things are going to happen and one of those good things is turnovers,” Reich says.

“That’s what our guys have been doing and making those plays. We need to keep that up. We need to keep building off that. That’s a good foundation for us, but we have a lot more that we need to create and keep building that pressure every single game.”

Eberflus points to the Colts’ work Wednesday-Friday as the reason the results are showing up under the bright lights of Sunday.

“It has to show there first,” Eberflus says of the major practice focus. “If you emphasize something, it doesn’t matter what it is, if it’s cupping the ball, if it’s angles to the football, hustling out of the stack. All the things that we talk about in terms of the play we want to see on Sunday. You have to see it in practice first. Once you see it in practice, usually you’ve got to see it for a couple weeks before it will show up in the game, before it becomes a habit. The guys are working at it and working at a lot of different things that translate to the game and it’s starting to show.

“The one thing we stress is just to work on those basic fundamentals of stripping the ball, running after the football because there is going to be a ball on the ground that we have to get and then just working on it and working on your returns and those types of things. That’s something that we have stressed all along. I think that you’ve started to see it the last couple of weeks in practice—the guys really working at it and us emphasizing it as a group.”