INDIANAPOLIS – If (when?) the Colts miss the playoffs this season, the majority of that blame will not fall on Gus Bradley’s defense.
At least it shouldn’t.
Bradley’s first year in Indianapolis has him coordinating a unit playing at a January caliber.
While the defense hasn’t been perfect, it’s consistently given the Colts a chance at winning football. The same cannot be said for the Indy offense.
Several numbers point to the Colts defense being among the league’s better groups.
The Colts rank 5th in yards allowed per game, 11th in points allowed and 6th on third down.
And this is occurring with Bradley’s defense getting hardly any support from its offense. In fact, the Colts offense has put its defense into some less than favorable short fields following the most turnovers in the NFL (19 turnovers in 11 games)
An area where Bradley’s defense has especially taken a step forward from what Matt Eberflus had established, is what it’s done against the NFL’s top offenses.
Many times under Eberflus, the Colts would have strong performance against middling/struggling offenses, but it would resort to being a subpar unit when facing better offensive teams.
Well in 2022, the Chiefs (the NFL’s top 1 scoring offense at 30.0 points per game) and the Eagles (the NFL’s 4th ranked scoring unit at 26.3 points per game) both were held to season-lows in points scored against the Colts.
It has not been a schedule filled with top-flight offenses this season, but the Colts kept the Chiefs and Eagles to 17 points in each of those games.
“I can’t say enough good things about (coordinator) Gus Bradley and his defense,” Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said after Sunday’s game against the Colts. “That guy always gets his players to play for him. Always.”
Another area where the Colts have produced pretty well, despite a lack of premium personnel, is with their pass rush numbers.
They rank 8th in sacks per pass attempt, and that comes without a dominant edge rusher.
No matter how you slice it, the Colts have received a winning product from Bradley’s first season guiding the Colts defense.
Still though, there are some nitpicks with Bradley’s defense.
Conversely though, the Colts are not taking away the ball anywhere close to what they did with Eberflus, ranking 20th in takeaways.
Of course, a big part of that takeaway mindset comes from the absence of Shaquille Leonard, who played just 74 total snaps this season in 3 games.
That pass rush had some nice overall sack numbers, but it’s been too quiet in closing out games, missing out on chances to finish off two-score fourth-quarter leaders at home against Washington and Philadelphia.
While so much of this season will be remembered for all the offensive/organization dysunfction, Bradley’s defense has quietly gone about its business.
It’s good enough to play meaningful football in January.
But it hasn’t received enough help so far to experience that.