Colts’ secondary faces another big test against Falcons
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Colts cornerback Vontae Davis doesn’t play the numbers game.
Sure, the stats say Indianapolis’ pass defense is the league’s fifth worst. And he knows that over the last four games, Indy has allowed 1,080 yards through the air and seven TD passes.
So, of course, he also knows what to expect Sunday against Atlanta’s potent passing game: more of the same.
“You compete with the best, it brings the best out of you,” Davis said Wednesday. “It’s a challenge.”
Indy’s biggest challenge is turning things around, and getting healthier certainly would help.
A neck injury forced the other starting cornerback, Greg Toler, to miss the first four games, and his struggles have continued since his return in early October.
With Toler out, the Colts moved nickel cornerback Darius Butler into the starting lineup for the season opener. Then Butler got hurt and missed the next two games before returning to his more familiar spot, defending slot receivers in the nickel package.
This week, Pro Bowl safety Mike Adams is trying to overcome a left ankle injury that forced him to miss the second half of the Denver game just before a well-timed bye. Coach Chuck Pagano said Adams did not practice Wednesday and is still considered day to day; he could have a shot at playing this weekend.
“The injuries could be an excuse, but we’re not in that business,” Butler said when asked if the continual battle has had any impact on the first-half numbers. “We’re all professionals and we’ve all got to step up and play when we’re called upon.”
It’s not just injuries.
Davis, who made his first Pro Bowl last season, hasn’t been quite as proficient shutting down receivers this season.
And over the last four games, the Colts (4-5) have been up against four Pro Bowl quarterbacks — Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Cam Newton and Peyton Manning. Things won’t get any easier this weekend against Matt Ryan and Julio Jones.
“It is a tough stretch,” Butler said with a smile. “But I think if you ask any defender in this locker room, these are the matchups you want. That’s why you play this game.”
Davis’ next assignment is one of the toughest in football: slowing down Jones, who is on pace for one of the greatest receiving seasons in league history. The Falcons’ fifth-year receiver already has 80 catches for 1,029 yards and six touchdowns. If he keeps up this pace, Jones could break Marvin Harrison’s single-season receptions record (143).
Davis will likely to have to follow the creative 6-foot-4, 220-pound Jones all over the field. It’s a matchup both players embrace.
“It takes a certain kind of cornerback to know that he’s going to be matched up with one guy the whole game and play both sides of the field,” Jones told Indianapolis reporters on a conference call Wednesday. “He’s not so aggressive that he’s out of control, but he’s aggressive enough to make plays and disrupt routes.”
But the Falcons (6-3) pose a different kind of challenge. Ryan is trying to get Roddy White more involved in the offense, and running back Devonta Freeman has rushed for 721 yards, third in the NFL, and has a league-high nine TD runs.
The combination could create bigger issues for a Colts defense ranked No. 28 overall that has allowed the 11th most points in the league.
So even though Pagano insists the primary focus will be stopping the run, defending Ryan and Jones is more than just a secondary concern in Indy.
“I don’t look really look at the numbers because they fluctuate throughout the year,” Davis said. “To me, it’s all about play our best ball at the right time of year. We’ve got a way to go, but we are getting better.”
Notes: Pagano said he expects injured quarterback Andrew Luck to travel to Atlanta, but is uncertain if he will be on the sideline as he recovers from a lacerated kidney and partially torn abdominal muscle. ... Luck, rookie receiver Phillip Dorsett (leg) and linebacker D’Qwell Jackson (hamstring) did not practice Wednesday. Pagano said Jackson is expected back on the field Thursday. ... Veterans Robert Mathis and Andre Johnson were given their customary rest day. ... Linebacker Nate Irving (knee) did limited work.