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Justin A. Cohn

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3 things to watch
The Colts’ offensive line allowed three sacks and looked bad last week. Particularly needing to improve are left guard Joe Reitz, whose gaffe led to a Kerry Collins fumble, and right tackle Jeff Linkenbach.
The Colts gave up a 79-yard punt-return touchdown to Jacoby Jones last week. Now they face a returner far more dangerous: Josh Cribbs.
Second-year Browns quarterback Colt McCoy threw 40 times for 213 yards last week, and he’s got good mobility. The Colts need to beware his improvisation in the pocket.
Prediction: The Colts have nowhere to go but up. Buckle down on Peyton Hillis and they should win, 16-14.
Associated Press
Colts defensive back Jerraud Powers, tackling Houston’s Jacoby Jones last week, says the defense has to prove itself on the field.

Colts need better defense

It’s going to take some time for the Colts’ offense to get on track. Quarterback Kerry Collins is still learning the playbook and working on timing with teammates. The offensive line is inexperienced. And without quarterback Peyton Manning, out at least seven weeks after neck surgery, it’s unlikely the Colts will score with the ease they usually do.

That puts the pressure on the Colts’ defense.

In the 34-7 Week 1 loss at Houston, the defense was dreadful. Ben Tate, a backup running back, ran for 116 yards and a touchdown, Matt Schaub threw for 220 yards and a touchdown and the Texans were allowed to eat up more than 36 minutes of clock.

About the only thing the Colts did well was to get two interceptions.

“Our way of responding is playing on the field,” said Colts cornerback Jerraud Powers, as he prepared for today’s home game against the Cleveland Browns.

“I can get up here and say, ‘We’re going to do this, we’re going to do that, and we’re going to do this.’ But if we don’t do it (today), there’s going to be more lashing out. It’s just less talk. How we are going to respond is how we play on the field, and you are definitely going to see a difference.”

The Colts’ defense is accustomed to being maligned. But it has also come up big when it matters most. Remember the Super Bowl-winning season of 2006, when they gave up an NFL-worst 173 rushing yards per game in the regular season then cut that to 82.8 in the playoffs?

But it’s easy to be bad but opportunistic when you have a four-time MVP quarterback saving you. The Colts don’t have that now, and they must become a stifling defense.

They need better containment from the defensive line, and better tackling from the linebackers, who will be without Gary Brackett (shoulder). And the secondary, which allowed seven Texans to get catches, must not get burned as much. They have to get mentally tougher.

“Last year, ultimately for us, it was an unusual situation where we had to win all four games at the end of the year (to make the playoffs),” coach Jim Caldwell said. “Think about that. We couldn’t lose one. That’s a very, very difficult situation, but these guys were able to come through it. So we do have the wherewithal to (endure)”

The key for the Colts today will be stopping running back Peyton Hillis, who ran for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. He ran for 57 yards in a 27-17 loss to Cincinnati last week.

“I’ve seen Peyton hurdle a couple of guys personally, but he’s a bruiser though,” Power said. “I’ve got the utmost respect for him. He’s a great guy and he plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played. A hard-nosed runner and on the cover of Madden.”

After seeing the Colts give up 167 rushing yards to Houston, the Browns must be salivating about the possibilities today.

The Colts’ defense must do something about that

Justin A. Cohn is a writer for The Journal Gazette and has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1997. He can be reached by email; phone, 461-8429; or fax 461-8648; or to discuss this column or others he has written recently, go to the "Sports" topic of "The Board" at