The Journal Gazette
Sunday, October 18, 2020 1:00 am

Colts devise plans for Burrow

Hope to make rookie struggle under pressure

MICHAEL MAROT | Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS – Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner sees an opportunity for the NFL's stingiest defense Sunday.

One week after allowing Baker Mayfield to thrive outside the pocket while giving up a season-high 32 points, the Indianapolis Colts can show everyone what they learned from a loss at Cleveland. Today, they face another young, mobile quarterback, a rookie who has been sacked 22 times this season, 16 in the last three games.

It's a combination the Colts hope to use to their advantage.

“Usually with younger quarterbacks, pressure really gets to them,” Buckner said. “Pressure and tight coverage really gets after them. You try to do that with any quarterback you play, but especially with the young ones. You just need to do a good job up front, dominating, rushing whether it's with four, five or six, we just have to make sure we're affecting him.”

Make no mistake, Buckner and his teammates respect Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals (1-3-1).

The game tape provides a glimpse into how talented the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall draft pick is. He has thrown five touchdown passes and only one interception in his first three road games and until last week's loss at Baltimore, he's kept the Bengals competitive.

But the Colts also see someone who, like many rookies, struggles under duress and it's something they hope to exploit.

“You can disguise – maybe you disguise a little bit more than you normally do,” coach Frank Reich said when asked about dialing up different defensive schemes against a rookie. “Certainly, that is in play every week, so we'll try and do a good job of that against Joe Burrow as well.”

Getting healthy also would help.

Pro Bowl linebacker Darius Leonard missed last week's game with an injured groin, one of several key players out for all or part of the game. Leonard can't wait to get back after watching the Colts give up 385 yards and 20 first-half points and failing to force a punt until the fourth quarter, but he's doubtful to play today.

“I want to be out there in the fourth quarter when things get to crunch time,” he said. “That's when I feel like I want the pressure on me. I have to make a play and not being able to go out there and make a play, help the defense or help this team, it definitely sucked. So, hopefully I can get right. I think I'm very close.”

Statistically speaking, the Colts' subpar performance barely even made a dent.

They're still ranked No. 1 in yards allowed per game (266.0), yards passing (179.6), interceptions (nine) and passer rating (70.0). Indy slipped to No. 2 in points allowed (17.6) and moved up to No. 3 in yards rushing (86.4).

But it's not merely about impressive numbers.

While Buckner knows the key to beating a mobile quarterback, like Burrow, is consistent, controlled pressure, he wants to see the Colts win more often at the line of scrimmage. Indianapolis is tied for 15th in sacks with 11.

“It's knowing where you're at in your rush, how you fit compared to where everybody else is and owning your rush lane,” Buckner said. “It's difficult because you want to win, but sometimes you know you don't – you're too high in your rush or little things like that and it affects everybody else.”

And now it's time for the Colts to show they've figured it out.

“We just have to keep grinding, keep working to finish those plays because there is a lot that we give up individually, as a team,” Buckner said. “There are opportunities that we miss all the time, it's crazy. We think we're good, but we can be even better.” 

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