According to Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, his team has to get considerably tougher if they want to become a championship caliber team going forward. Shortly after seeing his team get dismantled 45-7 by the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game, Irsay offered both words of encouragement and for improvement as it related to his team:
"“When you get to this level, this championship level, we have to be able to be a tougher team,’’ Irsay said. “We have to be able to stop the run. We can’t turn it over.”“What’s missing is trying to continue to bring in a team that I talked about, which is a really tough defensive team. A team that can run the ball and surround Andrew with that.’’“It’s tough to get that close. It was an incredible year. We’re going to get there.’’"
Of course, it sounds oddly familiar to a sentiment that was shared in 2003, when the Indianapolis Colts fell 24-14 to the New England Patriots in another AFC Championship game. After that loss, both former General Manager Bill Polian and Head Coach Tony Dungy proclaimed that the team “had to get tougher” in the offseason.
Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY; Indianapolis Colts safety Bob Sanders kisses the Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl XLI, as his head coach Tony Dungy looks on.
Shortly thereafter, the Indianapolis Colts drafted a hard-hitting, yet unheralded safety from the University of Iowa named Bob Sanders with their 2nd round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft. Though short in stature, Sanders instantly gave the Colts defense a tough, intimidating presence in the back of their defense and helped pave the way for a unit that guided the Colts to a 2006 Super Bowl victory.
Point being, that this Indianapolis Colts team-specifically the defense, isn’t too far off all things considered. No, we’re not just one player short of solving all of the defense’s problems, nor is a player like Bob Sanders easy to find. However, it may only take a few changes and talent additions to get this defense to play like the tough unit Irsay initially envisioned when he announced defensive-minded Chuck Pagano as his new head coach back in 2012.
What yesterday’s performance showed us is that the Colts defense could use an upgrade at nose tackle, as well as players that can run, tackle, and cover at the 2nd and 3rd levels of their defense. While Vontae Davis and his fellow cornerbacks are solid enough as is, the Colts could use an infusion of dynamic talent at both safety and linebacker to bolster the defense.
In the mean time, hopefully the Colts players will learn from this tough loss, and it will better equip them for the type of team they need to become. Despite their shared disappointment, if they take the necessary steps, one day very soon they can be hoisting up their own AFC Championship trophy as confetti rains down…
Jan 18, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) runs off the field after losing to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports