Defense has to carry Colts rest of season

INDIANAPOLIS -- The offense, which is supposed to be the strong suit of the team, is basically stuck in neutral with breakdowns that keep it from going forward.

And it’ll likely stay that way barring some kind of work being done to get going in the in the final four regular-season games. Quarterback Andrew Luck's talent will never be questioned. But he can only do so much when the running game is struggling and receivers aren't catching his passes.

That means the Indianapolis Colts will have to rely on their defense to carry them the rest of the season.

The defense? Yes, the same defense that played poorly in four straight games prior to Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.

That’s where things have gotten for the Colts.

The defense had its best game in more than a month when it forced four turnovers in the victory over the Titans.

“Really proud of the defense playing the way they did,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “They were asked time and time and time again to go out there and make stops and get off the field against a team that came in doing a really good job on third down. The turnovers were huge and then getting off obviously the last one and the two-minute drill was major.”

What happened defensively Sunday could be looked at as surprising and motivating considering where they were before.

The Colts hadn’t intercepted a pass in four games and they had given up at least 410 yards in four of the past seven games.

“In a sense it was frustrating, but we weren’t hanging our heads and getting down on ourselves,” LaRon Landry said. “We just had to have a pep talk and get on the same page. It was all about finishing, paying attention to detail the whole week and going out and executing.

“That was the biggest thing to finish because we have all the talent and ability, but we weren’t putting it all together as a team effort.”

The defense still isn’t perfect. The unit gave up 162 yards rushing to the Titans. That was the most they had given up since the Seattle Seahawks ran for 218 yards against them in Week 5. The Colts only allowed the Titans inside their 20-yard line twice.

“We’ve been taking it as a challenge, it’s not just one week,” said cornerback Cassius Vaughn, who had two interceptions Sunday. “We’ve wanted to play better. It’s not like we wanted to play bad so the media can talk bad about us. We put it together [Sunday].”

The defense could be getting cornerback Greg Toler (groin) back this weekend against the Cincinnati Bengals after missing the past five games. His presence energized fellow cornerback Vontae Davis earlier this season.

The unit will be largely intact depending on how severe defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois’ foot injury is, so there’s no excuse for them to keep improving and carrying the team the rest of the season.

“It’s no worries about who’s out there playing on the field,” safety Antoine Bethea said. “We all have confidence in one another, we all trust one another, so whoever is out there in between those lines, we know they can play and make plays.”