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NFL’s best run defense limits explosive plays

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By: Thomas Butler-Guerrero

Defensive end Samson Ebukam earns his first sack with the Colts, wrapping up Texans’ QB C.J. Stroud in the first quarter of the 31-20 Week 2 victory. | Colts Twitter

A significant takeaway after the Indianapolis Colts split two divisional matchups is the defense has allowed just one explosive run play, a 26-yard touchdown by Jaguars’ RB Travis Etienne in the season opener.

The Jaguars attempted 35 run plays for 105 yards, 3.0 yards per attempt. The Texans attempted 26 rushes for 52 yards, 2.0 yards per attempt.

Each of the Texans’ ten longest plays were produced through the air, with no threat of a rushing attack once Grover Stewart blew up the Texans’ first play from scrimmage in the backfield. According to Pro Football Focus, Stewart leads the NFL with a 90.3 PFF grade for run defense and is tied for second with New York Jets DT Quennin Williams with seven defensive stops, which is essentially a tackle that equates to a failed play for the offense.

Indianapolis leads the NFL with the best PFF grade (83.5) for run defense and 17.0 tackles for loss. Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner holds the second-best pass rush grade (91.2) in true pass sets, trailing only Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones (92.6). The initial battle is won in the trenches at the line of scrimmage and the Colts dynamic interior duo has shut down opponent’s gameplan while creating havoc in the backfield.

“(Stewart) has been disruptive up front versus the run,” Colts defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said during Tuesday’s coordinator zoom meeting. “He got some pressure on the quarterback. So those two interior guys – Buck (DeForest Buckner) and Grove (Grover Stewart) – are playing at a high level right now. When that occurs it gives you more flexibility on the back end.”

2023 free agent addition Samson Ebukam recorded his first sack with the Colts, wrapping up C.J. Stroud from the blindside while DT Dayo Odeyingbo punched the ball loose and recovered the fumble to end Houston’s first possession inside Texans’ territory.

Stroud has been pressured more than any rookie QB in the first two weeks and the Colts earned six sacks while allowing zero in the Week 2 victory. Buckner took the liberty to gift first-year head coach Shane Steichen with the game ball after securing the first win of his coaching career.

Linebacker EJ Speed blitzed off the edge and recorded the second sack of his career to give the Colts possession at the end of the first quarter. Linebacker Zaire Franklin led the Colts for the second consecutive game with 13 tackles against the Texans, passing Shaquille Leonard (28 in 2018) for the most tackles (30) by a Colts player in the first two weeks of the season. Franklin leads the NFL in tackles and became the fourth Colt to record at least 13 tackles in consecutive games, joining Shaquille Leonard (2018), David Thornton (2003) and Mike Peterson (2000).

Before entering his second season with the Colts, Bradley mentioned his objective throughout training camp was to rotate eight to nine pass rushers to constantly apply pressure with fresh legs. Baltimore’s offense leads the NFL converting 58.6% of third downs and ranks sixth with 144 rushing yards per game. Opponents are averaging 2.6 yards per rush against Indianapolis and Bradley envisions his disruptive front line to be tested on keeping their lane assignments against the Baltimore Ravens (2-0) and 2019 unanimous NFL MVP winner Lamar Jackson.

Originally posted on Stampede Blue – All Posts

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