SDUT: Colts bring out best in defense

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#GoIrish #Aztecs #SDGulls #Raiders #THFC #RipCity
Staff member
Jun 20, 2005
Chula Vista, CA

Chargers frustrate Indy 2 years in row
By Jim Trotter

December 19, 2005

INDIANAPOLIS – Peyton Manning was harassed and hurried, but not surprised.

With the exception of the New England Patriots in the playoffs, no team has been a bigger pain for him than the Chargers, who sacked him a season-high four times yesterday in a 26-17 victory in the RCA Dome.

The last time Manning was dropped that many times in a game was a year ago this month, when the Chargers sacked him a season-high four times. San Diego was just as disruptive yesterday, repeatedly knocking down Manning – even on his completions – and forcing him into an intentional-grounding penalty that took the Colts out of field-goal position when they could have taken the lead with three minutes to play.

"It's one of those things where, for some reason, certain guys or certain teams like playing against particular teams," said linebacker Steve Foley, who had three sacks in the game last season. "Peyton Manning and the Colts, with the success that they've had the past couple of years – they've always taken our mind-set and our play to another level."

Last year, the Colts had allowed nine sacks in 14 games before the Chargers came to town, an average of .6 a game. Point-six!

This season, the Colts had allowed 12 sacks in 13 games. And with Foley back across the line of scrimmage, they understandably set their radar on him. But that meant opportunities for another physical, nasty linebacker, and Shawne Merriman didn't disappoint.

He was credited with two sacks, which easily could have been three but he received only a half sack on two plays. When he wasn't getting to Manning himself, he was occupying blockers to free other defenders.

"Look at him, he's a beast; (there) ain't no hiding that," second-year linebacker Shaun Phillips said of the 6-foot-4, 272-pound rookie from Maryland. "He's going to be a great player in this league for a long time, and I'm looking forward to watching him and being able to jell and roll with him."

Merriman was sackless the previous three games, but he promised to break out against the Colts. When a visitor congratulated him on his eight sacks this year, Merriman politely corrected him.

"Nine," he said.

The first-round pick is a stickler for detail, which is one reason he has won the praise of veteran teammates, who see his work ethic and willingness to play through injuries and nod in appreciation. They also know him to be a man of his word.

"When he first got here, he said he had some nastiness to him and that was one thing he was going to bring," running back LaDainian Tomlinson said. "He's definitely brought it. And he's a tough dude. He's battled a couple of injuries this year but still played. I mean, the guy has brought a different mind-set to the defense."

Merriman set the tone on the Colts' first play from scrimmage, when he pressured Manning for the first of his half sacks. He combined with end Igor Olshansky for another sack on their next series.

It seemed as if every time the Chargers needed a big play, Merriman was in on it. Such as at midway through the second quarter, when the Colts were trying to cut into the Chargers' 10-0 lead.

On first-and-goal from the 10, Merriman held the edge and dropped running back Edgerrin James for a 2-yard loss. On fourth-and-goal from the 1, he chased down Manning from behind for a 6-yard loss.

"He's electric," Foley said. "Anytime you get some young guys coming in like that, it's always going to bring something to the table for your team. Just the energy that he brings, his aggressiveness, really shows a lot. And this guy's got unbelievable power.

"That's one area that teams make a mistake in, when they try to block him with a back or (fan) the guard to try to block him. That's the No. 1 mistake. Hopefully we can get teams to continue to do that and get the same results. He's just a big, strong, physical specimen. The guy is just a beast, an animal."