Patriots

Colts think they're better equipped to stop Pats run attack

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Colts think they're better equipped to stop Pats run attack

INDIANAPOLIS - LeGarrette Blount is a nice back, powerful with a somewhat surprising dose of shiftiness. Jonas Gray is a one-cut and go guy, and go he went, out of Foxboro less than a year after he commanded national headlines. Neither player is headed for Canton, Ohio, home of Pro Football’s Hall of Fame, unless they buy a ticket. But that duo combined to torture the Indianapolis Colts last season, looking more like Walter Payton than they actually are.

In the two matchups between the Patriots and Colts, one during the regular season, the other in the AFC Championship game, Blount and Gray combined to rampage like wild stallions though Indy, rushing for 349 yards and seven touchdowns. Gray got his mug on the cover of Sports Illustrated in November, while Blount relished his role in January’s title game bludgeoning.

Considering the Colts were so close to getting to the Super Bowl, but in reality, so far away with that porous run defense. Anyone with half a brain assumed that solving that problem would be priorities one, two and three for Indy this offseason. Surprisingly, it wasn’t. GM Ryan Grigson (yeah, that guy) spent most of his free agency money on aging skill position players Frank Gore and Andre Johnson. He used his first round pick on a speedy wideout, Phillip Dorsett. What?

Now I won’t mislead you. It wasn’t as if Grigson completely ignored that front seven. He signed Kendall Langford and Nate Irving, traded for Sio Moore and drafted a pair of defensive tackles out of Stanford, Henry Anderson and David Parry. They have helped to improve the Colts run defense, slightly. They’re currently allowing 112 yards per game. They allowed 113 last year. However, this year’s group is surrendering just 3.8 yards per carry as opposed to last year’s 4.3, and bottled up the Texans and Arian Foster during their last game, a 27-20 victory over the Texans last Thursday.

“The last few games we’ve done a good job of stopping the run,” said linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, currently leading the NFL in  tackles. “Teams are still, last week for instance, 29 attempts (by the Texans), a little over 80 yards. That’s hard to do - when a team runs the ball that much-  it’s hard to keep a team under 100 yards and we’ve done it, proven we can do it, proven we can do it with some guys being out.”

He continued, “We’re confident right now and hey, we won games where we had to fight tooth and nail to get back into it. We were able to come out of it victorious. I like that. I like where we are as a team.”

Defensive coordinator Gregg Manusky concurs with Jackson, and thinks his defensive front is better equipped to stop the Pats now than it has been in the past, with Anderson and Parry playing big roles.

“I think just overall, maybe athletic ability,” he said. “Understand the scheme a little bit better. I think those guys, even though they’re rookies coming into the game, they understand the concepts that we’re trying to get across from stopping the run and who’s, from the blocking schemes, going to attack them certain ways. Smart, athletic, good football players.”

That statement played well in the Colts locker room, as you would expect.

“It makes me feel good,” Parry admitted. “I’m happy to have a coach that has that type of confidence in you, but also I don’t want to let him down. I want to be accountable to him.”

“We’re confident here,” said Langford, in his 8th season. “We feel we can get the job done. We agree with his comments. We’re looking froward to the challenge. We’re ready to roll. Let’s get this game going. I’ve been hearing too much about it.”

Manusky has challenged his group in practice. The defensive line said they’ve been pushed, both on the field and in the film and meeting rooms, since last Thursday’s game. One of the points being driven home: physicality. That was a huge issue for the Colts last year, especially against the Pats.

“Any team that runs the ball for as many yards as they have, it’s a combination of not doing the right thing, not being physical enough,” said Manusky. “It’s every week when you play guys like that. It’s across the board. Even from a coaching standpoint, putting them in the right call, putting them in the right front. During practice the same thing, so we’ve got to stop them.”

“This is a football team that will try to run the ball,” said Langford. “They’ve had success before. We gotta bow up. It’s a physical game. We have to get after it.”

Langford took it one step further.

“We need to get as many guys to the ball as possible. Put a hat on him (running back). Make it count.”

Langford smiled and laughed. Not sure if it was nerves setting in, or knowing what his team is capable of. But it’s almost a certainty that the Colts will get tested in that regard, over and over, until they prove they are truly different.

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Raiders score on final play for 31-30 win over Chiefs

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THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Raiders score on final play for 31-30 win over Chiefs

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Wins have been so hard to come by for the Oakland Raiders that it took three tries at the final play for them finally to pull this one out and possibly save their season.

Derek Carr threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree on the final play after the game was extended by two straight defensive holding calls and the Raiders snapped a four-game losing streak with a 31-30 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night.

"We didn't give up," Crabtree said. "We got a team full of fighters. We believe. ... No matter how hard the game was, we believed. We came out with the W and I'm excited. It's a good way to win, a great way to win."

With their season on the line following the recent slump, Carr led an 85-yard touchdown drive in the final 2:25 to give the Raiders (3-4) the thrilling comeback in a game they trailed by nine points heading into the fourth quarter.

Carr finished 29 for 52 for 417 yards and three touchdowns, with Amari Cooper catching 11 passes for 210 yards and two of the scores. The Raiders had struggled to get the ball downfield while being held to 17 or fewer points in four straight games but Carr repeatedly beat the Chiefs with deep passes.

"No. 4 kept making plays," coach Jack Del Rio said. "This is a special, special win."

Alex Smith threw for 342 yards and three touchdowns but it wasn't enough for the Chiefs (5-2). They lost consecutive games for the first time since Oct. 11-18, 2015, and had their 12-game winning streak in the AFC West snapped in a thrilling finish.

"I've never been part of a game that came down so dramatic," linebacker Derrick Johnson said. "But, still had a chance to win. Period. Just have to make a play. One play. One play."

The Raiders had an apparent go-ahead touchdown pass to Jared Cook with 18 seconds left overturned when replay ruled he was down at the 1. An offensive pass interference on Crabtree wiped out another touchdown on the next play.

But holding calls on Ron Parker and Eric Murray set the stage for the final play. Carr hit Crabtree in the front corner of the end zone to tie it at 30. Giorgio Tavecchio won it with the extra point , setting off a celebration on a wild night that included Oakland running back Marshawn Lynch getting ejected in the second quarter for shoving an official.

HOT TEMPERS: The game took an odd turn midway through the second quarter after Kansas City's Marcus Peters hit Carr late, angering the Raiders. Offensive linemen Kelechi Osemele and Donald Penn confronted Peters and Lynch sprinted off the Oakland sideline to join the fray. Lynch, a close friend of Peters, ended up shoving line judge Julian Mapp and getting ejected . Peters also was called for a personal foul on the play. Lynch congratulated his teammates in the locker room after the game but didn't speak to reporters.

"I was disappointed he ran out because I knew we had a 15-yard penalty and we'd be in good shape," Del Rio said.

LONG DRIVE: After Marquette King pinned the Chiefs at their own 1 with a perfect punt early in the second quarter, Kansas City needed little time to turn the momentum. Smith hit Demarcus Robinson on a 33-yard pass on the first play of the drive. After a short run, Tyreek Hill beat David Amerson for a 64-yard touchdown pass that gave the Chiefs their first 99-yard drive since doing it Dec. 3, 2006, against Cleveland.

DEEP CONNECTION: Carr had not connected on a single deep ball to Amari Cooper all season before the two teamed twice for long TDs in the opening quarter. On the first, Cooper appeared to push Terrance Mitchell but the officials picked up the flag and gave Cooper the 38-yard TD . Later in the quarter Carr and Cooper connected on a 45-yard score, making Cooper the first Raiders receiver with two TD catches in the first quarter since Mervyn Fernandez in 1989.

KICKING WOES: The Raiders were hurt last week when a bad snap by Jon Condo led to a missed extra point by Giorgio Tavecchio in a 17-16 loss to the Chargers. That was Tavecchio's first missed kick of any kind this season but he then had a 53-yarder blocked and missed a 45-yarder wide left in the second quarter. Tavecchio also had a false start on an extra point in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Chiefs: Host Denver on Oct. 30.

Raiders: Visit Buffalo on Oct. 29.