Colts turn focus to fixing 'D' woes

MICHAEL MAROT AP Sports Writer Published:

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Monday morning's film session at the Colts' complex turned into a horror show.

Defensive players had to relive all those missed tackles and blown gap assignments and the 252 yards rushing and 35 points they gave up all over again.

Andrew Luck had to watch himself throw two interceptions and lose another fumble, and the offensive line got a long look at a plethora of missed blocks.

Interim coach Bruce Arians made sure each player got the point -- correct the problems now or run the risk of returning for the sequel in the weeks ahead.

"I think everyone sees how we're capable of playing, and if we don't play like we're capable of playing, we'll get beat like that," Arians said.

It's already happened twice, and both blowout losses came on the road, 41-21 at Chicago in the season opener and 35-9 at New York on Sunday.

But the most troubling concern for Indy (2-3) has been the defense, ranked No. 17 overall and No. 29 against the run heading into Monday night's game.

The Colts were hoping a new formula, adding bigger defensive lineman and operating out of a base 3-4 hybrid system, would improve one of the Colts' biggest weaknesses -- stopping the run.

So far, it hasn't really worked.

Opponents are averaging 5.0 yards per carry, and twice in the past three games Indianapolis has allowed individual runners to top the 150-yard mark. Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew had 177 yards in Week 3, and on Sunday, Jets running back Shonn Greene had a career-high 161 yards and two scores.

If the Colts can't find a quick fix, Arians knows the Sunday afternoon matinee may become a regular feature attraction Monday morning.

"Once you open the flood gates in of any sort in any phase of the NFL, that's what you're going to see next, punt block, punt return, run the football," said Arians, a 20-year NFL assistant who has stepped in as head coach Chuck Pagano continues to undergo treatment for leukemia at an Indianapolis hospital. "Everybody is going to try it until you show you can stop it and put that fire out. Blitzes on defense, again some quarterback or receivers that can't handle it, you're going to get a ton of it until you put the fire out."

Attitude of Bengals an issue

CINCINNATI -- An ugly performance has left the Cincinnati Bengals in trouble.

The Bengals self-destructed in the second half of a 34-24 loss to the Browns on Sunday that dropped them to 3-3, which is not at all where they wanted to be heading into the toughest stretch of their schedule.

And their coach thinks a lot of it comes down to attitude.

Marvin Lewis suggested after the loss on Sunday that his team was too nice at times and needed to get tougher when it has a chance to put an opponent away. He didn't change his assessment after watching video of the loss.

"I told them: You've got to be able to stomp on the back of somebody's neck and go," Lewis said Monday. "That's what this is all about. We don't get mulligans. We are playing for lunch tickets and we are playing for keeps. You've got to go when it is time to go you got to put them away in every way."

The loss in Cleveland ended a stretch of five consecutive games against opponents with quarterbacks who were either rookies or in their second season. The Bengals went only 3-2 during that favorable part of the schedule.

Up next are home games against Pittsburgh, Denver and the Giants. Cincinnati finishes the season with games against San Diego, Dallas, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Baltimore, which leads the AFC North at 5-1 and has already beaten the Bengals.

Cincinnati won a wild card berth last season with a 9-7 mark and lost to Houston in the first round of the playoffs. The goal this season was to try for the division title and only the second set of back-to-back playoff appearances in franchise history.

The Bengals were in good shape when they opened 3-1. They've crumbled in the second half of losses to Miami and Cleveland, dropping them back into the large pack of teams trying to get above break-even.

Best not cleared to play

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best is still not cleared to play.

Best spent the first six weeks of the season on the physically unable to perform list, but he's eligible to return now. Best hasn't played since last October because of concussion problems, and his future remains uncertain after general manager Martin Mayhew said Monday night he can't come back yet.

"After today's consultation with medical experts, including representatives from our medical and training staffs, it has been determined that Jahvid will not be permitted to return to play at this time," Mayhew said in a statement. "Throughout this entire process we always have placed the highest priority on what is best for Jahvid from a health and safety standpoint. While today's decision is disappointing from a football perspective, we fully and entirely respect and support this recommendation."

Best was put on the reserve-PUP list, meaning he needed to miss the first six weeks of the season. That time period is now over, meaning the Lions have three weeks to start a three-week practice window for Best. If he's not active by the end of that practice window, he must sit out the rest of the season -- so Detroit has a maximum of six weeks to bring Best back.

Lewis out for season

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis will miss the remainder of the season with an arm injury, an enormous blow to an already depleted defense that has uncharacteristically struggled this year.

Lewis tore his right triceps during Sunday's 31-29 victory over Dallas. The 37-year-old Lewis leads Baltimore in tackles and is the voice of experience in the huddle.

"Ray in the locker room afterward, we didn't know (the extent of the injury) but he was worried about it," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Monday. "He said some things about his faith. He said some things that I'll never forget."

Over a spectacular 17-year career, Lewis has been invited to 13 Pro Bowls, was named Super Bowl MVP and is a two-time NFL defensive player of the year. He turns 38 in May, so it's possible that Sunday's game was his last.

"That's for Ray to speak on," Harbaugh said.

Baltimore also lost cornerback Lardarius Webb for the year after he tore the ACL in his left knee Sunday. The injury occurred when Webb collided with Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant in the first quarter.

Merriman back with Bills

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Shawne Merriman is back in Buffalo after the Bills re-signed the free-agent pass-rushing star to bolster their banged-up defense.

The Bills (3-3) announced the signing Monday, after returning home from an extended West Coast trip, and a day after a 19-16 overtime win at Arizona worked them into a four-way tie for first place in the AFC East.

"You can never have too many guys that we believe can rush the passer," coach Chan Gailey. "We'd rather not go into a game with just three defensive ends."

Merriman returns to the Bills two months after the team cut the three-time Pro Bowl selection in part because it wanted to develop several younger players. Buffalo's priorities have since changed after the team's depth has been depleted at defensive end. Veteran end Chris Kelsay said the adjustment will be easier since Merriman knows the territory.

"Shawne's a great dude," Kelsay said. "He's a guy who came right in and fit well (with) a great personality. We don't have a lot of egos on this team and he fit right in, so it's good to have him back."

Mark Anderson is out indefinitely after he required surgery last week to repair a left knee injury. Veteran defensive line Spencer Johnson has missed the past two games with an ankle injury.

Vilma may take field

NEW ORLEANS -- If the Saints decide Jonathan Vilma is ready, the embattled linebacker will take the field in Tampa Bay on Sunday for the first time this season.

It might also be the last time, depending on how things go at NFL headquarters and in federal court.

On Monday, Vilma again asked a federal judge to overturn his recently re-issued suspension in the NFL's bounty probe of the Saints, and the NFL Players Association made a similar request on behalf of three other players.

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