By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — The match has been struck. The fire has been lit. And now the Indianapolis Colts must continue to fan the flames.
It started on the offensive line sometime during the second half of a loss at Cincinnati two weeks ago, and it quickly spread to a defense that has surrendered just 10 points in the past eight quarters.
As a result, the Colts (10-5) finally have the momentum head coach Chuck Pagano was looking for as the postseason nears.
"Defense is playing great, special teams and offense, all three phases," wide receiver Griff Whalen said during a media conference call Monday. "It's exciting for us to watch the defense dominating out there and gets us fired up when we get the ball back. So we're definitely on a roll, and we like where we're at."
Sunday's 23-7 decision at Kansas City gave Indianapolis back-to-back victories for the first time since Nov. 3, and it was the team's first win against an opponent outside of the AFC South since Oct. 20.
The victory also improved the Colts record to 4-2 against current playoff teams and furthered the notion the team might be regaining some of the form that led to a 6-2 start.
The defense again was at the forefront.
Indianapolis did not allow a point after Jamaal Charles' 31-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, sacked Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith four times and created four turnovers.
"There's certain plays that are being made out there that are sparking this defense and this team," Pagano said.
Much of the credit must go to an improved secondary that got big hits from safety Antoine Bethea and outstanding coverage from cornerbacks Vontae Davis, Darius Butler and Josh Gordy.
Smith appeared to pull the ball down several times while struggling to find an open receiver, and the extra time allowed the pass rush to reach its target. The Colts got sacks from Jerrell Freeman, Cory Redding and Bjoern Werner while Ricardo Mathews and Fili Moala shared another. Robert Mathis could be added to the list later in the week after the league reviews his hit on Smith that knocked the football out of the quarterback's hand and forced it downfield to Freeman.
"Once one sack happened and another sack happened, it was just contagious," Redding said, noting the game plan by defensive coordinator Greg Manusky played a big role. "Everybody wanted to get a sack. It was just fun to go out there and play."
That hasn't always been the case since the calendar turned to October and injuries began taking a toll on the roster. The Colts allowed an average of 40 points per game in three losses after following the Oct. 27 bye week and had alternated wins and losses for seven consecutive weeks entering Sunday's game.
"It's huge for us," Pagano said, "because we've kind of rode the roller coaster."
Redding spoke about teams like last season's Baltimore Ravens or the 2011 New York Giants who got hot at the right time and overcame poor stretches of play to win the Super Bowl.
Those are the role models Indianapolis is looking to.
"We want to be that team," Redding said. "That's what we're striving to do. We feel like the momentum swing is in our favor right now."