Cleveland at Colts
Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday in Lucas Oil Stadium
TV: WANE, Ch. 15
Radio: WOWO, 1190-AM
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INDIANAPOLIS – At this point in the Indianapolis Colts' injury watch, they're emphasizing the positive rather than the negative for simple peace of mind.
Don't dwell on the absence of Robert Mathis, Cory Redding, Donald Brown and Fili Moala or the hobbled state of Dwight Freeney. Embrace the return of Pat Angerer and Vontae Davis.
No offense to Angerer and Davis, it's hard to make that into an even-sounding trade.
The Colts (2-3) play the Cleveland Browns (1-5) at 1 p.m. Sunday in Lucas Oil Stadium, and if Trent Richardson is half the running back they think he is, it could be a long day with a depleted defensive front.
“It's going to be a great challenge for (the defensive front) but it's a team game,” Colts interim coach Bruce Arians said. “So whatever the defense needs, the offense needs to pick up or special teams has to pick up.”
A reporter mentioned to Arians on Friday that word out of Cleveland is the Browns are planning to rely more on the pass this week, particularly in light of rookie running back Trent Richardson's tender ribs.
Arians isn't buying the word out of Cleveland.
“I would think that's a real good smoke screen,” Arians said. “They're going to come and run the football and see what they can establish. There's no doubt about that.”
Cleveland would be foolish not to try to establish the ground game after the success the New York Jets had against a similarly beat up Colts defense last week. The Jets rushed for 252 yards and ate up enough yardage and time they barely needed to use a passing game. If Richardson (340 yards rushing, four touchdowns) is ailing, the Browns will turn to Montario Hardesty at running back. He rushed 15 times for 56 yards in a win over the Bengals last week.
The biggest problem for the Colts defense against Richardson is the injuries up front. Players such as Ricardo Mathews and Drake Nevis will need to step up, along with Jerry Hughes and Justin Hickman.
Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said the Colts' difficulties against the run at New York were a combination of mental and physical.
“You've got to be in the right spot at the right time,” Manusky said. “You've got to physically beat a man up and make the play. That's what we've been trying to do this past week. … You've got to go in with the mindset you're going to hit him as hard as you can, get off the guy, and make the play. You've got to have that mindset going into the game that they're going to run the ball and we've got to stop them.”
Davis is expected to start at cornerback, with Cassius Vaughn moving to the nickel package. Davis had a strong week of practice, Arians said. Angerer will work his way back into the rotation, with Jerrell Freeman remaining the starter at inside linebacker.
Arians said they want to be careful with Angerer, who is coming back from a broken foot.
The Colts will no doubt rely heavily on the offense to generate some long, productive drives to help the hobbled defense.
“The year we went to the Super Bowl (with the Steelers), we played four quarterbacks and seven offensive tackles, so it's football, it's the NFL, it happens,” Arians said. “It usually happens all at one position, too. It's never spread out through the team. We're hurting defensively as far as that goes, but 'Next man up.' If you say it, you've got to believe in it.”