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Week 11 Q&A, Part 2: How does the Colts defense get it done?

Stampede Blue gives us an up close and personal look at the formidable Indianapolis defense.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Indianapolis Colts Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

If yesterday’s conversation with Stampede Blue gave us some insight into an offense that isn’t quite what it was in the Luck/Manning years, today’s will focus on a unit that is every bit as formidable as any the Indianapolis Colts have ever fielded: the defense.

The Indianapolis defense gets it done in almost any metric you choose, traditional or advanced, and they do it with playmakers at every level. Here once again to give us a look inside is Stampede Blue’s Chris Blystone.

Acme Packing Company: DeForest Buckner’s arrival in Indianapolis seems like the very definition of a splash move: a high-compensation trade followed by a big contract extension. Has he lived up to the hype?

Chris Blystone: This is one case where he hasn’t just lived up to it, he has exceeded the hype. Casual observers might overlook the impact Buckner has had, but he has taken a good defense and made them great by his addition. Nose tackle Grover Stewart and defensive end Denico Autry on are pace for their best seasons as pros, and they have Buckner to thank for it. He takes on weekly double teams, and in spite of being the focal point of nearly every offensive protection plan, has 2.5 sacks, 39 tackles, a safety, a forced fumble, a batted pass, and 16 QB hits to his credit this season so far. Every level of the defense has been impact by the presence of DeForest Buckner, and in a very positive way.

APC: Darius Leonard has had about as bright a start to an NFL career as a young linebacker can have, but he’s been a bit banged up this year. Are the Packers going to get the full Leonard experience on Sunday?

CB: Darius Leonard is a pretty small linebacker, just 6’3” 219lbs. That sometimes results in his getting banged up a bit during the course of the season. Unfortunately for Packers fans, he is back and operating at full capacity, putting together perhaps his most impressive year to date. Leonard’s coverage has improved, and he’s got the ability to come off the edge on the blitz that is remarkably effective. With an improved defensive line keeping him clean, he’s been a tackling machine as well.

APC: Buckner and Leonard are two of the biggest names on the Colts defense. Who’s an under the radar player we should know about?

CB: There are so many players who qualify. Rookie safety Julian Blackmon is the first name that comes to mind as one Packers fans almost certainly won’t know much about. Blackmon is not quite a year removed from a torn ACL and wasn’t expected to be a factor much if at all this season. However, he recovered absurdly quickly and when Malik Hooker went down with a ruptured Achilles, he came in and provided an immediate impact. In his 7 starts he has 2 interceptions, 6 passes defended, and 2 tackles for a loss. He has a knack for making big plays on critical downs.

Another name you absolutely should know is linebacker Bobby Okereke. His name gets lost in the shuffle with Darius Leonard on the scene, but the young linebacker is every bit the athletic equal of Leonard, and perhaps a more disciplined player. He is a big part of the reason the Colts have been so good against the run in 2020, and consistently is stuffing running lanes and creating problems. Don’t be surprised when you see lots of #58 on Sunday.

APC: What’s your prediction for Sunday?

CB: This game was a tough one to call for me because the Packers inarguably have the better offense. However, the most consistent unit on the Colts team has been their defense, and while this will provide their biggest test to date, they have been as reliable as you could hope for through 10 weeks. I think the Colts’ overall team balance in every phase wins out.

Perhaps against my better judgment, I’m taking the Colts in a fun one.

Colts 31 Packers 24