By Tom James, Tribune Star
INDIANAPOLIS — Cohesion. That’s the word the keeps coming up when coach Jim Caldwell and many of the team’s players are asked about the turnaround of the Indianapolis Colts’ defensive unit.
A lot of the credit for the play of the defense in recent weeks, especially in the Colts’ wins over Tennessee and Houston, has been the elevation of linebackers coach Mike Murphy to interim defensive coordinator.
Murphy had never been a coordinator at the NFL level prior to taking over Indianapolis’ defense, although he did handle the duties as a college assistant coach and in the Canadian Football League.
“[The Colts’ defense] been doing a better job of playing with a bit more cohesion. They’ve certainly been playing fast. Things are a bit simpler for them, and they don’t have to think about a whole lot. So you let them sort of use their God-given ability to get to the ball,” Caldwell explained earlier this week.
“Speed and simplicity, I think are very, very important in terms of the way in which we play defense. And they’ve been doing that very, very well here over the last few weeks. They’ve been tackling well, and I think that has helped us. We aren’t perfect, but we’ve got a lot of guys playing with a lot of effort and enthusiasm.”
Defensive end Dwight Freeney appreciates the changes in the team’s defensive system.
“Yeah, it is just a clearer picture. There is no confusion, and there is no, ‘what do I do on this play?’ That causes you to be a little bit hesitant on the field, and you lose a step,” Freeney voiced.
“Losing a step in this league is the difference between a touchdown or not and a sack or not. So I think Mike (Murphy) has done a great job.”
The decision to give Murphy the coordinator title was greeted with enthusiasm in the Colts locker room.
“I think it has been a good thing. He has been here from the beginning, so he knows us. He knows the makeup of this defense and what we are best at. So he can put guys into a position to make plays and make calls [because we are] a little bit more comfortable with his play-calling,” the Pro Bowl defensive lineman said.
“[There was] not much panic, because he knows the scheme and the system in and out. He knows what Robert [Mathis], me, Antoine [Bethea] and whoever is capable of doing. He does a good job.”
Daddy times three -- Quarterback Dan Orlovsky returned to the Colts' practice facility Thursday after missing Wednesday's workout. His wife Tiffany gave birth to three sons Wednesday morning in a Philadelphia hospital.
With Orlovsky at her side, Noah Patrick was born at 9:44 a.m., Hunter Daniel at 9:45 a.m. and Madden Lesher followed at 9:46 a.m.
“It is very similar to what everyone describes it as. It is a surreal feeling," the former University of Connecticut signal caller said Thursday. "It was really emotional for my wife and I. But we are very excited and we’re looking forward to it. Obviously, the timing kind of works out. [The births] could have been a couple of weeks earlier. It is an amazing experience."
Orlovsky doesn't expect any problems as he prepares for Sunday's regular-season finale at Jacksonville.
"As difficult as it is to leave, I know that my wife is in good hands. I am lucky that I have a good [wife] that kind of let me leave. She could very easily say, ‘You ain’t going anywhere.’ The positive situation is that I am away from it almost. So I’m here, I’m not with them right now, they are not in a hospital in Indianapolis where I could go see them for a few hours, unfortunately," he said.
"But it allows me to come here and focus on my job, and I think the guys in this locker room know that I will be ready to play. I told Coach [Caldwell] that [I will be ready to play] when I called in to let him know that I would not be here on Wednesday. I said, ‘I will be ready to go,’ and I got the game plan via email and all my film was on my iPad. I definitely will be ready to play. It is back to football.”
Injury list -- Linebacker A.J. Edds (ankle), defensive end Robert Mathis (rest) and offensive guard Joe Reitz (ankle) did not practice Thursday.
Tight end Dallas Clark (neck), Freeney (rest), wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez (illness), and Orlovsky (personal) all fully participated in the workout.