As Manning tries to bounce back from one of his quietest games as a pro, the Colts look to continue dominating on the defensive end when they host Crennel and the Cleveland Browns.
Crennel, in his first season as Cleveland’s coach, served as defensive coordinator for New England from 2001-04 and helped the Patriots go 6-0 against the Colts, including the playoffs, during that span.
His defensive schemes limited Manning to nine touchdown passes and forced the two-time MVP to throw 10 interceptions in those six games. En route to their third Super Bowl title in four seasons, Crennel and the Pats kept Indianapolis out of the end zone in a 20-3 divisional playoff win on Jan. 16.
Manning threw for only 122 yards with one interception and had his lowest single-game passer rating (44.0) in four years last Sunday, but the Colts’ defense was stifling for the second straight week in a 10-3 victory over Jacksonville.
Indianapolis failed to score until Ran Carthon’s 6-yard touchdown run gave the Colts a 7-3 lead with 8:27 remaining, but the defense sacked Byron Leftwich six times and limited Fred Taylor to 81 yards rushing.
One week earlier, the Colts held Baltimore scoreless for 59 minutes and Jamal Lewis to 48 rushing yards in a 24-7 win over the Ravens.
“I think a 10-3 score is a thing of beauty,” said defensive end Dwight Freeney, who had his first sack of the season after leading the NFL with 16 last year. “I know a lot of people don’t like it, but to me, it’s beautiful.”
Montae Reagor led the way with three sacks, giving the Colts an NFL-leading nine.
Still, the Colts failed to recover any of the Jags’ six fumbles and didn’t have an interception despite constantly pressuring Leftwich into hurried throws.
“It’s an ongoing transition to become the defense we want to be,” said Freeney. “We’re nowhere near where we need to be.”
The 10 points allowed by the Colts is the lowest total by the team in their first two games since 1960.
“We need to be able to win games like this,” head coach Tony Dungy said. To win a championship, Dungy said, “you have to win games that go any kind of way.”
The Colts could have a breakout game on offense against a Cleveland squad that has allowed an average of 436 yards per game, second-worst in the NFL.
“Hopefully we can put some drives together, put some points on the board and get it going,” wide receiver Brandon Stokley said Wednesday.
The Browns, though, are coming off a 26-24 victory at Green Bay last Sunday that marked their first road win over the Packers since 1956.
“The biggest thing coach Crennel preached all week is it’s Lambeau, but at the same time it’s another field, another postal code,” said rookie receiver Braylon Edwards, who had an 80-yard catch for his first NFL touchdown. “Treat it like it’s another chance to win.”