Pagano: Denver's defense reminiscent of 2000 Ravens, offense clicking**
Following the Broncos' most dominant showing yet, Colts head coach Chuck Pagano came away thinking that the defense could be at a level his team has never experienced, even among the best the game has ever seen.
"They have a great, great defense," Pagano said. "We've played some really good defenses, but none like this. You put the tape on—and I'm not being funny, here—it's very reminiscent of the 2000 Ravens defense.
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"These guys are phenomenal. They have great players at every level. They're suffocating. [Defensive Coordinator] Wade Phillips does a great job with that group. They've put together a phenomenal group of players."
What particularly has drawn Pagano's eyes is the defense's aggressiveness and how they excel at so many different things, from coverage to generating a pass rush, to stopping the run.
"They attack, they attack, they attack," Pagano added. "They get in your face. They're going to challenge you with tight man coverage all the time. They do a great job and they just dare you to drop back and throw the football."
Quarterback Andrew Luck also had complimentary words for the defense, calling the group "as good as anybody in the league right now."
"Honestly, there's two premier edge rushers; three, four or five really good cover corners; tough safeties [and] inside linebackers; [and] the guys on the interior of the D-line are all good," Luck said. "It's a well-rounded defense and you have to really fight for every yard."
Though the defense has been playing well at a high level since the first game, the offense is coming off its best—and most balanced—game so far, which just adds to the difficulty for Pagano and the Colts.
"[C.J.] Anderson, [Ronnie] Hillman, they do a great job with that scheme," Pagano said. "That stretch-cut run game is very difficult, and [so is] the play-action pass that comes off of it. They have a ton of weapons and obviously have a new toy to play with and Pro Bowler in [TE] Vernon Davis.
"Peyton is doing a great job. He has great command of the offense and any time there's change, it takes a little bit of time for everybody to come together, and it looks like not only on special teams and defense, but now the offense is hitting on all cylinders.
Pagano hopes to see change in team's character with Chudzinski
The timing of Pagano's decision to fire offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton leaves the team in a tough position following a Monday night game that has them preparing for the Broncos on a short week.
Facing an undefeated Panthers team, the Colts had dug themselves a 17-point hole in the fourth quarter before mounting a furious comeback to tie the game as time expired, though Carolina would still pull out the victory.
Such late-game resurgent efforts have defined how dangerous the Colts can be and how potent Luck is as a play-maker. The Broncos saw this first-hand in Week 1 of 2014 when the Colts scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter before coming up short on a potential game-tying drive. However, Pagano would rather not be put in those spots to begin with, so he fired Hamilton.
"We can't continue to go down that same road," Pagano said. "We haven't seen the type of points that need to go on the board early in the game. We need to start like we finish as a football team. I just felt like it was time for a change."
For Luck, who had been coached by Hamilton going back to his days at Stanford, the coordinator's termination came as a shock.
"It was jarring, tough and not fun, in a sense," Luck said. "I feel like I've grown a lot under him as a player. He's a heck of a coach.
Vernon Davis played his first practice in Broncos gear on Wednesday as the team began preparation to face the Colts.
"Everything was surprising about it. Again, Coach Pagano made his decision and it's our job as players to go out, find a way to win the game and focus on what we need to do to make sure we're on the same page."
With Hamilton's dismissal, associate head coach Rob Chudzinski has taken the reins as the interim offensive coordinator. With four years of experience as an offensive coordinator at the NFL level, Chudzinski has Pagano's confidence that he can initiate the change he desires.
"He brings a fresh perspective, if you will," Pagano said. "He's a bright guy and understands our system and our offense. He, along with the rest of the offensive coaches, will step right in, pick up and hopefully get us to the point where we can play 60 minutes of great team football, not just rely on these fourth-quarter comebacks where sometimes they work out and sometimes they don't."