INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - For the early part of the 2012 season, the Colts defense has found itself dealing with the task of defending power running backs.
Another Pro Bowl running back will be the opposition this weekend but this one brings a speed element that can change the game with a single play.
Chris Johnson is coming off an 18-carry, 195-yard effort in the Titans 35-34 win over the Bills last weekend and recorded his NFL-record fourth career touchdown of at least 80 yards.
"That's what the good ones usually do. They keep on giving them the ball, giving them the ball and then they'll have the opportunity to make a big play," Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. "We've got to make sure we stop them, surround them, just like we did last week."
The Colts are familiar with Johnson and have been able to neutralize the Titans running back to an average of 42 yards per game over the last three meetings between the two teams.
Indianapolis safety Antoine Bethea says the familiarity with Johnson does help, but he knows the ability to break a big-time run is something the defense must be cognoscente of at all times.
"He's that type of back that when he gets the ball, he can take it to the house," Bethea said.
Since Week 4 of the season, Johnson leads the NFL with 451 yards rushing and has had at least 91 yards rushing in three of the last four games.
"Chris has always been a challenge," outside linebacker Dwight Freeney said. "He's a guy with I guess Barry Sanders type of game-breaking ability. He'll have 10 runs that you stop him and then all of a sudden, all he needs is one and that one is big. It's going to be important that guys collectively, on each and every play, stop him."
While the defense is preparing to stop Johnson, the unit got the services of rookie nose tackle Josh Chapman on the practice field.
Chapman hit the practice field for the first time all year on Wednesday and his face lit up when talking about putting the pads back on.
"Being out there, being able to put my hand in the grass and making contact with o-linemen just gave me that great feeling," Chapman said.
Manusky knows the importance that a nose tackle brings to a 3-4 hybrid defense and he is anxious to continue to work with Chapman.
"I mean it's great. We finally got a young buck that we kind of drafted to finally get a guy that looks the part," Manusky said. "He looks good right now, he's strong, he's physical, he's got good feet and he can put pressure in the middle of the pocket. But it's just exciting to get a guy that's a young buck to start starting with that guy we drafted."
When Chapman finds himself on the field on Sundays is to be determined, but he does provide Manusky's defense with another body in the middle of the defensive line.
Each week Manusky knows any key to shutting down an opposing offense comes by initially stopping the run.
On Sunday, that begins with trying to limit the ‘home run' ability that Johnson has possessed during his five seasons in the NFL.
The Colts rush defense is coming off its best effort of the season by limiting the Browns rushing attack to 55 yards rushing and just 3.2 yards per carry.
It is that momentum the unit knows needs to travel to Nashville in trying to get their first road win of 2012.
"We just have to have an extra emphasis on the road. The previous two road games haven't ended up well," Bethea said. "We have to take this show on the road. Hopefully we can take it on the road and piggy back off that last defensive performance."
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