INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -Now the Indianapolis Colts defense has heard everything.
After winning a Super Bowl the critics contended they couldn't and enduring an offseason of doubt because they lost four starters from the league's worst run defense, one impressive start against New Orleans has given the defense a whole new image.
Naysayers are suddenly praising the Colts for their aggressive style and talking about the potential of a Super Bowl repeat.
As usual, the Colts are going back to work.
``It's one game, we have 15 more to play,'' linebacker Rob Morris said. ``So let's not get too excited yet.''
This week's film sessions will certainly illustrate some of the flaws from Thursday's 41-10 rout, but unlike last year, it will be tough to find them.
Indy's defense limited Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush to 38 yards rushing each, a major improvement for a unit that allowed 173 yards per game last season. It forced three turnovers, harassed quarterback Drew Brees all night and even outscored last year's top-ranked offense thanks to Matt Giordano's late interception return for a touchdown.
A longer look reveals the Colts also forced five three-and-outs and allowed New Orleans to run only one play in Indy territory in nearly two full quarters.
It was enough to turn those who once chided the Colts' defense for what it couldn't do - stuff the run - into believers even if players and coaches realized it was not a perfect game.
Morris acknowledged Friday he missed a couple of tackles. New starting outside linebacker Freddy Keiaho pointed out three tackles he missed. Dwight Freeney pressured Brees repeatedly but never got credit for a sack.
Yet, for once, Few noticed.
Instead, people were raving Friday about Morris chasing down Bush from behind, Keiaho blowing through a block and tackling Bush around the ankles and Robert Mathis swiping the ball right out of Brees' hands.
Even coach Tony Dungy, who is usually cautious in his day-after evaluations, struggled to find faults.
``That's as hard and as fast as I can remember both sides playing since I've been here,'' he said.
Yet most veterans returned to the locker room Friday reluctant to accept such praise.
``We have to be consistent and continue to work hard in practice,'' second-year safety Antoine Bethea said. ``Coach tells us to run, to run to the ball and that's what we did last night. That's what we have to continue to do in the weeks ahead.''
In fact, playing consistently has been Indy's great weakness.
The defense played well for most of 2005 when the Colts went 13-0 before losing two of their last three and then gave up touchdowns on each of Pittsburgh's first two drives in a divisional playoff loss.
They returned last year hoping for improvement but instead struggled so badly against the run that few considered them a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
The remarkable playoff turnaround that led Indy to its first Super Bowl title changed everything.
``It gave us a lot of confidence,'' Bethea said. ``The difference for us was that we were having fun in the playoffs. I don't think we were having much fun during the regular season.''
The fun was back in full force Thursday night, evident as Mathis and defensive line coach John Teerlinck bumped chests on the sideline.
But now comes the hard part, maintaining that precision, passion and energy over the course of a full season.
Dungy said the film showed eight or nine mistakes on defense, mistakes that were covered up by the Colts' speed.
With a few corrections and a few more strong games, the Colts defenders will have a hard time ignoring the Super Bowl talk for long.
``You can get discouraged just as quick as you can get encouraged,'' Morris said. ``We have the talent. Now the question is how consistent can we be, and that's what we have to work on.''

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