Dungy backing defensive coordinator Meeks

Updated: December 28, 2006, 7:13 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

INDIANAPOLIS -- Despite widespread criticism of his team's porous run defense, Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy is backing defensive coordinator Ron Meeks.

On Wednesday, Dungy told the Indianapolis Star that he still has confidence in Meeks, who has been on the Colts' staff since 2002.

"Last year we were No. 2 in scoring defense and doing a lot of good things. What's different? Nothing's different other than last year we lost two [games] and this we've lost four," Dungy told the Star.

Colts players also defended Meeks.

"We all know everyone's going to point fingers," defensive tackle Raheem Brock told the newspaper. "We're not even thinking about that. [Meeks] calls the plays, but we have to go out there and execute. It's always on us."

The Colts (11-4) are in danger of losing a first-round bye after starting the season 9-0, and the team's worst-in-the-league run defense has been a major factor in that decline. The Colts are allowing 174.5 rushing yards per game and 4.4 yards per rushing attempt -- both last in the NFL -- and gave up a career-high 153 yards and two touchdowns to former Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne in Houston's first-ever win over Indy.

"Right now the chemistry on defense isn't there," cornerback Nick Harper said. "This week, we need to go out and do things so we can get some consistency back."

Dungy says the blame must be shared.

"When you win, everything's great,'' Dungy told the Star. "Everything you do is good. There are no problems. When you lose, nothing's good. There's problems everywhere. That's what losing brings."

Losing also brings frustration. Three days after his postgame comments were widely interpreted as criticism of the Colts' defense, Peyton Manning focused on what the offense could do better.

"If I sit here and be silent, do y'all use that on film?" Manning asked reporters on Wednesday after a long pause. "It's our job [on offense] to do what we need to do to win the game."

For Manning, it has already been a difficult week -- and that's before he faces Miami, one of the league's top defenses, on Sunday.

In the second half of last week's loss at Houston, television cameras captured Manning pleading with the defense to make a stop. Then in his postgame news conference, Manning acknowledged the NFL wasn't basketball, where players go both ways, a comment construed by some as being critical of the defense.

In the locker room Wednesday, defensive players said they were not offended even though Manning tried to avoid the topic altogether.

"It always starts with trying to evaluate good play and seeing what you can do better," he said. "I get asked a lot of questions that I really shouldn't answer, that should probably be addressed by a coach. I try to answer what I can, but I think you always start with yourself and I try to do what I can to help the team win."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.