INDIANAPOLIS – An Indianapolis Colts defense in the midst of a mini-slump received another boost Friday.
DeForest Buckner, the interior heart and soul of the unit, has been activated off the NFL’s reserve/COVID-19 list. He missed Sunday’s loss to the Tennessee Titans after testing positive for the coronavirus and being placed on the list Nov. 25.
Buckner’s return was preceded by defensive end Denico Autry also being activated off the COVID-19 list earlier this week. The team’s leading pass rusher missed two games.
The Colts take the league’s 5th-ranked defense to Houston for Sunday’s meeting with the Texans, but that defense was a shadow of itself in the 45-26 loss to the Titans. It allowed season highs in points, total yards (449), rushing yards (229) and first downs (28).
Without Buckner anchoring the middle of the defensive line and Autry holding down the edge, Derrick Henry did damage early and late. He rushed 140 yards and three touchdowns as Tennessee jumped to a 35-14 halftime lead. Henry finished with 178 yards on 27 carries, the most allowed by a Matt Erberflus-led defense.
Buckner has 41 tackles, including four for a loss, along with 2.5 sacks and a team-high 16 quarterback hits. Autry’s 6 sacks lead the team.
The week before being blown out by Tennessee, the defense allowed 367 yards in a 34-31 overtime win over the Green Bay Packers. It yielded four first-half TDs to the Aaron Rodgers-led offense.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.