It’s not supposed to work this way for the Indianapolis Colts.

Robert Mathis and the Colts' defense have quietly helped carry the Colts in 2008.

Robert Mathis and the Colts' defense has quietly helped keep the team afloat in 2008.

With a slew of high-priced superstars on offense, the Colts have been one of the top-three scoring teams in the league each of the past five seasons.

Not this year. Not even close.

Imagine if before the season began, someone told you that heading into Week 14, the Colts’ offense was ranked 21st overall, 22nd in scoring, and 29th in rushing.

What if they said Peyton Manning’s passer-rating was 15th in the NFL and Joseph Addai was on pace to gain less than 900 all-purpose yards?

Finally, what if they told you Bob Sanders had played in just four games, Marlin Jackson was ruled out for the season after Week 8, and Eric Foster and Keyunta Dawson emerged as the team’s best two options at defensive tackle?

You’d probably have guessed the season was a train-wreck, a complete disaster.

In fairness to the offense, they’ve had their moments. Peyton Manning is still the league’s best operator of the two-minute drill, and has led the offense to some memorable go-ahead drives.

But too often, the undersized, undermanned Colts’ defense has been a punchline. After Sunday’s performance, maybe they’ll finally get some credit.

The Colts’ defense currently ranks No. 15 in the NFL, and ranks 10th in points allowed (20.8). They are No. 4 in forced fumbles (16), No. 12 in recovered fumbles (8), and No. 12 in interceptions (11).

Most importantly, the Colts are forcing turnovers at the right times.

Six of the Colts’ last seven victories have come by less than seven points.

In all but one of those wins, their opponents have had the ball with a chance to tie or win in the game’s final moments. On those occasions, each game has ended the same way … with a Colts’ interception or fumble recovery.

It’s hard to identify just one MVP for the Colts’ defense. Dwight Freeney hasn’t missed a beat after undergoing serious offseason foot surgery; Robert Mathis is playing out of his mind; and undrafted free agent Melvin Bullitt is doing his best impression of Sanders.

Already playing without Jackson and Sanders for the past three games, now it appears that middle linebacker Gary Brackett and Dawson could miss some time after suffering injuries against the Browns.

With the league’s two worst teams – Cincinnati and Detroit – coming to town for the Colts’ next two contests, what better time for the offense to put the team on its shoulders?

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