By MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis is tired of getting the run around.
The Colts' defense has traditionally been criticized for being too small, not having enough big-name playmakers and being soft against the run. Allowing rookie Matt Forte to gouge them for 123 yards in the season-opener certainly didn't help the reputation.
Now the Colts must spend the week trying to change both the perception and the results yet again.
"I think that first quarter, that first drive, you have to send a message," middle linebacker Gary Brackett said. "You have to have as many three-and-outs as possible, and if they start getting 15- or 20-yard plays, they think they can get them all game long."
Chicago didn't need a series of long runs to beat the Colts.
The differing styles of Forte and Kevin Jones kept Indy off balance all night, and the Bears took advantage by rushing for 153 yards and averaging 4.7 yards per carry.
So Dungy spent Monday morning watching it all again before sending his players an old message: Follow your assignments and fill the gaps.
"The safeties have to squeeze it and make it an 8- or 9-yard gain," Dungy said of Forte's 50-yard TD run. "The safeties have to keep all the runs inside of them. It was a good play call on their part to get a 7- or 8-yard gain and pick up the first down. Defensively, you say that can't go 50 yards."
Indy expects better performances this season because of experience.
In years past, the Colts have let emerging contributors leave in free agency -- Mike Peterson went to Jacksonville, Marcus Washington to Washington, David Thornton and Nick Harper to Tennessee and Jason David to New Orleans.
This season, they opened with 10 of 11 starters back from a unit that allowed the league's fewest points (262) in 2007. Only linebacker Tyjuan Hagler, who is out until October with a torn pectoral muscle, missed Sunday's game.
It has certainly raised the expectations.
But it certainly didn't look like the same defense Colts fans remember -- even with Bob Sanders, the 2007 NFL defensive player of the year, and former league sacks champion Dwight Freeney on the field.
The Bears used moderate runs to set up manageable third downs, converting 10-of-16 into drive-extending first downs. And then there was Forte's impressive TD run, in which he broke Antoine Bethea's attempted tackle and outran Sanders to the end zone.
It's the upcoming schedule that has the Colts worried.
This week, they face Minnesota's tandem of Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor. Then comes Jacksonville's dangerous duo of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew.
If they hope to start winning again, the Colts know they must make some adjustments now.
"That's what we pride ourselves on, stopping the run and forcing a team to be one-dimensional," Sanders said. "It's tough. I think we need to come back and figure out what we need to get corrected."
Dungy couldn't agree more.
But since coming to Indy in 2002, the Colts' defense has been on a season-by-season roller coaster ride.
Two years ago, Jacksonville, like most other teams, gashed the Colts for big yards on the ground. The Jaguars put up an astounding 375 rushing yards in a 44-17 victory over Indy. Two months later, the Colts were Super Bowl champs.
Then last season, the Colts seemed to have all the answers. Their revamped lineup shut down opponents and kept the ball in Peyton Manning's hands. Yet they didn't get past the divisional round of the playoffs.
So after a suspect preseason in which their defense also struggled to stop runners and get off the field, the trend carried over into the season-opener, how do the Colts fix it?
Getting back to basics.
"A lot of it was the cutback running," Dungy said. "A lot of it wasn't at the line. I thought we got very good pressure when they did throw, but in terms of handling the running game we had some errors and some things we have to be a little bit sharper on."