INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Colts linebacker Pat Angerer wasn't exactly thrilled with his career-high 20 tackles against Pittsburgh this past Sunday.
"I probably wouldn't have had as many tackles if we would have gotten off the field on third down," he said. "The most important thing is we lost. We've just got to keep fighting, keep improving."
The need to keep fighting and improving applies to Angerer more than most. He is expected to anchor the Colts defense now that Gary Brackett is out for the season with a shoulder injury.
Brackett had been a mainstay in Indy's defense since becoming the starting middle linebacker in 2005. Now that Indy's captain and defensive signal-caller is out for good, Angerer will enter Monday night's game at Tampa Bay facing higher expectations.
"I'm ready," he said. "I'd better be. These guys are going to count on me, and I'm going to try my best to go out there and try to fill his shoes. But I'm no Gary Brackett. That guy is unbelievable."
Angerer hasn't done too badly, though. He leads the NFL with 42 tackles, including 18 solo stops. Colts coach Jim Caldwell says the second-year player from Iowa is particularly stout against the run.
"One of the things is he's a very instinctive guy," Caldwell said. "He's all over the place, just in terms of his ability to run and tackle. He's a guy that has a very good feel for the run game, how to stop it, and getting in position to make tackles."
Angerer already has won over his teammates.
"He did a great job last week," defensive end Dwight Freeney said. "I think he's going to be prepared. As an organization, we are prepared for worst-case scenarios at all times. You have to."
Angerer was tested last year when Brackett missed the Washington game with a groin injury. He had a sack and 11 tackles in his first career start, a 27-24 win over the Redskins. He made a key stop on a third-and-10 late in the game, breaking up Donovan McNabb's short pass to running back Keiland Williams to help preserve the victory.
In all, Angerer started 11 games last season and had 88 tackles, including 58 solo stops.
"I've been here before," he said. "Fortunately, this year, I know a little more than I did last year. Last year, I felt like I kind of got thrown to the wolves a little bit. I did my best but I don't think I played very well. This year, I know the defense quite a bit better."
Angerer said Brackett helped him progress last season, often directing him when things became overwhelming. He said he still will depend on Brackett.
"You've got to learn more, think more," Angerer said. "I'm definitely going to still call him."
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/cliffbruntap