INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Corey Simon keeps hearing he’s the missing link to an Indianapolis Super Bowl run, and he bristles at the suggestion.

For now, Simon is content to be shrouded in anonymity on the Colts’ rapidly improving defensive line.

“My ego is not that big,” Simon said Thursday. “I feel like I’m just one of the guys.”

The former Pro Bowl defensive tackle from Philadelphia has done what he can to fit in with the Colts (7-0) since signing a little more than two months ago.

On the field, he is massive enough to take on two, and sometimes three, opposing blockers at a time, and there’s little doubt Simon’s has had an impact.

He’s provided the bulky, run-stuffing presence the Colts lacked in past seasons, helped them jump from 29th in overall defense to fourth, and from 24th against the run to 14th.

The Colts also have allowed a league-low 77 points and remain the NFL’s only unbeaten team.

While that much may have been expected from Simon, whose role has been compared to that of Warren Sapp on coach Tony Dungy’s stout Tampa Bay defenses, he’s also been a unifying force in the locker room. He laughs, jokes, teases and has helped change the identity of a defense once considered too “soft” to contend for a Super bowl.

“He brings veteran leadership, a lot of experience and he plays with a lot of tenacity and effort,” defensive tackle Montae Reagor said.

Outsiders thought Simon was what the Colts needed to overcome their old nemesis, New England.

In January’s 20-3 playoff loss, the Patriots kept the ball for nearly 38 minutes and rushed for 210 yards.

The next test comes Monday night, when Indianapolis tries to snap a six-game losing streak against the Patriots and a nine-game skid at Foxborough, Mass.

Simon understands the Colts’ plight.

“We went through this situation in Philly, where we lost seven or eight straight to the Giants,” he said. “That’s the cycle of the league. You can’t do anything to change the last six or seven games, all you can worry about is this game and how to play this game.”

But even at midseason, Simon continues to learn on the run.

After missing all of Eagles training camp because of a contract dispute, Philadelphia rescinded its franchise tag on Aug. 28.

Four days later, the unrestricted free agent signed a multiyear deal with the Colts.

Since then, Simon has worked his way back into playing shape and has averaged about 30 plays per game.

And although the stats have not been stellar – 25 tackles, no quarterback sacks, six pressures and one forced fumble, they hardly represent Simon’s contribution.

“I think our guys really respect him because he’s played in big games, and he came from a pretty good defense in Philly,” Dungy said.

“I think he’s given guys a lot of confidence just by the way he carries himself.”

Simon even has a semblance of how the Colts must feel in this recently lopsided rivalry.

In February’s Super Bowl, New England rushed for 112 yards, enough to take some pressure off quarterback Tom Brady, as the Patriots beat Philadelphia 24-21.

“We had every chance to win that game,” Simon said. “But they’re wearing the ring.”

This week, the two-time defending champs’ ground game appears hobbled.

Corey Dillon (ankle) and Patrick Pass (hamstring), New England’s top two runners, missed practice Wednesday and Thursday. The only healthy backs on the roster arefullback Heath Evans, who was signed Wednesday, and Mike Cloud, who signed Friday.

But Simon and the Colts know better than to write off the Patriots.

On Monday night, Simon and his teammates hope to prove they finally have what it takes to beat the Pats.

“We’re going to focus on what we do well,” Simon said. “This is Monday Night Football. If you can’t come out with the intensity you need to play, you don’t have a pulse.”

AP-ES-11-03-05 2017EST


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