INDIANAPOLIS — Darius Butler is showing exactly what he is capable of.
The Colts cornerback leads the team in interceptions and is tied for seventh in the league with four this season. In all, he has eight picks and has returned three for scores since joining the Colts as a free agent last year.
Now in his fifth season in the league, Butler is starting to find his way.
"The interceptions that he's had over the last two years have been outstanding," Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. "We're trying to get everybody to get those interceptions, but for some reason he's got a knack for it, he feels it, he has great hands, great vision and he does a great job of staying square and covering guys."
Butler played a big role in helping the Colts (9-5) pull away in a 25-3 win over Houston last weekend. He had two interceptions, setting up two field goals by Adam Vinatieri and helping the Colts take a 20-3 lead before halftime.
"Anytime that you can get a couple turnovers as a team is awesome," Vinatieri said. "But when you do it as an individual player, I mean, he was real close to getting a third one. He's that kind of guy. He finds the ball."
Butler almost picked off Keenum again on Houston's second play at the start of the second half. On Houston's 23-yard line, it would have been a clear shot to the end zone.
"It would have been the trifecta, hat trick, if you will," coach Chuck Pagano said. "Great instincts. Nose for the football. Johnny-on-the-spot type of guy."
Indianapolis led by more than two scores by that point and cruised to a win. Still, Butler wanted that interception.
"No excuse for dropping that one," he said. "I got a good break on it. Should have been a pick six, really, but I guess I kind of took my eyes off it, like you said. I pictured the end zone and didn't concentrate and bring it in."
But overall, it's been a pretty good month for Butler.
He has started three straight games, and his two picks against Houston tied a career-best. Last year, Butler intercepted two passes against Jacksonville and returned one for a touchdown. He also broke up three passes against the Texans — another career-high. Earlier this month, in a win over Tennessee, Butler made eight tackles — another career-high and a total he's reached just twice before.
Butler is playing his best football since being drafted by New England back in 2009.
"Fifth year, the game is kind of slowing down a little bit," he said. "I've got some freedom in Manusky's system to kind of make my own adjustments throughout the game and throughout the season, and I think that kind of helps me. Everybody's a different kind of player, and I think that suits my play-style the best."
Butler battled various injuries in the two years he was with the Patriots. The Colts claimed Butler off waivers last year after he was cut by the Carolina Panthers. It turned out to be a good move.
Even in 2012, after joining the team late and suffering from a shoulder injury, Butler gave the defense a spark. He played in 11 games and returned two of his four interceptions for touchdowns, including a 32-yard return to give the Colts an early lead over Kansas City.
Now the task turns to trying to contain the league's third-highest scoring offense when Indianapolis goes to Kansas City (11-3) on Sunday.
"They're efficient with the ball," Butler said. "So whenever we do have a chance to get off the field on third downs and create turnovers, we have to do that. It's just about getting off the field and giving our offense the best field position as possible."