(2 of 3) PREVIOUS 1 | 2 | 3 NEXT
As for just how much the game proved in the big picture remains uncertain. The Colts rarely talk about statement games, and it’s silly to expect a team that has played in two Super Bowls in the last four seasons to get too outwardly enthusiastic over a Week 2 victory.
“I’m not certain that they had anything to prove other than the fact that we didn’t play well last week,” Caldwell said. “I thought the guys really focused in like they do every week in terms of preparation. Our practices were very good and they played like it.”
That was the thrust of the theme from the Colts – as it had been all week – that the idea was to focus on the Giants as if it was a normal game. There was no sense of panic around the organization, nor would you expect there to be. This is, after all, a team that not only has made eight consecutive playoff appearances and won 12 or more games an NFL-record seven consecutive seasons. You don’t achieve that level of success without facing and overcoming adversity, and the Colts believed they could and would fix the things that went wrong against the Texans.
Still, having the confidence to respond to adversity is one thing. Actually responding to it another, and the Colts responded to it yet again on Sunday night.
“You still have to go out and play them,” Colts tight end Dallas Clark said. “There is no guarantee that you’re going to come back and get a win. We had to come out and play sharp and do the little ones that we didn’t do last week and it showed. Everyone did their job and hopefully this is a good start to get a little momentum here in the beginning of the season.”
Caldwell will be the first to tell you it’s just one game, and that there is a long way to go.
At the same time, it was an important one game, and the way the Colts performed – particularly on both lines against a that that expects to contend for the post-season – has to give the Colts a good feeling moving forward.
A FEW QUICK THOUGHTS
* Perhaps the key on-field, strategical aspect of the game was the Giants’ approach of playing the Colts with five and six defensive backs on the field – daring the Colts to beat them running and essentially deciding that Manning would not beat them. Manning said that strategy made sense, particularly considering the Colts threw 57 times against Houston. “More so than anything else, we knew we wanted to have a little bit more balanced attack,” Caldwell said. “The week before we threw the ball quite a bit and just felt that this time around we were going to make certain that we get our runs in. I think we gave the guys a chance to get in a little rhythm and they were certainly able to deliver the ball pretty well.” The Giants’ strategy Sunday was a popular strategy against Indianapolis in 2005 and 2006 after Manning threw 49 touchdowns passes in 2004. Manning and the Colts continued to win – albeit sometimes in less exciting fashion – and the strategy worked no better for New York. Manning said it was clear before the game, when the Giants opted to to deactivate two defensive tackles and play mostly pass-rushing ends, that they would use a pass-based defensive strategy. And so Manning and the Colts ran. And ran. And ran. The Colts ran 23 times in the first half – the most for the franchise in one half since at least 1991, and the Colts rushed for 160 yards and a touchdown on 43 carries. Those are good numbers for any team. For the Colts, they’re staggering. “We really ran the ball well,” Manning said. “It was a point of emphasis. We didn’t really know what the Giants were going to do, but they ended up taking that route. When teams are playing five DBs and sometimes six DBs on first and second downs, they are obviously playing pass coverage. In the past, we haven’t been able to run against that look which has been frustrating because we are sort of playing into their hands, so it was nice to be able to run the ball versus that look. “There were a lot of DBs in there that aren’t use to being involved in the running game, so that was important to establish that.”
* Not to harp on an oft-covered issue, but Colts running back Joseph Addai not only remains a critical part of the offense, he seems to be getting better. Often criticized in 2008 and even 2009, Addai has looked good throughout the preseason and on 10 carries in the opener, he rushed for 44 yards. On Sunday night, behind one of the Colts’ better run-blocking efforts of the past two seasons, Addai rushed as well as he has in some time. Donald Brown was effective, too, but Addai – who had an outstanding year overall last season – has clearly continued to develop into the ideal running back in the Colts’ system. “Me, if you give it to me, I’m going to take it, that’s how I feel about it,” Addai said. “They gave it to us in the first half, but not after that. We saw them come out and adjust in the second half. We adjusted too. It’s not really about, we’re going to come out and throw the ball, we’re going to come out and run the ball, we’re just going to adjust to whatever they do.”
•No surprise here, of course, but Colts DE Dwight Freeney had a dominant game. He pressured Eli Manning much of the game, and had one of the most overpowering bull rushes you’ll ever see early in the third quarter, driving Giants left tackle David Diehl into Eli Manning and making Diehl stumble into a teammate as he did it. Later in the quarter, Freeney beat Diehl around the edge for a sack/fumble. Second-year defensive tackle Fili Moala recovered for a 31-7 Colts lead. Freeney, in his ninth NFL season, has dominated tackles before, so it’s not a shock, but this was impressive to watch.
•The Colts ran well on Sunday, but don’t expect them to match the 160 yards on 43 carries they produced against the Giants very often. The Colts as much as anything run for balance, the idea being to force the defense to play the run to open up the play-action passing game. That has been absent at times the last two seasons, but Clark said there was no question it was there Sunday, evidenced by the 50-yard touchdown he caught that helped break the game open in the second quarter. “That safety flew by me as fast as he could trying to suck up on that run and left the middle of the field wide open,” Clark said .”It’s something we’ve been working on all week too, trying to sell their fakes and it was just great execution. Everybody bit on it and really left them vulnerable in centerfield.”
(2 of 3) PREVIOUS 1 | 2 | 3 NEXT