Colts 2010 Review: First Quarter


Colts Split First Four Games to Stay in Contention in AFC South
INDIANAPOLIS – To Jim Caldwell, there was plenty of hope after the first quarter.

Pro Bowl tight end Dallas Clark saw it that way, too – that despite the Colts not starting the season as they had hoped or envisioned, there was another reality after the first quarter of the 2010 NFL season.

All was not lost.

In fact, the Colts were very much in contention.

And as Caldwell – in his second season as the Colts' head coach – pointed out throughout a memorable, trial-filled 2010 regular season, being in contention in the NFL wasn't a bad thing.

In fact, it was the idea.

So, while Caldwell said the Colts' 2-2 start could have been better, he also said adversity was the norm rather than the exception in the NFL – and said the Colts in 2010 would fight through.

"We've faced some adversity before," Caldwell said following a Week 4 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Jacksonville that pushed the Colts to .500 entering the second quarter of the season.

"We've faced situations where we've had to dig ourselves out of a hole. That's what it is today. We're just going to have to do it in a different way than we've done previously."

The Colts, who had started 14-0 the previous season, had started 5-0 or better en route to five of the previous seven AFC South titles. The reality, Caldwell said, was that 2010 obviously would have a different feel. And he said after Week 4 that that was OK.

Unbeaten starts, he said, may have been the norm around the Colts, but they hardly are a necessity for a successful season. What mattered, Caldwell said, was finding a way to find consistency, something he said had been lacking in the first four games.

Clark agreed, and said the key to the rest of the Colts season was doing well more often than they had done at times.

"We've been up and down," Clark said. "We have to stop that. We have to be a more consistent team. We have to be the team we have shown we can be and keep doing our job. Everybody's got to take it upon themselves to improve that. We can't take weeks off. We can't look good one week, then come back and look mediocre.

"It's our job. We have to come back every week, keep doing the same thing and keep improving."

A game-by-game look at the four games in the first quarter of the 2010 season:

Game 1: HOUSTON TEXANS 34, INDIANAPOLIS 24Peyton Manning said there wasn't any one thing.

Manning, in his 13th season as the Colts' starting quarterback, said the truth was a whole lot of phases needed improving in the wake of a 34-24 loss to the Houston Texans – just the Colts' second season-opening loss in six seasons.

"Overall, we just didn't make enough plays in any phase of our game plan – offense, defense and special teams," Manning said after the Houston Texans' second victory over the Colts in 17 meetings between the teams.

"Houston made more plays, and therefore, they won. It's certainly very disappointing. We wanted to get the season started off on the right foot. We didn't do that today. We put ourselves in a hole a little bit. We've been here before. . . .

"Obviously, we just didn't play well enough today to win. That's really the bottom line."

And because of that, on the first Sunday of the 2010 regular season – unlike many games against Houston in the past – there was no second-half rally, no miracle comeback.

The Texans took an early lead, and while the Colts had opportunities to rally, running back Arian Foster set a franchise record for rushing yards and helped Houston pull away in front of an emotional crowd at Reliant Stadium.

Foster rushed for 231 yards, 191 of which came in the second half. Foster also rushed for three touchdowns in front of a crowd of 70,974.

"We were managing things pretty well (in the first half)," Caldwell said. "We didn't have it all solved. We had some issues that we had to get straightened away and in the second half, they came out and really controlled the line of scrimmage."

The Colts, who had rallied from 17-point deficits to win in their last two games in Houston, rallied from an early 13-point deficit to pull to within three points at halftime, but the Texans controlled momentum throughout the second half with a strong running performance.

Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, after leading the NFL in passing yardage the season before, completed 9 of 17 passes for 107 yards in the game. He threw just five passes in a second half in which Houston held possession 18:48 to 11:12 for Indianapolis.

"They just kept pounding, kept pounding us until we broke," Colts cornerback Kelvin Hayden said. "Hats off to them. They schemed well and did their job. Well done. They executed their game plan. They were trying to keep our offense off the field. They continued to run the ball.

"They did what they planned out to do and we didn't."

Said Manning, "People are going to point to a certain play here or there. For me, it's a 60-minute game and a 60-minute loss. I don't think the offense picked up the defense. The defense didn't pick up special teams. The special teams didn't pick up the offense. We just didn't do enough as a group to help each other out.

"That's something we've done in the past. That's something we're going to need to do starting next week. I think we'll learn from it, and I think we'll improve from it."

Turning point: Because the Colts never led, it would be easy to say the game turned early – as the Texans took a 13-0 first-quarter lead. But the Colts did rally in the first half, and were close enough at halftime – 13-10 – to evoke memories of dramatic double-digit comebacks against Houston each of the previous two seasons. But Foster scored on a 1-yard run in the third quarter and broke the game open with a 25-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter for a 27-10 Houston lead.

Moment to remember: Much of the analysis afterward focused on the Texans controlling the second half, but the Colts – as they had done against Houston in the past – overcame an early deficit to make the game competitive by halftime. Manning passed 14 yards to Pro Bowl wide receiver Reggie Wayne, and late in the first half, Indianapolis established a season-long trend by gaining momentum with a score just before halftime – a 20-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri that made it 13-10, Houston.

Note: Even in the loss, the Colts' offense showed plenty of potency. Manning completed 40 of a career-high 57 passes for 433 yards and three touchdown passes. Clark caught 11 passes for 80 yards and a second-half touchdown, and second-year wide receiver Austin Collie caught 11 passes for a game-high 163 yards and a 73-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

Quote to note: "Obviously, we didn't play well enough today to win."--- Manning

Game 2: INDIANAPOLIS 38, NEW YORK GIANTS 14Their goal was to maintain focus and perspective, to emphasize consistency. In Week 2 of the 2010 season, the Colts did just that, and they did it in one-sided, impressive fashion.

A week after a double-digit loss to Houston in the regular-season opener, the Colts turned in a complete performance in the home opener, pulling away from the New York Giants for a 38-14 victory in front of 67,275 at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Colts took control of the game with a strong first half, taking a 24-0 lead as they registered 18 first downs to five for the Giants. A week after allowing Texans running back Arian Foster 231 yards rushing, the Colts out-rushed the Giants 124-58 in the first half and had 278 yards to 69 for New York.

"The beautiful thing about football is you have 16 opportunities in the regular season to go out and prove whatever happened last week wrong or prove it right," Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney said. "For us, it was a big game. Defensively, we didn't like what we did last week.

"Obviously, we wanted to come out there and make a statement."

Freeney, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, registered two sacks and Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Mathis also registered two.

The game, billed by some as "Manning Bowl II" because of the match-up of Peyton Manning and his brother – Giants quarterback Eli – instead became about the Colts executing and showing significant improvement in two areas: offensive line and run defense.

The offensive line, which expressed displeasure with its performance in Houston, allowed just one sack, and also cleared holes for a run offense that helped control momentum in the first half. The Colts, who were 32nd in the NFL in rushing in 2009, rushed for 160 yards on 43 carries.

"I'm not certain that they (the Colts) had anything to prove other than the fact that we didn't play well last week," Colts Head Coach Jim 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."

Turning point: The turning point came early, with the Colts playing inspired on both sides of the ball after a difficult regular-season opener. The run defense, after allowing 257 yards to the Texans in Week 1, allowed 120, but controlled the Giants' running game early, allowing just 22 yards on seven first-quarter carries.

Moment to remember: Against the Giants, this came on the Giants' first offensive play. On the play, safety Antoine Bethea supported the run on a reverse and put a huge hit on wide receiver Mario Manningham. On the ensuing play, defensive tackle Fili Moala tackled running back Ahmad Bradshaw for a two-yard loss, after which Mathis pressured Eli Manning into an incomplete pass. "We just wanted to come out and set the tone," Bethea said. "That is kind of our motto on defense. Just run to the ball, run to the rock and whoever gets there first let it be known that we are going to be here all night."

Note: The Colts dominated the game statistically, out-rushing New York, 160-120, and outgaining the Giants, 410-257. They also registered 24 first downs to 13 for New York and had four sacks compared to one for New York.

Quote to note: "Every Sunday, you have to do it – and every season you have to do it. You look at some teams that are 0-2 – we could easily be 0-2 as well. We lost last week, and I felt like we beat a good team tonight. You have to show up every Sunday, and you have to execute every Sunday."--- Manning

Game 3: INDIANAPOLIS 27, DENVER BRONCOS 13The Colts entered Week 3 with a slew of injuries, and playing in a difficult environment, they allowed a whole lot of passing yards.

No matter. Not to the Colts in Denver that day.

With Manning once again throwing three touchdown passes – and again throwing no interceptions – the Colts (2-1) held the Denver Broncos without a touchdown on five red-zone opportunities in a 27-13 victory in front of 76,401 at INVESCO Field at Mile High.

"There's still room for improvement, but I'd rather be improving at 2-1 than 1-2," Colts linebacker Gary Brackett said.

The Colts led 13-0 late in the first half, and after Denver trimmed the lead to 13-10 early in the second half, Manning threw two touchdown passes – a nine-yarder in the third quarter to rookie wide receiver Blair White and a 23-yarder in the fourth quarter to Collie – to help Indianapolis to pull away for a second consecutive victory.

"All phases had to come together and play well," Caldwell said. "We didn't do everything exactly as we wanted to, but overall, it was a great effort, a great team win."

Manning continued his efficient start to the season, completing 27 of 43 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. After three games, he had nine touchdown passes with no interceptions.

The Colts scored two touchdowns on three red-zone trips, and also converted two first-half takeaways into 10 points. The Colts not only did not allow a sack, they had no turnovers and four penalties for 27 yards.

"Anytime we can stay on the positive side of the ledger in the turnover margin, it's going to give us a chance to win," Caldwell said.

Turning point: The Colts led 6-0 in the second quarter before taking advantage of a turnover forced by second-year cornerback Jacob Lacey. On 3rd-and-5 from Colts 35, Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton threw to wide receiver Eddie Royal. Lacey cut in front of the pass and returned the interception 44 yards to the Broncos 26. "You have to jump on it and go," Lacey said. "I definitely wasn't going to drop it. However I was going to have to get it, I was going to get it." Seven plays later, Manning's five-yard pass to Austin Collie made it 13-0, Colts.

Moment to remember: Collie caught 12 passes, and while he had career-highs in receptions and yards (171), it was a late-game touchdown that helped the Colts secure a second victory in three games. His 23-yard touchdown catch with 4:26 remaining in the fourth quarter gave the Colts their biggest lead of the game, 27-13. Facing man-to-man coverage, Collie got free down the right sideline and caught Manning's pass in the corner of the end zone. "On the play before, I felt I had an opportunity to run by him," Collie said. "Peyton just came up and asked if I felt if I could run by him and I told him, 'Yes.' So, we went with the long ball."

Note: The Broncos, who out-gained Indianapolis 519-365, drove inside the Colts 20 five times, but their lone touchdown came on a 48-yard touchdown pass from Orton to wide receiver Brandon Lloyd early in the third quarter. The Colts stopped the Broncos on downs at the Indianapolis 1 in the second quarter, and at the 12 and the 20 in the fourth quarter. Denver converted field goals on two other red-zone trips.

"Anytime you can keep teams from scoring touchdowns in that area, you're going to have a chance to win," Caldwell said. "Our offense was able to convert down there, and that was the difference in the game."

Quote to note: "It was a long game today. It was long and it was hot, but that's how it is sometimes –whatever the conditions, you have to go out and play."--- Lacey

Game 4: JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 31, INDIANAPOLIS 28The outcome was frustratingly familiar – it was the venue that had changed.

Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee, who twice before in his career had beaten the Colts with long field goals in the waning moments, kicked a career-long 59-yard field goal as time expired to give Jacksonville a dramatic, 31-28 victory over Indianapolis in Jacksonville in Week 4.

Scobee's two previous career game-winners against the Colts came in Indianapolis in 2004 and 2008.

"Obviously, they (the Jaguars) certainly played well," Caldwell said after the Jaguars beat the Colts for the second time in the last seven meetings and the first time in Jacksonville since 2006.

"I thought our guys hung in there. We had a couple of situations where we came away with no points in the red zone, but our guys hung in there."

Said Clark, "We had a lot of opportunities. We just didn't capitalize on them all."

The Colts moved efficiently on the first series, with running back Joseph Addai scoring on a two-yard run to cap an 11-play, 59-yard drive. But the Jaguars, who had lost back-to-back games by 25 points in the last two games for the first time in franchise history, drove immediately to tie the game and took the lead early in the second quarter.

With Manning again moving the Colts efficiently, Indianapolis tied the game on its next possession with Manning throwing a seven-yard pass to Clark to tie it at 14-14.

The Jaguars again took the lead with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Garrard to tight end Marcedes Lewis in the third quarter, and the teams traded touchdowns early in the fourth quarter to set up a late-game rally.

"We're 2-2," Manning said. "That's what it is. That's not what we set out to be. That's what we are, though. We have to find a way to dig ourselves out of a hole. We are in a hole. We're behind in the division and we've lost two division games, which is certainly disappointing – and on the road, too. You have to be able to win on the road.

"That's disappointing, too. We have to go to work. We have to keep fighting, and we have to find a way to get ourselves out of this hole."

Turning point: The Colts, after taking an early 7-0 lead, three times rallied from seven-point deficits, with Manning's second touchdown pass of the game – a one-yarder to Collie – tying it at 28-28 with 48 seconds remaining. But the Jaguars drove 36 yards on six plays to set up Scobee's game-winning field goal.

Moments to remember: The Colts, who entered the game with two turnovers in the first three games, committed two second-half turnovers against Jacksonville, each of which came inside the Jaguars 10-yard line – an interception by Jaguars safety Antonio Smith off the hands of tight end Brody Eldridge at the Jaguars 4 and a fumble by Wayne at the Jaguars 10 that Gerald Alexander recovered. Smith's interception came in the third quarter and led to a touchdown while Alexander's fumble recovery came early in the fourth quarter. "You have to be able to overcome them (turnovers)," said Manning, who completed 33 of 46 passes for 352 yards and two touchdowns with an interception for a passer rating of 99.2. "Those things happen in the course of a football season and in the course of a game. There's still time to overcome them. You don't like for them to happen, and you like for everything to go just right. When they do happen, when there's time on the clock, you have to be able to overcome them and win in spite of them."

Note: The Colts, after not allowing Denver a red-zone touchdown in five trips the week before, allowed the Jaguars to score on three of three possessions inside the Colts' 20.

Quote to note: "We gave ourselves a chance, but we couldn't seal the deal at the end." --- Caldwell

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