Colts to Visit Houston Texans Sunday in 2010 Regular-Season Opener
INDIANAPOLIS – Gary Brackett figures it may as well be this way.
Brackett, the Colts' defensive captain and starting middle linebacker, said while some teams open with inter-conference or teams outside their division, he doesn't mind the task facing the Colts' in the 2010 regular-season opener Sunday.
Yes, the opponent is an AFC South rival. It's also one that is very, very motivated.
But Brackett said while it's true that playing the Houston Texans so early in the season puts a touch more imance on the regular-season opener than otherwise might be the case, he doesn't mind it, and in fact, he sort of likes it.
So, yes, the game's big, Brackett said.
Actually, he said, he wouldn't have it any other way.
"You might as well," Brackett said this week as the Colts (14-2, 2009) prepared to play the Texans (9-7) in an AFC South game in the 2010 regular-season opener Sunday at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas.
"Truthfully, somebody's going to take a lead in the division, so I've always liked playing teams you're familiar with. You get out there and know what you have. There aren't going to be a whole lot of surprises. We've played each other so often and we know each other's personnel so well that it's going to be a game where early in the year you see how you execute.
"That's always good for your team to learn where you are."
How familiar are the Colts with the Texans? Consider:
The teams have played twice a year every season since 2002, and during that time, have played some memorable games. The Colts have beaten the Texans in 15 of 16 meetings since Houston's 2002 inception, and Indianapolis enters Sunday's game on a six-game winning streak in the series.
"We're excited to go against the Colts," Texans middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans said this week. "It's a big a game in our division. It'll be big for us to get a win against these guys and start our momentum to roll early."
The Colts, who have made the post-season an NFL-best eight consecutive seasons, have won six of the past seven AFC South titles, advancing to the Super Bowl two of the past four seasons. They have won 12 or more games an NFL-record seven consecutive seasons.
The Texans finished 9-7 last season, their first winning record in franchise history, and hopes are high within the team and in the community.
"It wouldn't matter who it is," Texans Head Coach Gary Kubiak said. "Opening day is a big day. Is it big because it's the Colts and they're in our division? Yes, but that's twice a year. It's two teams that know each other pretty good and sure they're both going to be fresh and getting a few players back that they've been missing in the preseason.
"I'm looking forward to it and excited about it."
While the Colts have swept the season series each of the past three seasons, five of their last three victories have come by eight points or less, and their last two victories in Houston have been some of their most memorable in the series.
"Every time we play them it's been a pretty close game – really close," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said. "I would anticipate it's going to be just like it always is – a hard-fought battle that is probably going to take you 59 minutes and possibly 30 seconds to determine who's going to win that game.
"It's a division game. It's a big game. It's a road game for us. It's a big game versus a tough opponent, so it's big for both teams."
The Colts have trailed by 17 points in each of their last two games in Houston, rallying to win 35-27 last season and 31-27 two seasons ago. In 2008, the Colts trailed 27-10 before scoring 21 points in the final 4:04.
"That's the nature of us," Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney said. "It doesn't matter if there's 30 seconds left on the clock. We play to the end. We have a lot of veterans, so we have a never-say-die attitude. We don't want those situations.
"We'd rather have a huge lead, but those things do happen. We've done a good job of adjusting."
The Colts, for a second time in four seasons, will open the season as the AFC Champions, but for the first time in the Indianapolis era, they enter the season as Super Bowl runner-up. Teams in that situation have struggled at times in recent seasons, but Caldwell has said throughout the off-season and this past week that the past won't influence the future either positively or negatively.
The Colts have been one of the NFL's most-consistent teams in recent seasons because of an ability to focus and work whatever the circumstances, and Caldwell said be believes that will be the case again this season.
"They have a drive and desire to be the best, there is no question about that," Caldwell said. "But more so than anything else, I have mentioned time and time again, they (players) are motivated by obviously the challenge of this season. That is what they are motivated by, the here and now, the present, the urgency of now.
"We have an outstanding team that we have to focus on that has very, very good personnel, a veteran group that has done nothing but gotten better each and every time they have gone out. So, we have our work cut out for us, so to reflect back is something you will find that we do not do very often, and I think we are more motivated by the challenge of the season more so than anything else."