Playing to Keep Postseason Hopes Alive Makes Browns Dangerous, Dungy Says
INDIANAPOLIS – New week, same situation.
And as Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy sees it, because the situation isn't unusual late in the season, playing a highly-motivated opponent in need of a victory to stay in the playoff picture is something to which contending teams must become accustomed.
In recent weeks, Dungy said the Colts have done just that.
Two weeks ago, they beat the Houston Texans, 33-27.
Last week, they beat the San Diego Chargers, 23-20.
The Texans entered their game against the Colts 3-6. The Chargers entered last week 4-6. The Colts' opponent Sunday, the Cleveland Browns, are 4-7, with their already-tenuous playoff hopes likely on the line.
"That's the way you have to look at it," Dungy said Friday as the Colts (7-4) prepared to play the Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio, Sunday at 1 p.m.
"That's what we've kind of preached to the team. They (the Browns) have (quarterback) Derek Anderson coming back in. If they have any chance to get to the playoffs, they have to win this game. That's what we have to expect to get (the Browns' best effort).
"If we know that going in, we'll be fine. If we think it's going to be easy, we won't be."
The Colts under Dungy have lost just four games to teams that finished with sub .500 records – Houston in 2006, Kansas City in 2004, Jacksonville in 2003, Washington in 2002 – and only the 2006 loss to Houston and the 2003 loss to Jacksonville came in November or December.
"The thing you try to sell to your team is you try to do what you do every week," Dungy said. "Regardless of it's the Super Bowl, if it's a preseason game, if you're favored, if you're not, if you're on the road or at home. You go through your routine and get yourself ready to play and play the best you can play. Teams that play as well as they can play week in and week out usually end up with a good record. We try not to look at, 'Well, this team is 2-5 and this team's 7-0.' You try to look at them all the same and I think that's been our secret.
"They (Colts players) understand that every week is tough and most of the time, probably since '03, we've kind of been the hunted. We've been the team that people have been after and looking forward to playing. We've kind of approached it that way, too – that everybody's going to be ready for you when you're a contender.
"That's another reason, too, that I think we've probably had that kind of success."
Also on Friday, the Colts released their third injury reof the week, with safety Antoine Bethea (ankle), linebacker Gary Brackett (hamstring), safety Melvin Bullitt (rib), linebacker Tyjuan Hagler (knee) and safety Bob Sanders (knee) listed as questionable. Center Jeff Saturday (calf) has been ruled out and offensive tackle Tony Ugoh (quadriceps) has been listed as probable.
Brackett returned to practice Friday after missing Wednesday and Thursday, and wide receiver Reggie Wayne returned Friday after missing practice Thursday for non injury related-resting reasons. Running back Joseph Addai (non injury related-resting) missed practice Friday.
Bethea, Sanders and Saturday all missed practice all three days this week.
Dungy said the safety position is perhaps the team's most-questionable area entering the weekend, with neither starting safety – Sanders and Bethea – practicing this week.
"Our safeties are kind of the iffy guys right now," Dungy said, adding that aside from that position, "We're probably going to be pretty much the way we were last week."
Sanders, the 2007 Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year, has missed the last two games and likely won't play Sunday, Dungy said.
Also, the Colts this week awarded game balls for Sunday's 23-20 victory over the San Diego Chargers to quarterback Peyton Manning (offense), defensive end Robert Mathis (defense) and kicker Adam Vinatieri (special teams).