INDIANAPOLIS – The first seven games of the 2011 season have been full of challenge and adversity for Indianapolis.
The Colts entered the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday evening to face New Orleans. The Saints were playing their first home game in nearly a month and they returned home decisively in beating the Colts, 62-7.
The game started ominously for Indianapolis when it turned the ball over on the game's sixth play. A fumbled center exchange gave New Orleans possession at the Colts' 41-yard line. The Saints held the ball six plays, too, finishing its possession with a 14-yard scoring pass from quarterback Drew Brees to wide receiver Marques Colston for a 7-0 advantage 5:58 into the game.
The Saints proceeded to score on all of their six first-half possessions, tallying the final of their 34 opening-half points at the gun on a 47-yard field goal by John Kasay. New Orleans added two touchdowns in each of the final two quarters to post the victory.
Four of the losses by Indianapolis this season have been by seven points, with the team having a chance to win each of those games. Last week in Cincinnati, Indianapolis fell by 10 points, but had a late possession in a three-point game fail, and the final margin was larger than the competitive nature of the game.
In losing at New Orleans, Indianapolis absorbed its most difficult loss since its season-opening game a Houston. The Texans beat the Colts, 34-7.
Third-year cornerback Jerraud Powers joins safety Antoine Bethea as the veteran presence in the secondary. The unit started David Caldwell at strong safety and Kevin Thomas at left cornerback. Caldwell was making his fifth start after the season-ending loss of starter Melvin Bullitt, while Thomas was opening the first game of his career. Indianapolis was facing one of the NFL's most potent offenses. Brees was entering the contest as the only NFL quarterback ever to produce four consecutive games with 350 passing yards, as well as having thrown touchdown passes in 33 straight outings (the league's third-longest streak). Brees connected on 31-of-35 passes for 325 yards and five touchdowns to lead New Orleans. The Saints rushed for 236 yards and had a defensive touchdown.
Powers knows the club has nine more contests ahead, and he is firm in the approach the club must take.
"We just have to keep pushing," said Powers. "There's not much you can say but that we were beaten in all phases of the game. We have to come back to work, watch the film, take the positives we can from this and go back to work."
Situations like the one Indianapolis finds itself in can test the resolve of the playing roster. Indianapolis now cannot extend its streak of nine consecutive seasons with 10 victories, but it can hang together and focus on the task at hand. Powers does not doubt that that certainly will be the case.
"Definitely, the guys are going to hang together," said Powers. Nobody is going to start pointing fingers or anything like that. It was a case today where we got whipped, undoubtedly. We have to find a way to keep sawing wood, keep pushing."
Powers is aware he and Bethea were joined by newer players in the secondary. He was a 12-game starter himself as a rookie in 2009, and he knows the challenges young players can face. He also knows everyone is expected to learn and contribute at the same time, and he is confident that will happen.
"We will look at tape and take whatever positives we can and build off of it," said Powers. "It was a learning experience for those young guys. With the more experience they have, the more they will continue to grow. At the end of the day, they will be the type of players everybody will need them to be. We will look at the tape, take the positives and build off it.
"Everybody has to look in the mirror and see what you can to do make this team better. We have to find something. We have to come to work and keep getting better each day, keep sawing wood. That is how we can turn it around."
A key component to recovering from a tough loss is bouncing back with a proper outlook and attitude, and Powers feels it is essential for his teammates and himself.
"You have to have a positive attitude every day you come to work," he said. "You can be down about a football game when the outcome doesn't go the way you think it's going to go but next day, you have to come in positive. There's no need for anyone to come in moping around with their heads down, or anything like that. It's a new week, a new beginning, a new team (to face), a new game plan and a whole new everything. We have to come to work and be positive and keep pushing."
Indianapolis travels to Tennessee next Sunday for a divisional battle with the Titans. Tennessee dropped a 41-7 home outing to Houston on Sunday. This marks the second AFC South contest of the season for Indianapolis, and Powers knows it will provide a chance to take a positive step.
"We will be back in division play," said Powers. "We have an opportunity to go on the road and get a win in Tennessee. That's what we are going to try to do. It would be good to start the right way and do it in the division."