Colts Clinch Seventh Consecutive Season with 10 or More Victories
INDIANAPOLIS – To appreciate this, Tony Dungy didn't need perspective.
The Colts, a playoff team the past six seasons, moved within one game of another postseason appearance Sunday, and in the process, they clinched a seventh consecutive season with at least 10 victories.
They did it with a seventh consecutive victory, the NFL-record fifth consecutive season Indianapolis had a streak of at least seven victories.
That's consistency – big-time consistency.
Dungy was asked if it were something he would appreciate in the future.
"I think it's remarkable now," Dungy said following the Colts' 31-21 victory over the Detroit Lions at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday afternoon.
In recognition of another 10-victory season, Dungy said the Colts awarded game balls to Owner and Chief Executive Officer Jim Irsay and Colts President Bill Polian.
The Colts are the third team to win 10 or more games in seven consecutive seasons. The San Francisco 49ers won at least 10 games from 1983-98 (16 seasons) and the Dallas Cowboys won 10 or more games from 1975-81 (seven seasons).
"We gave game balls to Jim and Bill today for really setting the atmosphere to get that done, for creating the climate where you can be consistent," Dungy said. "I think it's really just kudos to those guys. It's the scouting we have, bringing people in here – the atmosphere that Jim creates where you're able to put stable teams together, and are able to keep coaches and pay guys well enough to keep them here on staff.
"All of those things go into it."
Said Colts tight end Dallas Clark, "I think it's from the top to the bottom. Irsay is a magnificent owner, one of the best; Coach Dungy, you can't get any better – a great man, a great coach; and I think we've had great leadership – (quarterback) Peyton (Manning), (center) Jeff (Saturday) – they're our leaders on the offensive side of the ball. It's 53 guys buying into the system and buying into the coaching and buying into everything and going out there and doing your job.
"It's hard in this business to do something like that. It's not made to have that longevity of a record and winning. It's a credit to everyone in the front office and all of the players who have come and gone."
The Colts during Dungy's tenure have had just three coaches leave the staff – tight ends coach Chris Foerster, defensive quality control assistant Diron Reynolds and defensive assistant Leslie Frazier.
"Our coaching staff has been phenomenal during this run, working with young guys and getting them ready to play," Dungy said. "It takes everything. It takes talented players able to focus.
"I don't take that lightly."
Dungy said the victory Sunday, with the Colts pulling away in the fourth quarter to beat a winless team, is the sort of game consistent teams must win.
"You have to win games like this to have long winning streaks and to win 10 or 11 games," Dungy said. "You aren't going to be perfect every game and that's the one thing we do have, too, that when we aren't perfect we have some big-play guys who can make things happen and make up for it.
"We made those plays you have to make to win."
Said Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, "I think certainly we've had a lot of good players through these years. We've had a core group of players who have been here the entire time. Also, there are a lot of players who aren't here who have helped us win a lot of games.
"We've had good leadership at the top, no question about that – with Jim, Bill and Coach Dungy – it's not something to be taken for granted. It's hard to win a game in the NFL, so to win two or three in a row – or seven in a row – it's not easy. It's truly been kind of one-game-at-a-time and that will be the approach from here on out."
SANDERS, ADDAI MISS: Bob Sanders, a Pro Bowl safety following the 2005 and 2007 seasons, missed Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions, the club announced shortly before kickoff. Running back Joseph Addai, a Pro Bowl selection last season, also was inactive.
Sanders missed practice two days this week with a knee injury and Addai missed three practices with a shoulder injury.
Dungy said each could play against Jacksonville Thursday.
"Both of those guys would have been doubtful to play two games in five days," Dungy said. "We thought the prudent thing was to rest them up. I think they'll be ready to go."
The Colts' other inactives Sunday:
Defensive tackle Eric Foster, linebacker Tyjuan Hagler, middle linebacker Gary Brackett, linebacker Rufus Alexander, wide receiver Pierre Garcon and defensive tackle Keyunta Dawson.
JOHNSON, THOMAS START: With Dawson and Foster out, Antonio Johnson and Josh Thomas started at defensive tackle, with linebacker Buster Davis starting a second consecutive game in place of Brackett.
Dominic Rhodes started for Addai and Melvin Bullitt started in place of Sanders.
GETTING IT DONE: With Addai out, Rhodes and rookie reserve Chad Simpson combined to rush for 106 yards on 29 carries and three touchdowns.
"They both did a good job," Dungy said. "We wanted Chad to be in there. Joseph is nicked up. We think he'll be OK for Thursday night. We may need Chad down the stretch and we've been trying to get him in some situations where it was meaningful.
"Gene had him in there at the end of the game and I thought that was good."
Imantly, Manning said the running game gave the Colts enough balance offensively to move effectively.
"The key thing is we were pretty committed to the run," Manning said. "I think we had pretty good balance with the play-calling. I felt like Detroit felt like we were at least a threat to run a couple of times and had to put a safety in the box or an extra linebacker in the box. . . .
"We stayed committed to the run, which at least keeps a defense a little bit off balance."
ETC., ETC.: The Colts are 43-12 at home since Dungy became the head coach in 2002. That's tied for the NFL's best home record during that span with New England. . . . With his second reception on Sunday, Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison moved past Tim Brown (1,094) into third place for third-most receptions in NFL history. . . . Manning surpassed Vinny Testaverde (3,787) for sixth on the NFL's all-time career completions list. . . . Manning also posted his 36th career fourth-quarter or overtime game-winning drive. Six have come this season. . . . Wide receiver Reggie Wayne, who caught seven passes for 104 yards Sunday, has 74 receptions for 1,022 yards and five touchdowns this season. It is his fifth consecutive 1,000-yard season. Sunday was his 25th career 100-yard receiver game, the second-most in franchise history behind Harrison (59).
HOW THEY SCORED
LIONS 03 07 03 08 – 21
COLTS 07 14 00 10 – 31
COLTS 7, LIONS 0
Dominic Rhodes 1 run (Adam Vinatieri kick), 7:38 remaining first quarter. Drive: 14 plays, 78 yards, 7:22. Key play: Dallas Clark 6 pass from Peyton Manning on 4th-and-1 from Lions 1.
COLTS 7, LIONS 3
Jason Hansen 51 FG, 4:45 remaining first quarter. Drive: Four plays, three yards, 1:15. Key play: Anthony Cannon recovers fumbled punt at Colts 35.
COLTS 14, LIONS 3
Chad Simpson 2 run (Vinatieri kick), 5:29 remaining second quarter. Drive: Nine plays, 56 yards, 3:13. Key play: Unnecessary roughness penalty against Detroit on 2-yard pass turns 3rd-and-5 into 1st-and-10 at Lions 34.
COLTS 14, LIONS 10
Calvin Johnson 33 pass from Dan Orlovsky (Hansen kick), 3:36 remaining second quarter. Drive: Three plays, 69 yards, 1:53. Key play: Michael Gaines 33 pass from Orlovsky on 2nd-and-2 from Lions 39.
COLTS 21, LIONS 10
Dallas Clark 3 pass from Manning (Vinatieri kick), :53 remaining second quarter. Key play: Clark 24 pass from Manning on 2nd-and-3 from Lions 27.
COLTS 21, LIONS 13
Hansen 31 FG, 10:00 remaining third quarter. Drive: Six plays, 10 yards, 2:15. Key play: Corey Smith recovers fumbled punt return at Colts 21.
COLTS 21, LIONS 21
Kevin Smith 1 run (Casey FitzSimmons pass from Orlovsky), 12:58 remaining fourth quarter. Drive: 13 plays, 91 yards, 7:49. Key play: Smith 4 run on 3rd-and-3 from Lions 38.
COLTS 28, LIONS 21
Dominic Rhodes 1 run (Vinatieri kick), 8:39 remaining fourth quarter. Drive: Seven plays, 88 yards, 4:13. Key play: Reggie Wayne 39 pass from Manning on 1st-and-10 from Lions 40.
COLTS 31, LIONS 21
Vinatieri 31 FG, :39 remaining. Drive: 11 plays, 67 yards, 4:42. Key play: Simpson 5 run on 3rd-and-2 from Lions 23.