With Defenses Playing Colts Differently, Dungy Says Big Plays Imant to Offense
INDIANAPOLIS – The big play long has been a critical part of the Colts' offense.
The way Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy sees it, that element has been more important than ever this season, and he said it could remain so.
Dungy, in his seventh season as the Colts' head coach, said this week teams have changed their defensive approach against the Colts, crowding the line of scrimmage and forcing the Indianapolis offense to hit big plays. Dungy said it's a trend that could continue.
If it does, he said there's just one solution:
Make the plays when they're available.
"It's been different for us," Dungy said as the Colts (1-1) prepared to play the Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2) in an AFC South game at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday at 4:15 p.m.
"We have to continue to make some of those big plays. . . . That's a strategy you can use. You say, 'Hey, we're going to crowd the line. We're going to pressure. Our defensive backs are going to play underneath and you're going to get five or six chances up field and you won't make them.' "
Dungy said a fundamental difference in the Colts' first two games was their success against the approach.
Against the Chicago Bears in the opener, Dungy said the Colts had several opportunities for big plays, barely missing on long passes to wide receivers Reggie Wayne, Anthony Gonzalez and Marvin Harrison. The Colts lost, 29-13.
Against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 2, quarterback Peyton Manning completed a long, third-quarter pass to Gonzalez that — after a lateral to Wayne – turned into a 75-yard gain that set up the Colts first touchdown.
In the fourth quarter, Manning passed 32 yards to Wayne for a touchdown, then on the game's final drive, he threw 20 yards to Wayne to set up the game-winning field goal.
"Reggie made two and Gonzo made one and that really was the difference in the game," Dungy said. "It is a different strategy that we're seeing and if people continue to do that, we have to make them pay. If people continue to play us like that, we have to hit those."
Also on Thursday, center Jeff Saturday – who has missed the first two regular-season games with a knee injury – said he feels better than last week, and Dungy said he expects Saturday will play against Jacksonville.
"I think Jeff will be fine," Dungy said.
Saturday, a three-time Pro Bowl selection who was injured in the Colts' fourth preseason game on August 24 against Buffalo, said he believed he will know by Friday if he will play.
"Hopefully, I'll have a good idea after (Friday)," Saturday said. "If I go through Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, I'm sure I can make a decision from there. We have another padded practice (Thursday), so it will be good to see how it holds up two days in a row. . . .
"I feel better this week than I did last week, so I have a little more confidence that I'll be ready to rock on Sunday. . . . It felt good, so hopefully, it will keep going and hold throughout the rest of the week."
Saturday said whereas he worked mostly with the reserves last week he has worked with the starters in practice this week.
"I could have practiced last week the same way," Saturday said. "I just didn't want to set anybody behind. I wanted to make sure everybody felt comfortable with the role they were playing. (Center) Jamey (Richard) had just started his first game. I didn't want to go and practice all week and at the end of the week and go, 'Oh, I can't do it.' I think we're all comfortable with what everybody's doing on the offensive line."
Before the season, the projected starting offensive line was eight-year veteran Ryan Diem at right tackle, rookie Mike Pollak or three-year veteran Charlie Johnson at right guard, Saturday – a 10-year veteran – at center, four-year veteran Ryan Lilja at left guard and second-year veteran Tony Ugoh at left tackle.
Pollak has been out with a knee injury the first two games of the season, as has Saturday. Lilja is on the Physically Unable to Perform List. Ugoh missed the second half of Sunday's game with a groin injury and Dungy said Wednesday he is doubtful for Sunday.
With Ugoh out, the line was Diem, rookie Steve Justice at guard, Richard at center, three-year veteran Dan Federkeil at guard and Johnson at left tackle.
"I think effort was really good," Saturday said of the line's play this past week. "I think guys fought and did the best they could with what was going on during the game. I thought they fought until the very end and gave us a chance to win the game. Obviously, we have to improve on our run-per-carry average and make sure Peyton doesn't get hit.
"As an offensive line, we have to take some pride in making that better."
Dungy said if Saturday plays, no decision has yet been made on Justice or Richard starting at guard.
"Steve and Jamey will practice at guard, then we will decide," Dungy said. "Right now, I'd think we'll be leaning toward Steve because Jamey might play center."
The Colts on Thursday released their second injury report of the week, with safety Bob Sanders (ankle/knee), Ugoh, wide receiver Roy Hall (knee), tight end Jacob Tamme (ankle), defensive tackle Keyunta Dawson (ankle), defensive tackle Daniel Muir (knee), safety Matt Giordano (back) and Pollak listed as not practicing and cornerback Marlin Jackson (hip) as participating on a limited basis.