Colts Enter Week 2 in Unusual Situation After Losing Regular-Season Opener
INDIANAPOLIS – Jeff Saturday sees an opunity – a prime-time opportunity.
Saturday, the Colts' four-time Pro Bowl center, said the intriguing thing about the early part of any NFL season for any team is the very important process of discovering how a team will respond given different circumstances.
Saturday said no way did the Colts want to be in this circumstance – entering the second game of the regular season with an 0-1 record for just the third time in a little more than a decade.
But because they are, the chance to respond is real. Very real.
"It's always interesting at the beginning of the season to see how you're going to react to wins, losses – no matter what," Saturday said as the Colts (0-1) prepared to play the New York Giants (1-0) in a nationally-televised NBC Sunday Night Football game at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday at 8:20 p.m.
"I like the character of the guys in the room. We're going to play a really good team, and there's nothing like seeing what you're going to do with your backs against the wall."
How unusual is the Colts' situation? Consider:
Since 1998, the first season with the franchise for quarterback Peyton Manning and President Bill Polian, the Colts have lost the regular-season opener just three times – 1998, 2004 and 2008. They haven't lost two consecutive games to start the season since 1998.
In eight previous seasons in the AFC South, they never had lost their regular-season opener to a team within the division, but in the regular-season opener at Reliant Stadium in Houston last Sunday, the Colts –division champions six of the past seven seasons – lost to the Houston Texans, 34-24.
All is certainly not lost, veterans said this week. Not after one game.
"The veterans have to let guys know, 'These things happen – this is the National Football League,'' Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney said. "The other team gets paid, too. You're not going to always have your best game. I just think it's about how you bounce back from those type of games. That really defines the character of your team and what kind of guys you have.
"I don't know one team in the history of football that hasn't had a bad week. I don't care who it is."
The Colts, won the AFC and AFC South last season, have made eight consecutive playoff appearances, and have won 12 or more games an NFL record seven consecutive seasons. Manning said this week they achieved such consistency through a professional approach.
And he said the only way to approach this week is in the same fashion.
"It's an important game," said Manning, who completed 40 of 57 passes for 433 yards and three touchdowns with no interception against the Texans. "Certainly we didn't play well enough against Houston in the opener. We are playing an excellent team on Sunday. I've always said the team you're playing doesn't care what happened to you the week before, whether you had a huge win or a disappointing loss.
"It's up to us to try and play better. It really starts with practice this week, trying to have a good practice in order to get ready for this week's game."
The loss to Houston was Indianapolis' first in a regular-season game with playoff implications since the seventh game of the 2008 season. The Colts won their last nine regular-season games in 2008 to finish 12-4, then won their first 14 regular-season games last season, establishing an NFL record for consecutive victories in the regular season.
"I'd say for the most part what we try and do and focus in on is we do not do anything any differently in terms how we go about our preparation," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said. "We certainly want to have a different result. There is no question about that. We believe in the way in which we practice.
"We believe in the way in which we prepare. So, we go right back to work, understanding the mistakes that we made and get them corrected and keep moving forward."
The Colts against Houston fell behind 13-0 and rallied to within three, 13-10, at halftime before allowing 218 yards rushing and 21 points in the second half. The Texans rushed for 257 yards, with running back Arian Foster rushing for a franchise-record 231 yards.
"We certainly had a number of different issues and not necessarily one that we can put our finger on and say 'Okay, we solved this problem, we've got it all solved,'" Caldwell said. "There are a number of different things – missed tackles, where we were fitting, things of that nature, so it was like all the way across the board we had some issues."
The Giants, with running back Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, historically have emphasized the run in recent seasons. Bradshaw rushed for 76 yards on 20 carries in a season-opening victory over Carolina, and Jacobs rushed for 44 yards on 12 carries.
"You can't hide from the fact that last week we did not perform very well," Caldwell said. "Our objective is we make no excuses. We have to get better because we are facing a team that can obviously run the ball with some very, very capable backs in terms of Bradshaw and Jacobs – those two guys can run it at you – so we have to be better.
"They're certainly going to run the ball but the other thing that you really realize, too, is that they have an outstanding quarterback (Manning's brother, Eli) that can also heat things up quite a bit, but I would anticipate that they're looking to do what they think will work best against us and certainly if they look at that film they're certainly going to think, we should be able to run the ball on these guys."
Caldwell, asked if he were concerned about the run defense, said, "Even when we play well, I am concerned. That is the nature of the position.
"Overall, obviously we did not play well, so we have work to do," he said. "It is certainly fixable. We have gone through spurts like that before, not something you want to revisit every single week obviously, but until you get it stopped, it's an issue. We had games where Jacksonville ran for I don't know how many yards, Kansas City torched us for over 500 (yards), but we were able to come back and get the ship righted in that regard. This is going to take a little work, but we can get it done."
And Saturday said with that work comes opportunity – a prime-time opportunity.
"It's miserable losing your first game," Saturday said. "It doesn't happen very often, and when it does, it's a miserable feeling. Being able to put it behind you – being able to hit and go out and focus on another team, sure goes a long way toward forgetting about the one you just played."