Narrow, Tough Victories Not Unusual in NFL, Caldwell Says
INDIANAPOLIS –Jim Caldwell really does not find this all that unusual.
Caldwell, in his first season as the Colts' head coach, said Monday there is something fairly typical going on around the team these days. Not that the team is 10-0 for a second time in five seasons, and not that Indianapolis has won 19 consecutive regular-season games.
Caldwell said the Colts think about neither fact too much.
But what Caldwell said is normal – expected, actually – is that after a four-game stretch of double-digit victories the Colts have been winning games lately in decidedly different fashion:
• San Francisco, 18-14.
• Houston, 20-17.
• New England, 35-34.
• Baltimore, 17-15.
Those are the scores of the Colts' last four victories, making them the first team in NFL history to win four consecutive games by a total of 10 points or less.
Notable, but not completely surprising, Caldwell said.
"The fact of the matter is typically in this league that's what the games boil down to," Caldwell said Monday, a day after the Colts rallied from a 15-14 fourth-quarter deficit in Baltimore for their seventh consecutive victory over the Ravens.
"The ones that we've been going through are probably more typical of what we see from week to week as opposed to the anomaly we might see – two-touchdown leads at the end of the game, and things of that nature."
Caldwell, speaking at his weekly next-day news conference at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, said there are areas the Colts need to improve.
"But at least we're getting the bottom line done," he said.
The Colts on Sunday won despite committing three turnovers. They took a 14-12 lead at halftime and fell behind early in the fourth quarter.
Matt Stover, who played for Baltimore from 1996-2008, kicked a 25-yard field goal with 7:02 remaining to give the Colts the lead, after which they forced turnovers on the final two Ravens possessions. Middle linebacker Gary Brackett intercepted Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco at the Colts 13 with 2:42 remaining, and with 11 seconds remaining, Colts linebacker Freddy Keiaho recovered a fumbled lateral on a punt return by Ravens safety Ed Reed.
Peyton Manning, the Colts' nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback, completed 22 of 31 passes for 299 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions, with second-year wide receiver Pierre Garcon registering his first career 100-yard game. He caught six passes for 108 yards.
Running back Joseph Addai rushed for a season-high 74 yards on 19 carries, and wide receiver Reggie Wayne caught seven passes for 89 yards.
Defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, who entered the game with 9.5 and 8.5 sacks, respectively, did not record a sack. It was the first time that had happened this season.
By coming from behind in the fourth quarter, the Colts set another NFL record. They also rallied from fourth-quarter deficits against San Francisco, Houston and New England, becoming the first team in NFL history to do so in four consecutive games.
"Anytime your team is finding ways to win, especially when things haven't gone perfectly, you find some satisfaction there," Caldwell said. "You can attribute that to good team morale, strong character and a great spirit to win as well. You can also look at it as maybe there are some situations that occurred early in the game that could have put you in a little bit better position. . . .
"We certainly feel we've developed a pretty solid mental toughness. The unique thing is we get challenged every week in that area. Hopefully, it's going to serve us down the road and we just continue to get better, and now it's just a part of our game that now we've had some significant work on the last four weeks. Hopefully, we can benefit from it."
The Colts, 10-0 for the second time in five seasons, now have the second-longest regular-season winning streak in NFL history. The Colts had been tied with New England (2003-04) for second all-time on the list.
The 2006-08 Patriots hold the record at 21.
With the victory, the Colts maintained a four-game lead in the AFC South over Jacksonville (6-4), which beat Buffalo, 18-15, Sunday. Houston (5-4) and Tennessee (3-6) play Monday.
"It's kind of amazing when you think about it, 10-0, but then you say, 'Okay, what have we accomplished?'' Caldwell said. "Obviously, it's a great record, but when you really look at it, you don't have your division locked up, you're not in the playoffs. None of those things have been decided.
"Here's the other thing, I think most coaches in this league look at Thanksgiving as kind of a line of demarcation. They feel that if you're .500 at Thanksgiving, you have a shot to be a real factor in the playoffs and beyond. There are a number of teams that are .500 or above, and we just happen to be one of those.
"We still have our work cut out for us, because I think everybody is looking at it as if they still have a chance, which is indeed true."