Dungy Says He Saw Signs of Offensive Improvement During Bye Week
INDIANAPOLIS – Tony Dungy saw it earlier than most.
Dungy, the Colts' head coach, said during the bye week three weeks ago there were signs that the Indianapolis offense – after struggling at times early in the season – was showing flashes of its previous production.
On Sunday, those flashes came into sharp focus:
• Three touchdown passes by quarterback Peyton Manning.
• Two touchdown receptions by wide receiver Marvin Harrison.
• More than 100 yards receiving and a touchdown by wide receiver Reggie Wayne.
The Colts' offense, after producing no more than 24 points in any of the first four games of the season, gained 334 yards and scored a season-high four touchdowns in a 31-3 victory over the Baltimore Ravens Sunday.
And Dungy said the increased production was a matter of a talented, capable group having the time together to play to its potential.
"I started to see it come after the bye," Dungy said Monday, a day after the Colts – playing a team that entered the game ranked No. 1 in the NFL in every major defensive statistical category – scored touchdowns on four of their first nine possessions.
"We had some routine practices (during the bye week). We weren't game-planning. We weren't dialing up plays against another team's defense. I thought we got a little sharper over the bye. We made some progress against Houston (the week after the bye).
"Every week, we were just a little sharper on offense. Having a number of guys playing together is probably the reason for it, including (quarterback) Peyton (Manning)."
Manning, the Colts' eight-time Pro Bowl quarterback, missed training camp and preseason after undergoing off-season knee surgery.
He completed 96 of 154 passes for 1,031 yards in the first four games of the season for five touchdowns and five interceptions. Manning, who has a career passer rating of 94.5, entered the Baltimore game with a season rating of 79.2.
Against the Ravens, he completed 19 of 28 passes for 271 yards, a season-high three touchdowns and no interceptions for a season-high rating of 134.7.
"I think he's the same old, same old," said Wayne, who has 33 receptions for 468 yards and four touchdowns – all team-highs – this season. "Nothing's changed. It' s just a matter of time before we were able to click on, get things going and hopefully, we can use that as a springboard to continue to win."
Said Dungy, "It's probably a combination of everything, and throwing more balls to these guys, and being more comfortable. It's just feeling in sync."
GAME BALLS: The Colts on Monday awarded game balls to wide receiver Marvin Harrison (offense), defensive end Robert Mathis (defense) and safety Melvin Bullitt (special teams).
Also, Colts Owner and Chief Executive Officer Jim Irsay received a game ball for the franchise's first victory at Lucas Oil Stadium.
A WORRISOME ISSUE: Following a knee injury sustained by third-team running back Mike Hart Sunday, Dungy said the Colts likely will sign a running back this week – possibly rookie Chad Simpson from the practice squad.
Hart, a sixth-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft from the University of Michigan, sustained what Dungy said could be a significant injury in the second quarter Sunday.
Hart underwent an MRI Monday, Dungy said.
"We don't know for sure," Dungy said. "I'm always hesitant to say that, but it does look like it's going to be a little while on Mike."
Third-year veteran Joseph Addai, a Pro Bowl selection last season, sustained a hamstring injury early Sunday and did not return. Dungy said Simpson would be the first possibility at running back, and said second-year veteran Clifton Dawson – who spent time with the Colts last season – also could be re-signed.
Dungy added the Colts will look for "someone who knows system – pass protection and audible system. That's the toughest thing for a back to come in and do, so it would probably be somebody who's familiar with what we do, No. 1."
THE HEAT WAS ON: Sunday's game was a historic one in one sense, with it being the first time the sun had shown in an NFL game in Indianapolis.
The Colts, after playing home games in the RCA Dome from 1984-2007, moved into retractable-roof Lucas Oil Stadium this season, and played two preseason night games followed by another night game against Chicago in the regular-season opener.
The roof was closed for an afternoon game against Jacksonville in Week 3, but it remained open on Sunday on a day when the temperature was 75 degrees at kickoff but reached 84 in the afternoon, according to weather.com.
"It was pretty warm Sunday," Colts middle linebacker and defensive captain Gary Brackett said. "A lot of guys were sweating out there. You could see from the 30-yard line in – the sun was in our face. . . . I was in the shade on the sideline.
"On the field, it was warm out there, but one thing about this team is we're usually pretty well-conditioned. That's how we practice and what our tempo is, so I think we fared pretty well with the temperatures."
Said Wayne, "It felt like a practice, really, with the sunlight, knowing you're at home. It just felt like we were here on West 56th. I like it like that. That way you can stay warm and keep the juices going."
Under NFL rules, the home team determines whether a retractable roof is open or closed, and must decide 90 minutes before kickoff.
"The sun on the sideline was different," Dungy said. "It was much like being at an away game. We haven't had to face that too much. It was warm, being in the sunlight, but I think our guys enjoyed it. Talking to the few fans I did talk to after the game, I think they enjoyed it.
"My thought process always has been, 'If it's a nice day, have it open. For the most part, we'd love to have it open if it's going to be comfortable."
ETC., ETC.: Linebacker Tyjuan Hagler and offensive guard Ryan Lilja will be eligible to begin practice on Wednesday, Dungy said. Each has spent the first six weeks on the Physically Unable to Perform list. . . . Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri kicked off six times Sunday, registering three touchbacks with the other three returns stopped inside the 20-yard line. Vinatieri's kicks went five yards deep in the end zone, three yards deep, five yards deep, nine yards deep, eight yards deep and to the Baltimore 4. . . "Adam kicked the ball exceptionally well Sunday," Colts safety and special teams player Matt Giordano said. "I don't know what it is this year, but he's booming the ball. Hopefully, he can keep that going. He just hangs it up there, kicks it deep and we just hope the returner has enough courage to come out. If he does, we're hoping for a big shot, or definitely inside the 20." . . . Colts running back Dominic Rhodes finished Sunday with 73 yards on 25 carries, and played the final two-and-half quarters as the team's lone option at running back after injuries to Addai and Hart. "We didn't have any doubt that he was going to play well," Dungy said. "It's just a nervous feeling when you only have one back for three quarters of the game. He brings a lot of energy and he gets other excited to play, so it was great to see him have a good day."