INDIANAPOLIS – Life in the NFL stays on a fast track. In terms of establishing a mindset for moving ahead, outcomes from the previous day mean much less a mere 12 hours after they happen.
Successes quickly are forgotten as a new challenge dawns, while setbacks seem to remain a bit more vivid and those must be dealt with as well because a new test is at hand.
Indianapolis suffered a 23-20 last-second loss on Sunday night at home to Pittsburgh. The Colts overcame a 10-point deficit with a flurry of second-quarter points for a lead that stood up into the fourth quarter. After surrendering the lead, the Colts tied a tight defensive battle behind back-up quarterback Curtis Painter, only to fall with a last-second field goal.
After the contest, cornerback Jerraud Powers put perspective on the outing, the approach by the players and coaches and just how quickly the process moves from a just-completed game and the need to keep preparing.
"I think everybody out there gave everything they had. It's hard to lose a game in the last seconds to a field goal," said Powers. "The Steelers made plays when they had to. Even though we fought hard, we didn't do enough to win the game. That's what really matters, winning the game. This hurts a bit. This one might hurt a bit because it went down to the last four seconds of the game. We felt like we had it, but we let it slip from our hands. What Joe (Addai) said about getting back to the drawing board, it's the basics and fundamentals of the game. Coach Caldwell preaches that a lot, that the fundamentals take you a long way. We're going to go back to practice this week, correct the mistakes and go out there and play again. Tomorrow (Monday) around 2 p.m., we'll be thinking about the next game."
Powers enunciated succinctly how the club will move on. It is what every team does.
Prior to the 2 p.m. team meeting on Monday, Caldwell addressed the Pittsburgh game and saw improvements in areas that relate to victory, and he hopes the pattern of play will continue. If so, he feels good about the remaining time ahead this season.
"It's still one of those things where we still have a lot of time left at this point to get some things done. We have to keep improving," said Caldwell. "I think we have been improving little by little, but have to make another jump to get over the hump where we can get a victory and then try to string a few together. I told them (after the game) they played extremely hard. The effort they give is very good. It's the kind of effort we anticipate and expect. We just have to build on the things we've done well and keep doing those things, eliminate the other problems we've had.
"(In) this particular game, we eliminated a lot of problems. We won the turnover battle. The penalties were about where we wanted them, about three per game. You look at our drive start average and we did a lot of things real well. We just have to make certain we continue in that vein, and I think things will turn in our favor at some point in time."
Average drive starts for Indianapolis have been an issue in the first three games. At Houston, the Colts had an average starting point at their 30-yard line for 12 possessions. Eight of 12 drives started that day began at or inside the 20-yard line. The average start point for the Colts offense against Cleveland was the 22-yard line and eight of 12 possessions originated at or inside the 20-yard line. Against Pittsburgh, seven of 12 drives started at the same point, but Indianapolis was able to start one drive at midfield and one at the Pittsburgh 12-yard line, along with having a defensive touchdown. The average drive start against Pittsburgh was the 28-yard line, but the three drives that started in advantageous position (at midfield or in opponents territory) against the Steelers tripled the number of those drives combined from the Houston and Cleveland games.
Conversely, Indianapolis was able to force Pittsburgh to start at an average of its 26-yard line (aided by five touchbacks by Pat McAfee, who also averaged 44.4 yards on seven punts). The Texans (own 35-yard line) and Browns (own 42-yard line) enjoyed far better drive starting averages than did Indianapolis.
Three Colts takeaways against Pittsburgh helped create 13 points, a total that allowed Indianapolis to enter the fourth quarter ahead for the first time in 2011. Defensive ends Dwight Freeney (2.0-20) and Robert Mathis (1.0-3) combined for sacks together for the 29th time in the regular season since 2003, and Indianapolis is 24-5 in such games.
Caldwell on Monday revisited his post-game praise for Freeney, who now has 97 career sacks and who against Pittsburgh had his 23rd career multiple-sack game. Film review only enhanced what Caldwell thought of Freeney's play when he used the terms, 'extraordinary and unbelievable.'
"I'm not certain I've seen a better performance out of Dwight Freeney since I've been here," said Caldwell. "When you look at all the entire things he did during the course of the game, go back and look at the film, Dwight was a force. He played well.
"Robert (Mathis) played hard as well as usual. There were a lot of guys who played very, very well. Unfortunately, we just didn't get the outcome that we wanted, but there were some good performances along the way."
Two other Colts figures, cornerback Jerraud Powers and Vice Chairman Bill Polian, chimed in last night about Freeney's play and that of the defense.
"Dwight's a smart football player," said Powers. "He sort of has that feeling when it's time to make a play, and it happens more times than not. He does a tremendous job whenever he gets a sack. He causes havoc."
"That was championship defense that we played, especially in the terribly adverse conditions with the punt return and the situation where the sack-fumble that became a touchdown," said Polian. "The result was not what we wanted, but I don't know that we've played as hard in a long, long time as we played (Sunday). It was Colts football."