BACK TO WORK

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning on Wednesday spoke to the media following the team's first bye-week practice. He spoke about a variety of issues concerning the team's 1-2 start, primarily that the Colts must improve themselves.

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Colts Focus on Fundamentals, Basics During First Bye Week Practice
INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts talked about basics and fundamentals.

More imantly, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and Head Coach Tony Dungy said early Wednesday afternoon, was that they did a lot more on their first day of bye week practice than talk about those topics.

They worked on them.

Manning, an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, on Wednesday afternoon spoke to the media following the team's first of two bye week practices. He spoke about a variety of issues concerning the team's 1-2 start, primarily that the Colts must improve themselves.

And Manning said he hopes that began Wednesday.

"I think that's where Coach Dungy wants the focus to be – just everybody concentrating on doing their job a little bit better," Manning said. "Hopefully, if everybody does that, that will result in the overall team playing better.

"That's certainly what I focused on today and hopefully, we'll have another good day tomorrow."

The Colts, the five-time defending AFC South champions, split their first two games, losing to Chicago in the season opener, then winning at Minnesota. They lost to AFC rival Jacksonville, 23-21, at Lucas Oil Stadium this past Sunday.

The Colts and Jaguars (1-2) are each two games behind the Tennessee Titans (3-0) in the AFC South.

"I thought today's practice was a good one from our standpoint," Dungy said. "What we talked about was really just focusing in on our fundamentals and going back to work and trying to improve. We practiced with no pads, but got a lot done and I thought had pretty good focus.

"Overall, we're happy with it. We want to have one more good practice day tomorrow. That should do us pretty well for the week."

Manning said although he first thought a Week 4 bye was early, he said the off week may have come at a good time.

"I know from an injury standpoint we can definitely use it as a positive and get some guys hopefully back out on the practice field starting next week to go down to Houston," Manning said, adding that the Colts need to "use this week to get better, to improve.

"We talk about focusing on the Colts and not necessarily preparing for an opponent and worrying about this blitz or this coverage but just worrying about, 'How can the Colts get better?' Hopefully, we can get better this week and use it to our advantage and try to get on some sort of streak starting next week."

Manning said Colts practice on Wednesday, while not in pads, featured the first-team offense working against the first team defense. The Colts will practice Thursday morning, then have Friday, Saturday and Sunday off before returning to practice Monday. Full-scale preparations will begin Wednesday, October 1 for the Colts' game at Houston on Sunday, September 5.

The Colts never have been under .500 entering a bye week in Dungy's six previous seasons with the team, and they have been unbeaten entering the bye week each of the last three seasons.

The last time they entered a bye week under .500 was 1998, Manning's rookie season.

"It's a different feeling," Colts third-year and Pro Bowl safety Antoine Bethea said. "Most of the time, we've been undefeated. Having two losses early in the year, you can't be in panic mode, but at the same time, there are some corrections that need to be made. That's what we're focusing on, the little technique stuff we need to fix up. We need to come back next week, get ready for Houston and get things back rolling."

Colts running back Dominic Rhodes spent his first six NFL seasons with the Colts, and after a season with the Oakland Raiders, re-signed with the Colts this past offseason.

"When you're sitting on another sideline other than this one and in another locker room and in other halftimes with other coaches, you really start to understand the professionalism here and how we do things," Rhodes said. "I'm never worried if we're down or not down, because I know we can come back here. That's kind of how I take everything here. That's why I'm not worried right now. I know we can come back from this.

"This is nothing. This is a bump in the road that we're ready to mow down quickly."

Said Pro Bowl running back Joseph Addai, "You can't decide the season in the first three games. The biggest thing is just staying positive and trying to get better as a team."

Manning said that's a process that started Wednesday, and he said it's a process that starts with himself.

"It's a little thing here or there, but Coach Dungy points out a lot – the little things here or there are enough to get you beat," Manning said. "There's a play here or a play there that we could be 3-0, but we're not and there's a reason for that. We need to earn those plays. Everybody needs to raise their level of play a little bit and as far as I'm concerned, that starts with me."

The Colts' run defense is currently ranked 30th in the NFL, having allowed 199.3 yards per game, including 236 in the loss to Jacksonville this past week. Dungy said this week while the Colts only have allowed 70 points – with 14 coming off opponents' defensive touchdowns – the run defense has limited the Colts' offensive opportunities. Colts opponents have a 35:18-24:42 time-of-possession advantage.

But Manning said Wednesday, "ultimately, it's a team game."

"The key is to feed off each other," he said. "I'm disappointed the other day (against Jacksonville) because (cornerback) Kelvin (Hayden) makes a great play on an interception and gets us great field position. I throw an interception, and give it right back to them and maybe switch the momentum right back to them and they go in and score. That was me not doing the job of feeding off the defense. That's what we'd like to get back to. Those guys are fighting hard. Time of possession is one thing, but they're not giving up many points.

"That's something we as an offense ought to be able to handle. We ought to be able to score more points than we have been scoring in order to win some of these games. That's what we need to do. That starts with our execution, and hopefully, I can do a better job in the quarterback play."

The Colts, who have ranked in the Top 10 in the NFL in total offense the last nine seasons – and in the Top 5 the last five seasons – currently rank 20th, and have produced 52 points in three games.

The Colts, after scoring 13 points in the season opener, beat the Minnesota Vikings, 18-15, in Week 2. On Sunday, the offense produced a season-high three touchdowns, including a 2-yard run by Addai that gave the Colts a late lead over Jacksonville.

"Everybody's got to focus on their side of the ball," Manning said. "Offensively, our job is to score more points and as a quarterback, my job is to protect the ball better and be accurate with the football and make good decisions in the run game and the passing game. That's something I haven't done well enough in two out of the three games and something I plan to do a better job of starting this week and next week. . . .

"You can say it's there, but we have to do it. We have to find that consistency. The flashes don't win games for you. We need to be more consistent. I need to be more consistent and that's how we've won in the past. That's what we need to get back to. You can't just do that on Sundays. It starts with being more consistent in practice each day and each week and building on that. Hopefully, we can find it. I definitely feel like it's there.

"It's definitely somewhere to be found and hopefully, it can come soon."

Dungy said he, too, saw positive signs from the offense against Jacksonville, and that sluggishness offensively is not unusual leaguewide.

"That's what happens with a lot of offenses early in the season," Dungy said. "You're just a little bit off and you get that timing down better as the year goes on. Normally, we've had it early in the year and we just have been a little bit off on some plays that make a big difference.

"We've got to keep chipping away. We'll get there. It's showing signs."

Since Dungy's 2002 hiring, the Colts never have been under .500 after the second week of the season, but when he was the coach in Tampa Bay from 1996-2001, the Buccaneers three times rallied from sub-.500 records to qualify for the postseason – 1999 (3-4 start, 11-5 finish), 2000 (3-4 start, 10-6 finish), 2001 (4-5 start, 9-7 finish). The key after a difficult start said, is not to panic.

"That's the normal thing that happens when you lose games," Dungy said. "You can see it all throughout the league. You have to try to keep your poise and keep your focus, focus in on the things that count and continue to improve. Especially when you haven't lost a lot of games, a lot of times that can take its toll.

"To me, whether you win or lose, you always have to try to keep things in perspective. Sometimes, you win and things aren't going as well as they appear and when you lose, it's generally not going that badly. You have to concentrate.

"You have to zero in on your job. That's the most important thing."

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