As Much as 4-0 Record, Head Coach Jim Caldwell Says He Likes That Colts Are Improving
INDIANAPOLIS – So far, Jim Caldwell said there is still a lot to like.
Caldwell, four games into his first season as the Colts' head coach, said as was the case a week ago, a lot of things looked very, very good Monday morning when reviewing the tape from a second consecutive double-digit victory over an opponent from the NFC West.
The Colts' offense moved effectively.
The defense was dominant at times.
And as a result, the Colts – a playoff team the past seven seasons and the AFC South Champions from 2003-07 – are not only one of two unbeaten AFC teams remaining a month into the season, they continue to lead the division by two games at the quarter point of the season.
All of which is great, Caldwell said.
It is just that it does not mean much. Not yet.
"As tough as this league is, as difficult a time as you have winning games in this league, we always believe we have a chance – no question about that," Caldwell said Monday afternoon, a day after the Colts' 34-17 victory over the Seattle Seahawks at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis.
"What we try to do is look at it one game at a time, and every ballgame we went into – yeah, we certainly believed we had a chance to win. But just like everything else, you have to prove it week in and week out."
The Colts (4-0), who lead Jacksonville (2-2) and Houston (2-2) by two games in the division, hold a four-game lead on defending division champion Tennessee, which lost to Jacksonville Sunday. The Colts visit the Titans Sunday on NBC Sunday Night Football.
"They're probably the best 0-4 team I've ever seen," Colts safety Melvin Bullitt said of Tennessee. "When we go down there Sunday, it's going to be a dogfight. They're going to give us everything they have. Record's not going to matter in that game. It's going to be about who wants it more."
Said Caldwell, "They're a very, very tough team. Year in and year out, we've had hard-nosed battles against them. There's no reason for us to expect anything different. It's a very, very thin line between 2-2 and 4-0 and 0-4. It's the bounce of a ball in some cases."
Caldwell, speaking at his weekly next-day news conference at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, said the Seahawks game was a complete victory in all three areas:
• Offense. Quarterback Peyton Manning completed 31 of 41 passes for 353 yards and two touchdowns, leading touchdown drives of 80, 80, 78 and 90 yards. Indianapolis finished with 431 yards total offense, with running backs Joseph Addai and Donald Brown each scoring on runs and wide receivers Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie each catching first-half touchdown passes. "It was a great, solid effort by everyone," Caldwell said.
• Defense. The Colts, after holding Arizona to 24 yards rushing on 12 carries a week ago, held Seattle to 49 yards on 19 carries. Defensive end Robert Mathis had three of the Colts' five sacks and the Colts held Seattle to a field goal until 2:59 remained. "We did a great job of gap control, running to the football and keeping things under control there early in the game," Caldwell said. "We did a great job stopping the run, which was one of the things we stressed as a point of emphasis. We've done a good job there the last couple of weeks. . . . It was a quality day on defense."
• Special teams. Caldwell said while the Colts did not win the field-position battle against Seattle, the units played adequately. "Overall, we kind of held out our own," Caldwell said. "We've got to keep working on that phase."
Caldwell said one area of concern was the performance late in the game, when Seattle cut a 34-3 lead to 17 points with two touchdowns in the final three minutes.
"We didn't finish the game obviously like we'd like to have finished it," he said. "We got a little sloppy there at the end, but overall, it was just a good, solid performance."
Caldwell said what he liked most about the Colts' first four games is not as much the unbeaten record or first-place status, but that the team has improved consistently.
"They get better every week," Caldwell said. "That's the thing we see. We practice better every week. We perform a little better every week. As long as we can keep doing that, I'm going to feel pretty good about where we're headed.
"That's the challenge, that they don't get complacent, that they don't get lethargic and those things are the things we have to fight. If we have humility, I think we'll be OK."