**A Capsule Look at the Colts' Sunday Showdown against the Broncos
**Indianapolis Colts (1-1) vs. Denver Broncos (1-1)
Sunday, September 26, 2010 (4:15 p.m. ET)
INVESCO Field at Mile High (76,125 capacity) – Denver, Colorado
Television/Radio: CBS Sports, Sports USA and 1070-The Fan/HANK-FM 97.1**
The old saying, 'If it isn't broke, don't fix it,' doesn't always apply in the NFL.
Coaches and players spend countless hours reworking offenses and defenses, constantly trying to stay ahead of the other teams. Just because a play was successful one time or for one game or for one whole season does not mean it will be successful the next time it is run.
Defenses adjust. Offenses adjust. And the league rolls on.
Broncos safety Brian Dawkins is now playing in his 15th season in the NFL and has seen many changes in his time in the league; new formations, new coverages and new schemes, but what he hasn't seen is too much of a change from the Colts' offense.
"They are who they are (and) they do what they do," Dawkins said. "Peyton (Manning) is going to get up to the line and see what he sees, and he's going to get the (offensive) line and the receivers into the call that he believes is going to beat the defense that is presented in front of him. From there, he's going to manipulate coverage with his eyes and his shoulders and place the ball anticipating his receivers coming out of their breaks. It's been that way for many, many, many, many years. When you've had as much as success as they've had over those years why mess with it?"
That's not to say that the Colts don't make tweaks here and there, because they do. Nor does it mean that the Colts' offense is any easier to stop since defenses have a sense of what is coming, because as Dawkins says, that isn't the case.
"You have to be on your p's and q's the whole game," Dawkins said. "There is never a time when you can relax during the game when you're playing against Peyton. He'll catch you out of position or tipping your hand too fast, and he'll get the offense to the right play to be able to challenge and beat that coverage that you tipped."
And that is just discussing the Colts' league-leading passing game. If you allow the Colts to run the ball, as well, Dawkins says you're creating even more of a monster.
"If you allow them to do both you're in for a long, long day," Dawkins said. "That's something that every defense that's going to face them is going to say the same exact thing. If you're going to pass the ball 50 some times a game they are going to have their shots at making big plays, but defensively you're going to have your chance at making big plays, as well, if they are only doing one. But if they are doing both, they are running the ball and you don't know what they are going to do, that's a long game for you."
The challenge that the Colts offense presents to opposing defenses is formidable and one that Dawkins, who will play his 202nd game in the NFL on Sunday, can appreciate.
"They do a good job of setting everything up they do," Dawkins said. "Their routes are crisp, coming in and out of their breaks. Their timing between Peyton and the receivers is spectacular. I'm pretty sure they work it to death. When they get in the game it's like an engine running. We need to make sure that we do our best to mix things up and play as tight as possible on those receivers because they come in and out of their breaks as well as anybody in the league."
Sunday will be a challenge for both the Broncos and Colts, but Dawkins is looking forward to the matchup.
"If you're a player in the NFL you want to play against the best," Dawkins said. "I think we have enough guys on this side of the ball, and the team in general, that we look forward to that challenge. We know it's going to be a tough game, we know he's going to make some plays, but we look forward to that challenge."
FOCUS ON THE COLTS
A week after throwing a career-high 57 passes against the Houston Texans, quarterback Peyton Manning handed the ball off a career-high 43 times against the New York Giants as the Colts evened their record on the season to 1-1 with a 38-14 win.
The Colts' successful rushing game on Sunday put on hold, at least for one week, the outside perception that the Colts are unable to run the ball.
"I'm of the mindset that they really do everything well," Denver Broncos Head Coach Josh McDaniels said. "It's just a matter of what they choose to do. People say they were in the bottom five in rushing last year, and I say that's because they chose to be. They run the football very effectively, if you don't play the run very well. Peyton is off to a great start, and it seems like ever year he gets better and better. I've had the unfortunate circumstance of having the opportunity to play against him year after year after year both in New England and here in Denver."
McDaniels said that one of the things that makes the Colts special is not only that they have a great quarterback, but also all the tools that Manning has at his disposal and the speed that they all possess.
"Pierre (Garcon) is certainly a down-the-field threat." McDaniels said. "Reggie Wayne, he makes plays underneath. He makes plays down the field. (Dallas) Clark got behind the defense the other day. (Austin) Collie has been behind the defense in the slot. (Joseph) Addai was behind us last year on a wheel route. There are so many different ways that they attack you, and all of those players have good speed. I don't know if there is one that's more than another, but they all seem to have good enough speed to go behind a defense and score touchdowns. Our concern is to try to limit those opportunities and force them to try to go the long way if we can and limit the big plays."
But McDaniels said it is not just the speed the Colts have at the skill positions on offense that make the Colts a tough opponent. It's also their defensive speed and the speed at which they play the game that makes the Colts such a unique team.
"The fastest team that we will play, no question," McDaniels said. "The speed up front is rare. It's not normal. That's why it's so different, in terms of the start of the game, both with their no huddle on offense and the tempo they use there and then the speed of play and style that they use defensively. They're really unique to the Colts in many regards. When you get out there, no matter what you've done during practice to simulate it, it isn't the same. We're going to do everything we can to get ready for those things. I think our players mentally have to be prepared for a different speed. We have a lot of young players that are going to be out there on Sunday and some of them are going to be feeling that for the first time, and we're going to have to lean on some of our veteran players and our leaders that have played against a team like this before."
The Colts are a great way to gauge your team, according to McDaniels, and he expects his team to be ready to play on Sunday.
"We're embracing the opportunity," McDaniels said. "It is a great challenge. We know that they do so many things well that we're going to have to do some things on Sunday. If they get in the red zone four or five times, we're going to have to make a few stops there and force them to kick field goals and take care of the football offensively, so we don't give them too many short fields and opportunities to score quickly. The thing that you have to do is you have to prepare for them to play well, expect them to play well, and you have to put your best performance out on the field and hope that it is good enough."
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE BRONCOS
The Broncos rebounded from a close season-opening loss to Jacksonville by defeating Seattle, 31-14, last Sunday in their home opener.
The team's joy from the win was short-lived, though, as on Monday it had to face the death of teammate Kenny McKinley, a second-year wide receiver on injured reserved.
A very popular player in the organization, McKinley's tragedy hit the Broncos hard and left McDaniels in the delicate position of letting his players grieve while also preparing them for a game.
"Certainly it's not the same week as we are used to going through," McDaniels said. "I think the best thing that we can do is we're going to try to make our preparation as normal as we can, at the same time be very respectful of everybody in the organization that is dealing with Kenny's death in a different manner because we're certainly not all grieving the same way. We're providing any help that anybody might need, encouraging anybody to talk about it whenever they need to, and at the same time we had a normal Wednesday meeting, we had our normal walk through and we're going to try to go out there and work hard and prepare hard because we know there is nothing we can do to change the circumstances. We are going to get ready to play hard. We won't use it as an excuse for anything that happens on Sunday, one way or the other."
The Broncos will be led on Sunday by quarterback Kyle Orton, who has gotten off to a good start this season. The former Purdue quarterback has completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 602 yards, three touchdowns and a passer rating of 103.9 through two games. Orton has some weapons at his disposal in the passing game. Third-year player Eddie Royal leads the team with 13 catches for 163 yards and one touchdown. Brandon Lloyd has caught eight passes for 170 yards and first-round draft pick Demaryius Thomas had eight catches for 97 yards and one touchdown last week against Seattle in his NFL debut.
"They are talented," Caldwell said. "They have a corps of receivers that can just flat go. They are fast, they have great ball skills, good size, very fine route-runners and a quarterback who is throwing the ball very well."
The Broncos also have a talented group of running backs led by second-year pro Knowshon Moreno. Joining Moreno in the Broncos backfield are Correll Buckhalter and Laurence Maroney, who was recently acquired from the New England Patriots.
"I know our defense will have a challenge against their offense," Manning said. "They have multiple formations. It's a complex offense. You have to have a bright guy like Orton to be able to handle that kind of offense. I know its multiple formations, personnel groupings. Our defense will have its hands full."
And Manning and the offense will have their hands full with a veteran Denver defense. Nine of the 11 starters listed on the team's depth chart have accumulated five or more seasons of experience, led by Dawkins with 15 seasons. In fact, cornerback André Goodman is the least experienced defensive back of the Broncos starters, and he is in his ninth season.
"I don't think you can find a more experienced secondary," Manning said. "It's a new defensive coordinator, but a lot of the same personnel. I think (Champ) Bailey and Goodman are as solid a corner tandem as you can find, and there's nothing Bailey hasn't seen. Goodman is in his ninth year, he's a veteran. Dawkins has been around for a long time. There's a lot he has seen, and (S-Renaldo) Hill is a 10-year veteran at safety. A lot of experience there, you're not going to confuse them or trick them. They all still move real well. It's going to be a tough challenge getting open versus that secondary."
Bailey and Dawkins are not just veterans, but two of the most accomplished players to play in the secondary in the last 20 seasons. The duo was in charge of a Denver secondary that intercepted Manning three times, a season-high, in the two teams' meeting last season.
"It's great for our team to have two players like that, that are so decorated and established," McDaniels said. "At the same time, they are just as good a leader as they are a football player, which has been great for our football team the last 18 months. They do a good job of helping us get through times of adversity. Whether that be on the field, off the field, during the week, whatever it may be, they've been great for our team. Like I said, they are great players, too. They play hard. They practice well. They are dedicated to their profession and they impact a lot of people."
The Colts issued their injury/game status report on Friday with the following players listed as out for Sunday's game at Denver: WR-Anthony Gonzalez (ankle), DB-Bob Sanders (biceps) and LB-Ramon Humber (hand). Listed as questionable are RB-Joseph Addai (knee), DT-Eric Foster (knee), WR-Pierre Garcon (hamstring), OT-Charlie Johnson (foot), DB-Brandon King (hamstring) and LB-Clint Session (hamstring). Listed as probable are LB-Gary Brackett (back), DB-Jerraud Powers (foot) and C-Jeff Saturday (knee).
"If somebody else calls a play for a different team and you call a defense that's better than the play that they called, you can get them. That's not going to happen against this team. Whatever play they called, if you have a defense and you say, 'I like that,' (Manning is) going to see it and he's going to change it. He sees things, his preparation — there are no flaws in his preparation, I'm positive of that. We're going to play our (defensive) call, he's going to know it, and he's going to try to run the best play he has against it. And you feel like that on 70 plays. Some other teams, you feel like that 10 or 15 percent of the game. This guy, you feel like that pretty much the whole day. You've got to assume he knows what you're doing."
- Broncos Head Coach Josh McDaniels on QB-Peyton Manning as told to the Denver Post
"I don't care about those things and how people look at me. It's just really going out there and doing my job. I always want to be a well-rounded back, not just a running back. If that's a positive thing, I'm happy for it, but my thing is just going out there and doing whatever coach asks me to do. If I have to go out there and play receiver, I'm going to play receiver. If it's run the ball, let's run the ball. If it's block, it's whatever the coach asks me to do."
- Colts running back Joseph Addai on his versatility
"I think very few of our guys really react to things that are said about them, or I'm not certain that they read it. I know one thing, we come out and we practice hard, we focus in and we try to get better. That's the real key. It's more of intrinsically motivated guys that are the kinds of guys you look for. We don't need any external motivation for the most part. I think we have a large number of guys that are motivated to do their job because that is what they are supposed to do. They have a lot of pride, and I think you see them adjust accordingly."
- Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell on if the offensive line was motivated by people doubting them
"You'll find a great majority of our guys all participate in some form of special teams. Philip Wheeler plays a pretty extensive amount, Antoine Bethea plays, obviously Melvin Bullitt plays, you can go on and on. There are a number of guys that have a role to play. We think special teams is important. If they are important then that means everybody kind of needs to pick up the slack somewhere along the line here, so we get participation from a lot of starters. Our field goal unit is littered with guys that play on our offensive line. Our field goal block unit is littered with starters across the board. There are a lot of guys that participate in that, as well. For us, it's just a different approach, in terms of how we look at our special teams. We do not prohibit starters from participating in that phase. We try to be prudent about it, but it's not taboo."
- Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell on the team's philosophy to have starters play on special teams
STORYLINES TO WATCH FOR… 1. Colts and Broncos have success in September
The Colts like to break their season into four, four-game quarters. Since 2000, no teams have done better in the first quarter than the Colts and their opponent on Sunday, the Denver Broncos.
The Colts have put together a league-best 27-7 record (.794) in the month of September since the 2000 season, while Denver has the second best mark in the league with a 26-11 (.703) record.
Both teams are 1-1 heading into the game and a second loss in the month on September would be extremely rare for both teams. The Broncos only have had two losses in September once since the 2000 season. The Colts had two losses in September of 2008, but before that season the Colts hadn't had two losses in September since the 1998 season, Peyton Manning's rookie year.
Best September Records Since 2000 TEAM RECORD PCT.
COLTS 27-7 .794
Denver 26-11 .703
NY Giants 23-12 .657
Baltimore 21-13 .618
Seattle 21-14 .600
2. Colts looking to re-establish road dominance
A big part of the Colts success in the last decade has been its ability to win on the road. The club has been the NFL's best road team since the 2002 season with a record of 48-17 (.738), but opened this season with a 34-24 setback at Houston.
Manning believes that the Colts' past as a good road team means nothing for this season and that the team needs to go to Denver on Sunday and prove that this year's team also is capable of winning on the road.
"What you've done in the past just doesn't carry much weight as far as this season," Manning said. "We want to establish ourselves as a good road team. We did not get off to a good start in that phase with the first game of the season. We're playing in one of the loudest, most hostile places in the NFL this week and playing against a good football team. It will be a great challenge, but to be a consistent team in this league, and to hopefully be one of the top teams, you have to be able to win on the road."
Colts Road Records Since 2002
3. Manning and Clark have good history against Denver
The Denver Broncos defense was able to intercept Peyton Manning three times in last season's meeting, the most Manning threw all season, but it also gave up four touchdown passes, three of which went to tight end Dallas Clark.
In fact, in the last two games against Denver, Manning has thrown seven touchdown passes and five of them have gone to Clark.
The Denver defense, now led by Don Martindale, their fifth defensive coordinator in five seasons, will most likely be looking to force Manning to find a different weapon in the red zone. The longest touchdown pass Manning has thrown to Clark against Denver in the last two meetings is 10 yards.
4. Both teams excel in close games
Nineteen of the 32 games played this NFL season have been decided by seven or fewer points. While the Colts have yet to play a game decided by seven or less points in 2010, they own the best record in such games since 1990. The Colts have a 93-57 (.620) record in games decided by seven points or less since 1990, while Denver has the fourth-best mark with a record of 78-65 (.545).
Best Win Percentage in Games Decided by Seven Points or Fewer Since 1990
TEAM RECORD PCT.
COLTS 93-57 .620
NY Giants 83-59-1 .584
Pittsburgh 71-53-1 .572
Denver 78-65 .545