INDIANAPOLIS –* *Looking to jumpstart the 2011 season, the Colts will return to the site of one of the most memorable regular season victories in club history. Almost eight years to the day when the Colts erased a 21-point deficit with less than five minutes to play and won in overtime, Indianapolis heads back to Raymond James Stadium to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football.
The injury bug hit the Colts this past week with linebacker Gary Brackett and safety Melvin Bullitt being placed on injured reserve.
Linebacker Pat Angerer filled in admirably for Brackett last week by racking up 20 tackles at middle linebacker. The 20-tackle performance put Angerer ahead of any other player in the NFL in that category.
Angerer helped lead a Colts defense that held Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall to 2.1 yards a carry last Sunday night.
The Colts will face another power back this week as they face second-year pro LeGarrette Blount and his 247-pound frame.
"He's a big guy, kind of like (Peyton) Hillis. Big guy, runs hard and it takes a couple of guys to take him down," said Angerer. "He's a good back, and they've got a good O-line. They work well together and their quarterback's mobile, so it will be a big challenge."
Blount is coming off a rookie season in which he led all first-year players in rushing yardage.
Fellow rookie Mike Williams was also topped all first-year players in an offensive category, reception yards. Blount and Williams' accomplishments marked the first time since 1968 that rookies on the same team led the NFL in rushing and receiving.
Williams led all rookies in yardage (964), receptions (65) and touchdowns (11).
One of the youngest teams in the NFL, Tampa Bay started 10 rookies in 2010 and became the first team to accomplish that feat while having a winning season.
Quarterback Josh Freeman is in his third season but at age 23, is younger than both Blount and Williams. Freeman finished 2010 with the sixth-best quarterback rating in the NFL when he passed for 3,451 yards and 25 touchdowns.
At 6-6 and 248 pounds, Freeman marks the second straight week Indianapolis will face a quarterback bigger than half its defense.
"He's a big, strong, physical quarterback. I watched some film on him today, and he's escaping the pocket, running down field and it's like he's refusing to slide," cornerback Jerraud Powers said. "He's trying to take whatever shots defenders are trying to give him and run over guys. He's got a strong arm, a smart guy and you can see when you watch film that he's a tremendous leader out there. He's kind of similar to Big Ben (Roethlisberger). Now, I don't want to compare him and Big Ben, because (Ben has) two Super Bowls and all that. But (Josh Freeman) has the same size, and it's going to take more than one guy to bring him down. It's going to be a tough challenge."
On the defensive side of the football, the Bucs are led by 15-year veteran Ronde Barber who has started 186 consecutive games which is the most by a cornerback in NFL history.
Coming out of the Steelers game, the Colts defense is riding some momentum after forcing three turnovers and scoring one touchdown last Sunday. The Colts' seven takeaways are tied for fifth-most in the NFL and the defense has forced seven fumbles.
Defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis each had a sack against the Steelers. For Freeney it was the 37th sack he has had in the past 48 games, with Mathis having 34 sacks during that time frame.
Without Brackett and Bullitt, the Colts know there is no time for excuses and it is just 'Next Man Up.'
"It's very unfortunate. You never want to see that, but, obviously, they've been taking a lot of hits," said Freeney. "From a health standpoint, now it gets even worse. But games are still going, and somebody's going to have to step into their place and make plays."
Colts 33, Buccaneers 14 – October 7, 2007
Playing without five injured starters, the Colts led the Buccaneers from start to finish at the RCA Dome. Running back Kenton Keith filled in for Joseph Addai and rushed for 121 yards and two touchdowns. Tight end Dallas Clark caught a first-quarter touchdown pass from Peyton Manning and finished with seven receptions. Manning and the offense were also without Marvin Harrison, but Reggie Wayne filled in with a touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter to make the score 30-7. Rookie wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez caught seven passes, one more than he had caught in the first four games combined. The time of possession was almost two-thirds in favor of the Colts as Tampa Bay only had the ball for 90 seconds in the third quarter. The Colts came into the game at 4-0 and would start the 2007 season winning their first seven games. The win over the Buccaneers also marked the 12th straight victory at the RCA Dome for the Colts.
The Indianapolis quarterback against the Buccaneers defense: Kerry Collins did not practice on Thursday. The team has made no announcement on who will start on Monday. In replacing Collins last week for the final quarter, Curtis Painter showed the resiliency his team needed when he led the offense on an 80-yard touchdown drive to tie the score at 20 with 2:09 remaining. On the drive, Painter was five-for-seven passing for 60 yards before Addai finished it off with a six-yard touchdown run. Indianapolis will see a very similar defense to what it sees in practice since Tampa Bay runs the Cover-2.
Buccaneers running back LeGarrette Blount against the Colts defense: Another power running back will line up against the Colts Monday Night as Blount weighs in at 247 pounds. After only having five carries in week one, Blount has carried the ball 13 and 24 times respectively in the last two weeks. The Colts run defense was exceptional against the Steelers holding Rashard Mendenhall to 2.1 yards a carry. Linebacker Gary Brackett and safety Melvin Buillitt were both placed on injured reserve this week and if the Colts defense wants to neutralize Blount, it must get the same type of play it got last week from its backups.
-The Colts have a 9-2 record on Monday Night Football, including winning their last two games in 2009 and 2010.
-The Colts rank tie for eighth in the NFL in turnover differential at 2.
-Wide Receiver Reggie Wayne is 56 yards away from 11,000 for his career.
-From 2002-10, the Colts have finished in the top 10 in scoring defense fives times, which is fourth-highest among all NFL teams during that time frame.
-Kicker Adam Vinatieri has scored at least one point in 117 straight games.
-Tampa Bay is 9-9 all-time on Monday Night Football.
- Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris the youngest coach in the NFL at 35 years old.
-The Buccaneers are the youngest team in the NFL with an average of 25 years of age, including 17 undrafted free agents on their roster.
- Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber has 11 career fumble/interception returns for touchdowns in his sterling career.
-The Buccaneers lead the NFL with eight double-digit comeback wins since 2008. The Colts rank second with six.
Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell (on the play of the quarterback Curtis Painter against the Steelers):
"After he got going there, obviously there was one series where it was a sack fumble and he got hit from behind, but after that he came back and did a nice job. He moved the ball well, made some nice throws managed the game well, and was able to take us down the field 80 yards and get that thing (football) in the end zone, which was a heck of a drive. I think he did pretty well, in particular, not having many reps in preparation for the game."
Colts quarterback Curtis Painter (on getting consistent play from the quarterback position):
"Absolutely. Our big focus last week was trying to focus on third downs and red zone, so I think that will continue to be our focus going forward. I think that will be big for us. To sustain those long drives, and then, obviously, to cap those off at the end."
Colts defensive end Robert Mathis(on the team's mindset right now):
"We need to win. Winning makes everything better, so we're just going to stay on the grind and keep doing what we're doing. We're just going to keep chopping wood."
Buccaneers Head Coach Raheem Morris(on coaching a very young team):
"Young and hungry. The term we use around here right now is 'youngry.' These guys, they're coming out every day and they're getting better and better. We've got the youngest football team in the National Football League. I've got babies that we're teaching and are learning how to play the game the way we do it, and I'm loving it. I've got some core vets here, like Ronde Barber, I'm teaching them the right way, all the stuff that was instilled in us, starting with Coach (Tony) Dungy then Coach (Jon) Gruden, who will be doing Monday Night Football this week. So we're excited to be at home. We're excited to be back, and a team that's impossible to ignore. That's what we want to be, and I'm really loving where our team is going and the direction."
Buccaneers Head Coach Raheem Morris(on quarterback Josh Freeman):
"He's learning from the best. He's got Greg Olsen and he's got Alex Van Pelt here that he's learning from. They're doing a great job with him, and he's done a great job of being a student of the game. He loves to study all of the great quarterbacks in the game, including the one that you guys usually cover during the season. Peyton Manning is one of those guys that you look at, you study from, you learn from, you watch him control the offense, you watch him know every single thing that's going on and you want to be like that. Josh wants to compare himself to the very best. The Tom Brady's of the world and the Peyton Manning's of the world, and he's studying those guys. He wants to know what they do and how they do it. I give the kid a lot of credit for putting forth the work. He's wise beyond his years, and he's getting better and better. He's a clutch-performer that absolutely loves the moment, and he loves the ability to come out there and win for his football team. He says it best, 'He loves to win, more than he's afraid to lose."
Buccaneers offensive tackle Jeremy Trueblood(on the Indianapolis native growing up as a Colts fan):
"I was a huge Colts fan. I watched every game on TV when I was little, and I definitely wanted to grow up to be a Colt. It didn't happen that way, and I've really enjoyed my time down here in Tampa. I still kind of keep track of the Colts. My whole family, they're all Colts fans. They've converted to Bucs fans, but they still root for the AFC Colts team. I still follow them, and I'm happy that they've had a lot of success. When I was younger they weren't quite as successful, so it's definitely gotten better since I left."
Buccaneers offensive tackle Jeremy Trueblood(on facing Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis on Monday Night Football):
"(It is) definitely going to be a good challenge. I played against them in 2007, and we played up there. The end result wasn't pretty for us, but I got some good work against them. I know what kind of rushers they are, like I said, I watch a lot of Colts games on TV, so I've seen plenty of them. I feel really prepared, and it's going to be great to play on Monday Night Football against a great D-line. I look forward to the challenge."