COLTS-COWBOYS PREVIEW

The Colts host the Dallas Cowboys Sunday in Lucas Oil Stadium.

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A Capsule Look at the Colts' Sunday Showdown against the Cowboys Dallas Cowboys (3-8) vs. Indianapolis Colts (6-5) Sunday, December 5, 2010 (4:15 p.m. ET) Lucas Oil Stadium (63,000 capacity) – Indianapolis, Indiana Television/Radio: FOX Sports, Sports USA and 1070-The Fan/HANK-FM 97.1THE GAME
On Sunday, two of the league's most celebrated franchises, the Indianapolis Colts and Dallas Cowboys, will meet for just the 15th time since the teams' first meeting on October 30, 1960, and for just the sixth time in the Colts' 27 seasons in Indianapolis.

But despite both teams' rich history, they are not exactly familiar with each other.

And what the two teams thought they knew about each other at the beginning of the season has probably changed, as well.

The Colts have been plagued by injuries on both sides of the ball the entire season. All together, the Colts have had 37 different players start a game at some point this season. The Cowboys entered the season with hopes of becoming the first team to play in a Super Bowl hosted at their home stadium, but lost five of their first six games by one score or less and then lost starting quarterback Tony Romo to a broken collarbone. Then on November 8, the team fired Head Coach Wade Phillips and promoted offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to interim head coach.

Yet, despite the change in the coaches and the close losses this season, the Cowboys remain a very dangerous team.

"No one has ever doubted the fact that these guys have a talented team," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said. "It's certainly one that almost at every position they have a real formidable guy who can play the game. Physically you are going to see one of the best looking teams you have seen in a long time. They are big and fast, and they are playing some inspired ball right now. They are playing well. So, we have our work cut out for us. I think both teams obviously have a lot to play for, and we'll see who can play more consistently."

Caldwell often talks about how hard is to gain one yard in the NFL and how the difference between winning and losing often can come down to just a handful of plays. He does not need to look much further than the Cowboys for an example. Six of Dallas' eight losses this season have been by one score or less, including the season-opener against Washington when the Cowboys scored a touchdown on the final play of the game to tie the score at 13, but were called for offensive holding, negating the touchdown and ending the game with Washington winning, 13-7.

"It is one of those things where there is (a tiny) difference between winning and losing," Caldwell said. "You will see spurts where they play very, very well all throughout the year, when you look back from the first game on. It is just different things that happened where it was a miscue or turnovers or whatever it might have been because those things just cloud the issue because of the games that they ended up losing. They have talent coming out of their ears."

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning echoes his coach, saying the Cowboys' record does not give an accurate indication of the amount of talent Dallas has.

"It's a very talented team," Manning said. "They have a lot of players; big, strong, athletic guys all across the field. I think it will be a tremendous challenge going against their defense because of all the talent they have. (LB-Demarcus Ware) is just an excellent pass-rusher, a guy that you have to factor in every play. They have a number of guys (that are talented). (NT-Jay) Ratliff, in the middle, is a disruptive guy as well. I think their D-line is excellent, their linebackers are very experienced with (LB-Bradie) James and (LB-Keith) Brooking, and two first-round corners outside. Just a lot of talent, really, all across the field."

Despite its slow start, Garrett says the most important thing the team can do is focus on the task at hand on Sunday.

"The biggest thing for us is we have to take care of business," Garrett said. "Anybody who has ever played that team, at that place, understands the challenge that we have ahead of us. We'll let other people talk about where we are, but we've got to be at our best going up there against Indianapolis in all three phases. It will be a great challenge for us."

FOCUS ON THE COLTS
Sunday's loss to San Diego dropped the Colts' record to 6-5 on the season and ensured the team would not win 12 games for a record eighth consecutive season. But what players say they must do now is forget about the last game and focus on the next one.

"I think the most important part that everybody can do around here is stay together and really stay focused on our next goal," Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney said. "Whether we win or lose, it's always the same type of deal with us. We've won games and had to forget about them because the next week we have to do the same thing."

The Colts have not had more than four losses after 11 games since 2001, when the team was 4-7, but they still control their own destiny in the AFC South.

"Most times at 6-5, yes, you're behind the eight-ball in the division," Manning said. "Other teams in the division have had some of the same things happen to them as us, as far as getting on a win streak, losing a few in a row, been somewhat up-and-down. The team that finds some consistency down here in the stretch, I think, is the team that is probably going to win the division. We certainly hope that is us. We have to establish that consistency, and the only way to do that is to take that first step. I do think just because you say, 'Well, we'll play better next week,' that doesn't really do it. You have to go out there and practice better in order to play better. Hopefully, we can translate good work on the practice field to the playing field."

Injuries have played a major role in the team's play this season. The Colts have had the same 53-man roster in consecutive weeks only once, and they still have not fielded the same 11 starters on offense in consecutive games. But Manning and the team will not use injuries as an excuse.

"You're just not going to hear me say that or talk about that," Manning said. "I guess it makes for good discussion. With the guys that are playing, you have to go out there and find a way to do it. It's going to be difficult. It's going to take hard work. It may not be as smooth or easy as it looked in the past. It's never been easy, but it may have looked easy in the past. It's just a matter of continuing to work and keeping the faith and find a way to try to get a win. I do think we are truly in a one-game-at-a-time season. That's our approach with five games left."

Still, the Colts, who have won the AFC South six times in the past seven seasons, are not used to being in this position.

"A lot of guys probably aren't too experienced with the situation that we are in," Manning said. "I think there is not a whole lot to say at this point. An old coach used to say, 'Just continue to saw wood.' Keep working. Everybody try to do their job a little better. For me to do my job a little bit better. Everybody just try to do something better, and hopefully that translates to the field. But I don't really think there is a speech or a pep talk at this point. I think it's a matter of everybody trying to improve their craft, and hopefully that as a group has an effect and better overall play on the field."

Another factor in the Colts up-and-down season has been turnovers. The Colts have the best turnover margin in the NFL since 2004 at plus-65, but this year the team is minus-two in turnover margin.

"The turnovers are things you want to avoid, but you don't want to play scared," Caldwell said. "You still have to play the game and play it aggressively, and we've been able to do that. Right now we're minus-two in turnover margin. We typically aren't there. We have to get back on the right track in that area, which I think we can do. Our penalties is another area that we always look to, to try to make certain that our discipline is there. We had one penalty (against San Diego). In that area, we are in the top-five. We just have to get back to where we were in terms of our turnovers, and we just have to keep working at it. You just work at it, work at it, work at it and keep preaching it and your execution helps you in that regard."

Caldwell, Manning and the rest of the Colts said this week they are confident a continued emphasis on the practice field and meeting rooms can turn the problems plaguing them around in the final five games of the season.

"It's not any one thing," Caldwell said. "That's the thing about it. But it requires work. We just have to be steadfast in that commitment. We try to get to the root of the cause. We don't necessarily try to sugarcoat things. We have to be able to deal with them directly and solve the problem. I think that's the big thing. It's not all the same thing. It's not all the same exact situation that occurs that causes them."

A CLOSER LOOK AT THE COWBOYS
The Cowboys come into Indianapolis with a 3-8 record, but have won two of their last three games.

The 2-1 record coincided with the team firing Head Coach Wade Phillips and promoting offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to interim head coach. Garrett, who was a backup quarterback for the Cowboys from 1993-99, had the team practice in full pads the week he became interim coach and has placed a renewed emphasis on the players' performance in practice.

"We're certainly having better results," quarterback Jon Kitna said. "I think some of the things we are doing and the intensity of the level of practice is certainly helping. It's unfortunate that it takes a coaching change to get you to refocus and focus in on the things you should be taking care of. You shouldn't need a coach to do that. Unfortunately, we've had to have that happen here and that's too bad. But we are where we are. We've played better, but the reality is we are coming off a loss."

One of the first things Garrett did after taking over head coaching duties was call a team meeting to make sure everybody in the room knew the expectations he had for them.

"The Wednesday when we got together after I became the interim head coach we just were very clear with what our expectations were for the players, the coaches and everybody in the organization as to how we were going to do things," Garrett said. "We just tried to lay that out on a daily basis, big picture things, specific daily things, how we were going to play and coach football, and that's what we have tried to do and hold people accountable to what those expectations are. I believe our players and coaches have responded to that. We've had some tough challenges over the last three weeks, and we'll have more to come. We're trying to work hard each and every day to make sure people are doing things the way we want them done."

Garrett says the meeting was important and needed, but the most important message he wanted delivered was everybody had to be more accountable.

"It's about coming to work every day and being your best," Garrett said. "Anybody who is involved in football understands the importance of that. It takes everybody to have success in an organization. It takes players, coaches, support staff, and in order to win on Sunday it takes everybody doing what they can do to be their best, so we can be our best. That's something that we certainly preach as coaches. You've got to come to work, you've got to work hard at meetings and walk-throughs and practice. You keep stacking good days on top of each other, you'll give yourself a chance on Sunday. Don't talk a lot about winning and losing, don't talk a lot about playoffs, just talk a lot about being your best and the pride that comes with that."

The Cowboys have responded since Garrett took over. The team won on the road at then AFC East Division leader New York Giants and then won their first home game of the season the following week against the Detroit Lions. The only loss Garrett and the Cowboys have suffered since he took the reigns is a 30-27 defeat to New Orleans where the Cowboys had a late 27-23, but fumbled deep in Saints territory, which gave New Orleans the opportunity to score the winning touchdown.

"I think we've played reasonably well over the course of the last three games," Garrett said. "We've gone up to New York and played the Giants and won that game. Anyone that has played the Lions understands how they play, and they've played a lot of close games this year, and we were fortunate to win that game. We lost a close one on Thanksgiving to New Orleans. We're not worried about where we were, we're worried about where we are going. We're just asking our players and coaches to come to work each and every day and be at their best. We're trying to do that and again, we need to do that this week against the Colts."

The recent success the team has had has led some to believe Garrett could have the interim label removed from his title, but Garrett said he is not worried currently about that.

"I'm just the coach of the Dallas Cowboys right now," Garrett said. "I've been doing it for the last three weeks. I've been the coordinator down here for the last three-and-a-half years. We're trying our best as a football team to play our best each and every day in practice and to put ourselves in a great position to win on Sundays, and we have a great challenge this week against the Colts."

QUOTABLES
"The Mannings are a legendary football family. Archie was a great football player in his own right. He and his wife have produced two really, really special football players as sons. They are fun to watch, they are fun to follow. It's fun to see how they approach the game. I think anybody who likes football has great respect for what each of those guys has done and certainly for their whole family. I think the similarity would be that we grew up with it. My dad was a coach for a number of years. He was a scout in the NFL for a number of years. We grew up with it. We loved playing football. We probably played more football in the backyard than anybody could imagine. We are fortunate, my brothers and I, to play in high school and college together and now to work together. It's been a great experience for us, football has been a big part of our lives."
-Cowboys interim Head Coach Jason Garrett on the similarities between the Manning football family and his family.

"Super Bowl year, they wrote us off that year, too. Our defense was this and that, our team couldn't do this and that. I get it. You see certain things and you come up with your own (conclusion). But we can't really worry about much outside of the locker room. That's why we've won a lot of games around here because we haven't. We've stayed together and focused on the next game. That's what we are going to do."
-Colts DE-Dwight Freeney on how some people are speculating the Colts will not make it back to the Super Bowl this season.

"I think that oftentimes we try to talk to them about certain aspects of how to look at things and view things. I've always said, and I'll continue to say, that this is not an inspiration by exhortation. Most of our guys are pretty intrinsically motivated, but you still need to give them some direction. You need top pick them up every once in a while, and that's my job. Obviously, our veterans are guys that understand it, but I think that there are still a lot of guys that still need to hear it and talk about it. We need to address some issues that we address on a weekly basis, but the real object is to get better. I think it is better to show than to tell. The proof is in the pudding. We have to go out and play better than we have played, more consistently."
-Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell on how he is motivating the team.

STORYLINES TO WATCH FOR…
1. The Colts Have Done Well Against the NFC
Since the NFL realignment in 2002, the Colts have a record of 27-8 (.771) when playing against teams from the NFC in the regular season. That mark is the second-best record in the league during that span.

The Colts have defeated two of the three NFC opponents they've faced this season. The Colts beat the Giants, 38-14, on September 19 and defeated the Redskins, 27-24, on October 17 before falling to the Eagles in Philadelphia, 26-24, on November 7.

Last season, the Colts went 4-0 in regular-season games against the NFC as the club swept the NFC West. This season, the Colts are playing teams from the NFC East. In 2006, the Colts went 3-1 in games against the NFC East, defeating the Giants, Eagles and Redskins and dropping a contest at the Cowboys.

The Colts have won seven of their last eight meetings against NFC opponents in the regular season.

BEST INTERCONFERENCE RECORDS SINCE 2002
Team                Record     Win Pct.
New England 30-4 .882
COLTS 27-8 .771
Tennessee 26-10 .722
Pittsburgh 24-10-1 .700
San Diego 21-14 .600

2. Colts Offense and Defense Efficient in Red Zone
The Colts, offensively and defensively, rank in the top-10 in red zone efficiency.

On offense, the Colts have scored on 37 of 38 red-zone attempts this season. Their 97.8 percent scoring success rate in the red zone is tops in the league. Of those 37 scoring drives, 26 have been touchdowns, which ranks first in the AFC and second in the NFL in touchdown scoring efficiency. The only time the Colts failed to score in the red zone was when Jacksonville forced a fumble that they recovered late in the fourth quarter of their 31-28 win. Since that turnover, the Colts have scored on their last 25 red-zone drives, scoring a touchdown on 17 on them. The Colts have a scored a touchdown on their last six red zone trips.

On defense, the Colts have held opponents to 16 touchdowns in 35 red-zone attempts (45.7 percent), which ranks fifth-best in the AFC and eighth overall in the NFL.

3. Colts Defense Tough on Third Downs at Home
The Colts defense has held opponents to a 38.2 percent conversion rate (50-131) on third downs this season.

If this season ended today, the defense's third-down percentage would be the unit's best mark since 2005 when they held opponents to a 36.7 conversion rate (76-207).

As good as the numbers overall are, the defense has been even better at home, allowing opponents to only convert 22.6 percent (12-53) of their third-down attempts.

In four of the five home games, the Colts have held opposing offenses to less than 30 percent on third-down attempts, including allowing Kansas City only one third-down conversion and preventing San Diego from having any in last week's game.

COLTS THIRD DOWN DEFENSE AT HOME
OPPONENT    No.-Att.       Percent
NY Giants 3-11 .273
Kansas City 1-10 .100
Houston 3-11 .273
Cincinnati 5-13 .385
San Diego 0-8 .000

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