A Capsule Look at the Colts' Sunday Showdown against the Eagles
Indianapolis Colts (5-2) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (4-3) Sunday, November 7, 2010 (4:15 p.m. ET) Lincoln Financial Field (69,100 capacity) – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Television/Radio: CBS Sports, Westwood One Radio and 1070-The Fan/HANK-FM 97.1
For the past decade, the Indianapolis Colts and the Philadelphia Eagles have been two of the NFL's most successful franchises. The two teams rank first (Colts) and fourth (Eagles) with the best regular-season records since 2000, while both teams have combined to make 17 playoff appearances, advance to eight conference championship games and been to three Super Bowls.
BEST REGULAR SEASON RECORDS IN NFL SINCE 2000
TEAM RECORD WIN PCT.
COLTS 120-47 .719
New England 118-49 .707
Pittsburgh 108-58-1 .650
Philadelphia 107-59-1 .644
Green Bay 100-68 .595
With those great regular season records has come the ability of stringing multiple wins together. Since the 2002 season, the Colts and Eagles have won five or more consecutive games a combined 14 times. The Eagles' longest win streak is nine in 2003 while the Colts' longest win streak (also an NFL record) is 23 games, which began in the final nine games of the 2008 season and extended through the first 14 games of the 2009 season. The Colts last season extended their NFL record as the only team to win seven or more consecutive regular-season games in six consecutive seasons.
"I think it's a joint effort," Philadelphia Head Coach Andy Reid said. "It's good coaches, good players and good ownership and front office. I think those are similarities in our situation between the Colts and the Eagles. And then you add the hard work in and the leadership and the locker room, all those things."
Having every different piece of the organization together and focused is something both head coaches touch on as keys to their franchises' success, as the only true guarantee in the NFL is that a new problem or hurdle will surface every week.
"It's got to bounce the right way for you every once in a while," Reid said. "There are a lot of things that go into that, too, injuries and things like that. You look at the Colts right now; they've done a phenomenal job overcoming injuries. We've had guys step up for us here and fill in some big shoes and just do a real nice job for us. That comes back to your personnel department. Bill Polian is absolutely phenomenal. Howie Roseman here is absolutely phenomenal. There is a lot that goes into that."
Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell says the Colts' ability to stay focused on only the next game has been critical in helping the team string wins together so often for the last few seasons.
"You do that by focusing in on the task at hand more so than anything else," Caldwell said. "You can do it a variety of ways. We've in years past have had the focus and presence of mind just to kind of narrow everything down, reduce it to the lowest common denominator, just look at the next game, let's focus in on that game and see where we are afterwards.
"The way we do it is probably just the opposite of the way one may think. (It) is because of the fact we don't talk about it, don't think about it. All we do is look ahead at the next game, and only that game is what's important. And we try to do everything we can do to get ourselves in position to win the next one, because that's what counts. We don't deal with all of those things. I think on the periphery it makes good theater, but the fact of the matter is we cannot, and will not, look beyond the next opponent. Like we say, we go out, we play, let's add them up at the end of the season and see where we are."
The Colts are steadfast in their philosophy, even in a season that hasn't seen the Colts start out with a big win streak. The Colts, who have been wire-to-wire AFC South division winners four times since 2005, have continued with their one-game-at-a-time approach.
"We've never even discussed it in that regard because so often around here, it's been done quite a few times, it's not unique in that sense," Caldwell said. "Some of these guys in the locker room have been on teams that have done it time and time again. That's not a real issue for us. What is an issue is Philadelphia. That's important. That's where our focus lies."
FOCUS ON THE COLTS
Colts players have said in the past that after a Sunday game it usually is not until the middle of next week before they truly feel like the aches and pains from the game are gone.
This is not a big deal most weeks, as every NFL player faces nearly the same recovery process. But with the Colts coming off a Monday Night win over Houston, the players' time to recover and prepare for the next game is shortened.
It is a challenge that Caldwell and his coaching staff knew they would have to face. And in addition to fatigue, which he said is the number one difficulty that arises from a short week, Caldwell said there is another key issue: preparation.
"Usually you have a Monday, in terms of your preparation, and then a Tuesday, so it's one day shorter in terms of your preparation for that week for your coaching staff," Caldwell said. "But we tried to preempt that a little bit. We worked on (Philadelphia) during the bye week. We tried to establish a pretty clear picture of what our game plan would be against them, knowing that we were going to be a little short this week. That's the biggest thing, those two factors. Your preparation does indeed change a little bit. Probably you have to consider doing some things a little different because of the fact you're back on the field so quickly after a late game, just in terms of the intensity of your practice on Wednesday and Thursday, probably."
The Eagles had a bye last week, which means when the two teams face off on Sunday afternoon, the Colts will have had just five days of rest while the Eagles will have had 13.
"We focused in on ourselves, in terms of our practice regimen," Caldwell said. "The coaches had a couple days and they looked at all (Philadelphia's) film and studied, and the nice thing about it is they didn't have another game to add to the breakdown because they were off this past week, so we really, literally had the information we needed to come up with a pretty good early game plan."
Making things difficult for the Colts is Philadelphia has never lost coming off a bye week under Reid. The Eagles are 11-0 since Reid took the reigns of the Eagles. However, the Colts have had success overcoming the difficulties a short week presents. Since 2004, the Colts have played in 13 games where the time between games was less than seven days. In those games, the Colts are 11-2.
"I'm not certain it's a key, but there is a way we go about it," Caldwell said. "Typically, we just kind of look back at previous schedules that we've done before and utilize those as our baseline, but every year is different. The nature and health of your team have to be taken into consideration. What I'll do is take a look at it and modify it if need be. Short weeks are interesting. I used to always like them, to be honest with you. Number one, it forces you to narrow your scope quickly. It forces you to sort of reduce your game plan and just settle in on a few things. Oftentimes, the more time you have, sometimes the more things you dream up. Also, I like it because of the fact that the guys have short, crisp, sharp practices often because of the fact that you don't want to wear them out anymore. Thus, it gives you an opportunity to play fairly well. I'm not certain that will be the case this week, but that will be our goal."
COLTS SHORT-WEEK GAMES SINCE 2004
YEAR OPPONENT RESULT DAYS BETWEEN GAMES
2009 at Arizona W, 31-10 5
2009 at Jacksonville W, 35-31 3
2008 vs. New England W, 18-15 5
2008 at Jacksonville W, 31-24 3
2007 at Carolina W, 31-7 5
2007 at Atlanta W, 31-13 3
2006 at Houston L, 24-27 5
2005 at Houston W, 38-20 5
2005 vs. Houston W, 31-17 5
2005 vs. Tennessee W, 35-3 5
2005 at Seattle L, 13-28 5
2004 vs. Houston W, 49-14 5
2004 at Detroit W, 41-9 3
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE EAGLES
The Eagles are 4-3 and second in the NFC East division as they come off their bye week and face the Colts.
The bye week has allowed injured quarterback Michael Vick to return to the team. Vick started games two through four for the Eagles, but was sidelined with a rib injury for the last three games.
"He is a totally different entity than anybody we've seen play the position at this point," Caldwell said. "There are quarterbacks that can run, (Washington Redskins QB-Donovan) McNabb is a guy that can run. He can extend plays. He does it with power. You hit him, he bounces off of you. He's a big guy. In this particular case, Michael Vick can extend plays, but he does it with speed, and not only that, much like McNabb, he can hurt you down the field. Once he gets out in the open field, he's a handful, difficult to handle. Preparation for him is a lot different than anybody we've faced."
Vick has rushed 26 times for 187 yards and one touchdown this season, but it's his passing game that has really stood out. Vick has a 108.8 passer rating and has completed 59-of-96 passes for 799 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions so far this season.
"He is one of those guys that has the ability to do a lot of damage in two phases," Caldwell said. "Oftentimes you will run into a guy that's one-dimensional. Maybe he throws the ball extremely well and is a pocket passer. This guy can throw from the pocket, has a strong arm, but he also can beat you outside of the pocket as well, and not just in the framework of a guy who is a running quarterback and once he leaves the pocket that you have to contend with him as a ball carrier, but he also keeps his eyes down the field. He extends plays and yet still he has the ability to create opportunities for his receivers if they just keep moving along with him. He is very dangerous."
The Eagles have surrounded Vick with a lot of weapons, from running back LeSean McCoy, who has rushed for 477 yards this season and leads the team with 38 receptions, to wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson, who have caught 49 passes for 853 yards and nine touchdowns between them.
"They're very good," Caldwell said. "They're guys that have an amazing ability to create opportunities for themselves in space. They catch the balls in open areas and they can run. They can run away from you. They can wiggle. Running after the catch is something you see them do constantly. They catch short passes that turn into huge gains. They are a very, very dangerous crew. What we have to do is really focus in. They're going to catch some balls, there's no question about that, they're too good. But we have to keep them contained."
On defense, the Eagles are in their second year under defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. Philadelphia's defense relies on different formations and constant pressure to product turnovers. They have 16 takeaways this season after totaling 38 last season, third-most in the NFL.
"They are a pretty active bunch," Caldwell said. "They know what they are doing. They know (how) to get to you. They know how to create problems for you."
Of those 16 turnovers, 11 have been interceptions, as the Eagles' secondary has been very opportunistic this season. Safety Nate Allen and cornerback Asante Samuel are tied for the team lead with three interceptions.
"Asante Samuel is the guy that kind of leads the way for them back there," Caldwell said. "He's a guy that runs well, he's certainly been around the block a little bit, so he understands the position. He's seen a little bit of everything. He anticipates extremely well. He's got extraordinary ball skills. I think obviously he's one of those guys that you have to keep your eyes on. (Dimitri) Patterson, it looks like is going to play the other side. (Ellis) Hobbs was there. In either case, they're both guys that can run and play the game. Allen at safety is a very, very good safety. They do give you some problems. They show you a lot of different looks. They're able to give you some blitzing looks that sometimes may not look quite like a blitz. They're pretty good in terms of disguising. All around they're a good solid secondary."
While the Colts only play the Eagles once every four years, they know Philadelphia and its home crowd will equal a tough challenge.
"The last three times we've played them, it was always the late Jim Johnson, who God rest his soul was just an outstanding coach, an outstanding human being, but you see a lot of the same philosophies in this new style of defense they're playing," Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said. "The new coordinator, they're a very good defense, a very opportunistic defense. That's why I think it will be a tough challenge. And if it's anything like The Vet, it's going to be a loud place to play."
The Colts issued the injury/game status report on Friday with the following players listed as out for Sunday's game at Philadelphia: DT-Antonio Johnson (knee) and DB-Bob Sanders (biceps). RB-Joseph Addai (neck) is listed as doubtful, while the following players are listed as questionable: WRs-Austin Collie (hand) and Anthony Gonzalez (knee), LBs-Kavell Conner (foot) and Clint Session (elbow), OT-Ryan Diem (quad), TE-Brody Eldridge (rib), RB-Mike Hart (ankle), DBs-Jacob Lacey (foot), Jerraud Powers (foot) and Justin Tryon (foot) and DE-Robert Mathis (knee).
"We were just in the meeting room talking about Dwight and how he sacked me four times at Syracuse when I was at Virginia Tech. A great player, a dynamic player, I thought he was going to have a great NFL career. It doesn't look like he's lost a step at all, I'll tell you that."
-Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick on Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney.
"Certainly. He is unflappable. He's smart. The moment is not too big for him and he gets in there and loves to play. He has great passion for the game. He is a good football player. Oftentimes you will kind of label guys and say he may not have all of the numbers you would like to see in terms of what we consider to be the basic sort of standard for guys playing in this league, but there are other guys you look at and say, 'Hey, that guy is a football player,' and that is Blair White."
-Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell on rookie wide receiver Blair White.
"First, we believe in it. That's where it starts. Second is the fact that we don't allow injuries to become an excuse. Once those things start filtering in, then obviously I think you have difficulty getting the level of play that you're looking for. Those are probably the two main reasons. The third one I would say is a transfer of information that I think is extremely important, from veteran players to younger guys. They (veterans) rally around them. They support them, they give them the information that they need. You have veterans that have been around quite a bit and understand this system well. They make certain that younger guys are taken care of. That transfer of information I think is really important."
-Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell on the team's 'Next Man Up' philosophy.
STORYLINES TO WATCH FOR…
1. Colts have won 13 straight November games
The Colts have won their last 13 games in the month of November dating back to the 2007 season, the longest active November win streak in the NFL.
In fact, the Colts have the best record in November games since the 2000 season. The Colts are 32-12 in November since 2000, while Sunday's opponent, Philadelphia, has the second-best record in that time span at 28-14-1.
The last time the Colts lost in November was November 11, 2007, when they fell to San Diego, 23-21.
BEST NOVEMBER RECORD SINCE 2000
TEAM RECORD WIN PCT.
COLTS 32-12 .727
Philadelphia 28-14-1 .663
New England 27-14 .659
Tennessee 24-15 .615
Baltimore 27-17 .614
Minnesota 25-17 .595
COLTS 13-GAME NOVEMBER WIN STREAK
Date Opponent Result
11/1/10 vs. Houston W, 30-17
11/29/09 at Houston W, 35-27
11/22/09 at Baltimore W, 17-15
11/15/09 vs. New England W, 35-34
11/8/09 vs. Houston W, 20-17
11/1/09 vs. San Francisco W, 18-14
11/30/08 at Cleveland W, 10-6
11/23/08 at San Diego W, 23-20
11/16/08 vs. Houston W, 33-27
11/9/08 at Pittsburgh W, 24-20
11/2/08 vs. New England W, 18-15
11/22/07 at Atlanta W, 31-13
11/18/07 vs. Kansas City W, 13-10
2. The Colts Have Done Well Against the NFC
Since the NFL realignment in 2002, the Colts have a record of 27-7 (.794) 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 both 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.
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 their last seven regular season games against NFC competition.
BEST INTERCONFERENCE RECORDS SINCE 2002
Team Record Win Pct.New England 29-4 .879
COLTS 27-7 .794
Tennessee 26-9 .743
Pittsburgh 24-10-1 .700
San Diego 21-14 .600
3. Colts Defense Has Been Solid on Third Downs
The Colts defense has been very effective on third downs this season, holding opponents to a 36.9 percent conversion rate through the first seven games of the season.
That is more than an eight-percent improvement over last season's third-down defense when opposing offenses converted 104 of 231 attempts for a 45 percent success rate. From 2006-09, opposing offenses averaged to convert 46.1 of third downs against the Colts.
Over the past three games, the Colts have held opposing offenses to a 23.5 percent success rate on third downs (8 of 34). In last week's game against Houston, the Texans failed to convert on their first six third down attempts as the Colts raced to a 24-3 lead.
COLTS DEFENSE ON THIRD DOWNS SINCE 2006 Season Made/Att. Pct.2010 31/84 .369
2009 104/231 .450
2008 100/211 .474
2007 94/208 .452
2006 90/191 .471