INDIANAPOLIS – As the Colts' offense struggled through the first few weeks of the 2011 season, converting red zone trips into touchdowns was at the top of the priority list.
The last two weeks, the offense has seen its emphasis in practice payoff with four straight trips into the red zone yielding four touchdowns.
Right tackle Ryan Diem returned to the lineup against Cincinnati and the 11-year veteran said the key has been finishing off drives.
"(It's) just execution. It's something we've kind of emphasized. We need to get in the red zone and we need to score," Diem said. "We can't get down there and waste a drive, so it's something we've been emphasizing and something that's important to us. The last couple of weeks we have been really good in that area. We practice situational stuff, where if we put ourselves in a position to score we need to take advantage of it."
Starting on its opening drive two weeks ago against Kansas City, the Colts offense marched 80 yards in 12 plays, scoring on a screen pass to wide receiver Pierre Garcon from six yards out. The drive ate up almost half of the first quarter and marked the second straight week the Colts had gotten points on their initial drive.
Later in the first half, the Colts once again went 80 yards. This time the drive took eight plays, and it was capped off by rookie Delone Carter's three-yard touchdown run, the first of his NFL career.
Those drives were the two longest on the afternoon for the Colts, and they converted a combined 10 first downs in the two series.
Each week in practice, the Colts work on situational sequences. The club will continue to so do with the aspiration that the production of the last two games continues.
"Repetition, that's the key. You have to repeat it over and over again and make certain that you have it down," Head Coach Jim Caldwell said.
On Sunday against the Bengals the Colts once again were two-for-two in their red zone trips.
After taking over at their own 34-yard line in the second quarter, the Colts converted four first downs in eight plays as running back Donald Brown scored his first touchdown of the season on an 18-yard run.
"When we are in the red zone we need to capitalize on it. That's our mindset," said Brown. "Obviously getting points on the board with field goals is good, but our goal is touchdowns."
With the Colts down 10 points early in the fourth quarter, quarterback Curtis Painter led a 10-play, 74-yard drive which was finished off by a one-handed Dallas Clark catch on third-and-goal from the Cincinnati one-yard line. The play was executed when two first-down rushes were stopped and the club needed a seven-point possession.
"I don't know what the key is I guess, but we really made an emphasis of it (converting in the red zone) a few weeks prior and we've been working on it a lot more," Painter said. "We've gotten a lot of reps in the red zone, and hopefully that's a key and we will keep doing it."
When looking back at the last three weeks, the Colts are among the NFL leaders in converting 80 percent of their red zone trips into touchdowns. Still searching for their first win, the Colts know that creating more red-zone chances will only help their chances.
"We are in every game and we have opportunities to win. We just haven't found a way to do it and you can't put that on any player. It's just us as a team," center Jeff Saturday said. "We have to find a way to win these games and whoever can go out and make that play, that's what we need to get done."