**A Capsule Look at the Colts' Sunday Showdown Against the Rams
Indianapolis Colts (5-0) vs. St. Louis Rams (0-6)
Sunday, October 25, 2009 (1:00 p.m. EDT)
Edward Jones Dome (66,000 capacity) – St. Louis, MO
Television/Radio: CBS Sports and 1070-The Fan/HANK-FM 97.1
After a 5-0 start to the season and a week of rest, the Indianapolis Colts look to stay undefeated this weekend as they travel to the "Show Me State" to take on the St. Louis Rams.
Sunday's game marks the fourth road contest the Colts have played in six games this season. If the Colts win, they will set the franchise record for most consecutive road wins with eight, dating back to 2008, and extend their current winning streak to 15 games, also a franchise-best.
But in order to set the mark and win Sunday, quarterback Peyton Manning said the Colts would need to regain some of the momentum they created before the bye.
"It really starts with practice," Manning said. "One thing we have been doing around here is preparing well. We've had guys that come into practice, whether it's the starters or scout team, and take care of their jobs. We need to re-establish that this week."
The Colts have won the game following their bye week for the last four seasons. One reason defensive end Dwight Freeney thinks the Colts have been so successful after the week-long break is the team's winning culture.
"We don't take anything for granted, and we go out and play every play like it's our last," he said. "Just play hard and the rest will take care of itself."
The Colts hold an all-time series edge of 22-17-2 over the Rams, but have only played in St. Louis once before, which resulted in a loss in 2001.
In the two team's most recent meeting in 2005, the Colts came back to beat the Rams handily in Indianapolis, 45-28.
On Friday, Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell confirmed what Colts fans have been waiting all year to hear: Bob Sanders is back.
"He's going to play," Caldwell said. "So, we'll probably take a look at him again today and see how he does. He's feeling good. We rested him (Thursday) just to give him an opportunity to get a little freshness for a day. He'll be back at it today and he's doing fine."
Sanders was excited on Friday when discussing his return to the field.
"I'm looking forward to getting in there and playing this weekend," Sanders said. "It's been a long time. I can't wait to put the pads on."
Despite sitting out all of training camp and the preseason, the safety has kept a big presence around the team.
"He has not missed a meeting. He's been at every single situation that he can be a part of. He's listened and grasped all the information he possibly could," Caldwell said. "He's been soaking that in for awhile now. In that regard, we certainly feel he's going to be up to speed. In terms of game speed, that is what practice is for."
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE RAMS
The 0-6 Rams have not had much luck this season.
Two of their games have been decided by three points or less, including a 23-20 loss in overtime to Jacksonville last Sunday.
When looking back at the tape, Rams Coach Steve Spagnuolo said there was one key area in particular the Rams must improve in.
"I think what we learned there is that you have to keep the ball on third down when you're on offense, and you have to get off the field on defense on third down," he said. "If we had done that, who knows, two, three, four times more than we had, maybe, just maybe, the outcome would have been a little bit different."
Thus has been the problems for the Rams in 2009 – a young team with talent, but so far unable to put it together for a victory.
Throughout the week, Caldwell spoke highly of the improving Rams and said they will present plenty of challenges to the Colts.
"We will have our work cut out for us," he said. "They are a handful in terms of what they make you prepare for."
The biggest challenge of all comes at running back, where the Rams start 6-2, 236-pound Steven Jackson, one of the NFL's premier backs and a four-time 1,000-yard rusher.
"Steven Jackson is as big and fine a running back as you'll see," Caldwell said. "He's one of those rare guys that because of his size and power that you anticipate all he's going to do is run over a guy. He can overpower you, but also make you miss. He runs the ball effectively. He catches the ball. He blocks well. You name it, he can do it."
On defense, Caldwell praised the Rams' defensive ends – Pro Bowl selection Leonard Little and rookie Chris Long, the second overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.
"When you watch (Little) on film, he still has that power that can devastate you. He makes plays all over the field," Caldwell said. "(And) Long on the other side is certainly a guy that has ability and power."
The Colts released the game status/injury report on Friday with WR-Anthony Gonzalez (knee), DB-Marlin Jackson (knee) and K-Adam Vinatieri (knee) listed as out for Sunday's game at St. Louis. DB-Tim Jennings (calf), LB-Freddy Keiaho (illness), G-Jamey Richard (illness) and RB-Chad Simpson (illness) were listed as questionable for Sunday. Simpson was listed as full participation for Friday's practice, while Gonzalez, Jackson, Jennings, Keiaho, Richard and Vinatieri did not participate.
• "Especially a bye with a quarterback like Peyton Manning, who we all know studies a team to a 'T'. To give him two weeks to prepare is awfully scary. But that's what it is. That's the way the schedule was made, and we'll go out and play the game. But it certainly does give him a lot of opportunities to figure out what we're doing." – Rams Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo on facing the Colts after their bye week
• "It is still early, but we've had some good years in the past and not so good years, but I really do think that as a group we are gelling together great. From the D-line to the linebackers to the corners and safeties, everyone kind of gets it and is playing together as a unit." – Colts Defensive End Dwight Freeney on the team's defense
• "It's an exciting feeling. It feels good. I've been wanting to be ready for a long time now. It's just being smart about it. The coaches have been great. They've been working through it with me and keeping me mentally in it. (The doctors) told me I was ready to go, everything looks good. Practice has gone pretty good. Reps have been good. Mentally, I'm at a good state. It's an exciting feeling." – Colts Safety Bob Sanders on how excited he is to play this Sunday
STORYLINES TO WATCH FOR…
1) NEW FACES
Colts fans can expect to see a couple of unfamiliar faces lining up on Sunday.
Newly-acquired Matt Stover, a 20-year veteran kicker and the NFL's fifth all-time leading scorer, will fill in for Adam Vinatieri, who is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery.
"He's kicked very well (in practice)," Caldwell said. "Obviously, you imagined he would. The guy is certainly a true professional and very good at what he does. He's done a great job."
Caldwell also said 2009 second-round draft pick Fili Moala will see his first regular-season action of the year. Moala was inactive for the first five games.
Caldwell said the Colts plan to use a four-man rotation at defensive tackle, with third-year defensive tackle Dan Muir and Antonio Johnson starting and second-year veteran Eric Foster and Moala backing them up.
"We have taken a real good look at where we are in that position and feel that (Muir), who has been playing well inside and certainly improving every single week, and Fili Moala are coming along," he said. "We've been watching Fili's progress and can see in our practice sessions that he has been becoming more active. We feel that we will be able to show some improvement in those areas, and those guys will be able to fill in and do well."
Muir, who played with the Colts sparingly last season, is filling the starting void created by recently-waived Ed Johnson, and was described by Caldwell as a "very hard worker."
"He's a guy that pays attention to detail," Caldwell said of Muir. "He's a scrapper in there. He'll fight and give you everything he's got. Dan is a guy that will run to the ball and hustle. He's strong enough to anchor down and hold his responsibilities and make plays in his gap.
"Those are the things that we expect of him. Those are the things we've seen from him in practice, and even when he's been in ballgames, he's been quite effective."
2) ANOTHER BRUISING BACK
Jacksonville's Maurice-Jones Drew, Miami's Ronnie Brown and Tennessee's Chris Johnson are just a few of the star running backs the Colts' defense has faced in 2009.
On Sunday, they can add St. Louis' Steven Jackson to the list.
The back is fourth in the NFL in rushing yards this season and led the league in total yards from scrimmage in 2006 with 2,334. Jackson, like Jones-Drew, presents a two-pronged challenge to the Colts, as a running back and a receiver.
With 120 attempts, only one other running back (Cincinnati's Cedric Benson) has run the ball more times than Jackson in 2009, which is a strong indication the Colts will see plenty of him this weekend.
"The big thing is you very rarely ever see him fall backwards," Caldwell said. "He is always learning forward. He's one of those guys that breaks a lot of tackles. You really don't know how to deal with him."
3) THE MANNING SHOW
It would be hard, if not impossible, for Peyton Manning to improve on his first five games of this season.
Which is instead why he has people asking, "Can he keep it up?"
The Colts quarterback has thrown for more than 300 yards in each of his first five games and currently ranks in the top five in the NFL in completion percentage (73.5 percent), passing yards (1,645), touchdowns (12) and quarterback rating (114.1).
"It's really unbelievable what he is able to do," Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "You watch film, and you can just see the kind of control he has, the patience. He always seems to get his team in the right play, and he makes it seem so easy and effortless when he does it."