A Capsule Look at the Colts' Sunday Showdown against the Redskins
**Indianapolis Colts (3-2) vs. Washington Redskins (3-2)
Sunday, October 17, 2010 (8:20 p.m. ET)
FedExField (91,704 capacity) – Landover, Maryland
Television/Radio: NBC Sports, Westwood One Radio and 1070-The Fan/HANK-FM 97.1**
The Colts travel to Washington D.C. to take on the Redskins Sunday for only the fourth time since the club moved to Indianapolis.
Washington, who the Colts haven't defeated on the road since 1967, only has been on the schedule once every four years since NFL realignment in 2002, but the unfamiliarity between the two franchises does not offer as many advantages or disadvantages as it would seem.
"Obviously, you do not know them as well as you know people in your division or those that you have played on a consistent basis over the years," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said. "That's what I think makes the game exciting. It gives us a chance to see a little different group of guys, a change in schematics and it gives us a real challenge in that regard. Film study these days certainly affords everyone the opportunity to prepare for the opposition pretty thoroughly."
The Colts, who play four NFC teams each season in the current scheduling format, have a 11-2 record in the past three seasons against the NFC. In 2006, the last time the Colts played teams from the NFC East, the club went 3-1, defeating Philadelphia, Washington and the New York Giants and losing to Dallas.
"I've always said it's an equal thing," Peyton Manning said. "We really don't know much about some of these players. We haven't played against a lot of these guys. I think it works for both teams. There is always a little bit of an unknown."
The Colts and Redskins, who are both tied for the lead in their divisions, certainly do not have unknowns at quarterback. Manning and Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb have combined to throw for nearly 86,000 yards while leading their teams to eight conference championship games and three Super Bowl appearances in their careers.
"We are two of the more experienced veterans that are playing in the league," McNabb said. "Peyton and I both came out of high school at the same time and have had some success in this league. Still, we both look to get better each year. Obviously, my situation is a lot different than his, but we both have that same mindset."
A team's mindset is often important when facing the Colts' high-powered offense. Some teams place a high emphasis on ball control and limiting the number of possessions that the Colts have, but McNabb said that will have no bearing on him and his offense this weekend.
"You can't let that impact your play," McNabb said. "Each week is a different week. When you play against different players, or different teams who have had previous success before your game, you just have to focus on what your job entitles you to do. I think for all of us it's important that we just focus on the task at hand and do what it takes for us to win the game."
While McNabb only has to worry about the offense, Redskins Head Coach Mike Shanahan has to worry about both sides of the ball and he knows his defense, which has held high-powered offenses Philadelphia and Green Bay to 25 points combined the last two weeks, has another test on Sunday.
"I don't believe I've ever been around a guy that studies the game or knows the game as well as Peyton," Shanahan said. "You can see that he understands defenses as well as anybody that's probably been in the game. I don't think I've ever seen a quarterback with more control over an offense as Peyton throughout his career. If you're going to beat him, you're almost going to have to play a perfect game."
A perfect game is a tall order for any team in the NFL, but it's a good bet that both teams will come out ready to play Sunday in primetime.
"I enjoy it, McNabb said. "I enjoy Sunday nights because everyone is watching. It's the center stage and one that I think a lot of guys enjoy, and I'm one of them. I look forward to this weekend."
FOCUS ON THE COLTS
The Colts enter Sunday's game against the Redskins ranked second in the AFC and third in the NFL in total yards per game, averaging 397 yards a contest. They also are third in the league in scoring, averaging 27.2 points per game.
But while those numbers are good, Manning and the offense would like to have more success running the football. The Colts rank 28th in rushing yards per game, averaging 79.8 yards per game on the ground. The Colts have had their moments running the ball, though. The team rushed for 160 yards earlier this season against the New York Giants, and last week against Kansas City, Joseph Addai and Mike Hart combined for 100 yards. But despite these efforts, defenses have given the Colts a variety of looks, often dropping players back into pass coverage.
"It would be hard to put a summary on all the different defenses that we've seen," Manning said. "There would be some truth to that probably.
"It's game-to-game. It really is. It's really nothing totally new to what we've been seeing for a number of years now. It's still game-to-game. Coaches form a game plan where we think we can make some yards and convert some third downs and trying to get the ball into the guy's hands that has a chance to make a play. You probably are seeing a little more of the TE-Dallas (Clark) double-team, if you will. That seems to be sort of the 2010 trend, so far. But every week you have to be ready for something different."
The Colts are used to seeing all different types of fronts and formations, and while some fans have no problem with seeing the league's only four-time MVP throw the ball more than 40 times a game, Manning and the offense know that throwing the ball that much will only bring additional problems.
Defenses have to know the Colts can run the ball, Manning said.
"I think you have to keep the threat of it, Manning said. "You've watched games where you see a team has just given up running the ball. They are just throwing it every time. What does that do? That really helps the defensive linemen teeing off, (cornerbacks) and safeties really start guessing, trying to make plays, so I've always said every week, it's about whether the threat of the run is there.
"I still think our threat is there. I hope they somewhat feel it. The biggest play of the game (against Kansas City) was Mike Hart's (11-yard touchdown) run. That was a huge play. We hope to always have it there. Our goals are the same. We still want to be balanced."
And Manning said it doesn't matter who is in the backfield, the Colts feel comfortable running the ball and running the offense.
"I think you've seen that historically with us, Manning said. "It does not really matter who is in there, we are going to call that person's number. Sure, you want all your starters in there, and Joe has really been running it hard and we're trying to keep the hits off of him when we can. If you're on this team, you're expected, whether it's Little Edgerrin (RB-Javarris James) over there or Mike Hart has just had a ton of big runs in the time that he's been here on the field, everybody has to be available."
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE REDSKINS
Washington stands 3-2 on the season and is on a two-game winning streak as they prepare to host the Colts.
The Redskins named Shanahan Executive Vice President/Head Coach on January 6. The former Denver head coach, who won two Super Bowls with the Broncos, quickly changed quarterbacks trading former starter Jason Campbell to Oakland and bringing McNabb in from Philadelphia to run his offense.
Despite the trade and the fact that McNabb had been a quarterback in the NFL since 1999, the coach and player did not know each other very well when the transaction occurred.
"I didn't know much about him," McNabb said. "I knew a little obviously from watching John (Elway) throughout his career and watching Jay (Cutler) and the success that they had. It's one that you want to be able to add into your trophy case, sort-to-speak, the way John finished up. His record speaks for itself, his reputation speaks for itself and now we're working together."
McNabb, who was selected to six Pro Bowls while a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, entered the league as a dual-threat quarterback, who was just as likely to run with the ball as pass, but as he's gotten more experienced, the former college teammate of Dwight Freeney has become an accomplished passer in the NFL.
"Well, you play smarter now," McNabb said. "There is no just tucking it and running right now. You run when you have to and when you need to. I think the thing about it is as a quarterback you have to play smart. I think in this situation for us being older quarterbacks, it's important that you protect the ball, eliminate turnovers, try to take advantage of the opportunities that are there and try to do whatever it takes to help your team win."
But while he may be less likely to run the ball now, that does not make him any less dangerous. According to Caldwell, the Colts defense will have to play sound, smart football because McNabb is still a dual-threat player.
"He is highly experienced," Caldwell said. "He is a guy that has been through a lot, just in terms of his years of service. He has a great understanding of himself as well as their scheme. He has a very strong arm. He is a guy that can get the ball down the field. He'll put it in the air sometimes 60-65 yards. He can buy time with his feet and extend plays, which really is dangerous because oftentimes he will force you to think about coming out of your coverage, but the fact of the matter is he is still looking to throw the ball downfield. So you have to make certain you keep things in front of you and then you couple that with the fact that he is averaging 7.6 yards a carry. He can do a lot of damage when you think, 'Hey, we'll back off of him and make him throw,' (because) he can get up the field and convert some third downs on you that keeps the ball moving. So he is tough to handle."
On defense, Washington ranks last in the league in yards allowed, as opposing offenses average more than 400 yards per game against the Redskins, but despite giving up yards, the defense has not yielded a lot of points, ranking ninth in the league allowing only 18.4 points per game.
"That's really the main thing," Manning said. "That's really the ultimate goal, I would think for most defenses, find a way to keep them out of the end zone. They have tightened up in the red zone. I really haven't seen as many big plays the last couple of weeks, I saw more early in the season, but the past two weeks they've had two good wins over Green Bay and (Philadelphia), two good offenses, really good offenses. It looks like they've kind of fixed a couple of those issues. You hold Green Bay and Philadelphia to points in the teens, I think you're playing good defense."
Caldwell said the Redskins defense is a lot like the Kansas City Chiefs defense that held the Colts to a season-low 19 points last Sunday.
"They are probably a lot like we saw last week," Caldwell said. "A team that has talent, a superior pass rush and obviously they have a pretty veteran team over there. London Fletcher has been around a while and certainly does a great job of directing traffic for them. They have some good players on their perimeter. (LaRon) Landry is a heck of a player. (DeAngelo) Hall is a very, very talented cover guy. They find a way to keep you in front of them and bottled up. They do not make a whole lot of mistakes. It will be imperative that we finish drives off, and we know that won't be easy."
The Colts issued Friday's game summary/injury report with the following players listed as out for Sunday's game at Washington: LB-Kavell Conner (foot) and DB-Bob Sanders (biceps). RBs-Joseph Addai (neck), Donald Brown (hamstring) and Mike Hart (hip), LB-Gary Brackett (groin), WRs-Austin Collie (foot), Pierre Garcon (hamstring) and Anthony Gonzalez (ankle), OT-Charlie Johnson (foot) and DB-Jacob Lacey (foot) are listed as questionable, while DB-Antoine Bethea (hamstring) and Jerraud Powers (foot) are listed as probable.
"You know what? A lot of teams show us a lot of things that we don't expect, so I think we kind of expect for them to show us what we don't think they will show."- Colts RB-Joseph Addai's tongue-twister on how the offense expects opposing defenses to show new and different looks.
"You'd like an identity where you're performing well in all three phases. That's what you're searching for, real consistency in all those areas where you come out week-to-week and know what you're going to get. We all have an idea of what we expect, but to know what we're going to get is different. Now, and we say that, but you also have to understand this league is so competitive and the talent level is so close that every game is going to be a close game. I mean it's rare when a game is decided by more than a touchdown. Think about it in previous years, think about all the games this past week, just look at how many teams had to come from behind to win, how tight they were, it was depending on a field goal or win in overtime, like Washington did. That's the nature of this game. I remember when I first came into the league and we were down in Tampa and Tony (Dungy) was talking about a stat, and I can't remember exactly what the percentage was, but he said this, 'Most games come down to that you are going to have the ball and you're trying to drive and get in position to score to either tie it or win it, or you're going to be on defense trying to prevent a team that's trying to get into position to either tie or win it with a touchdown. That's how it boils down a great majority of the time.' And I think that is indeed the case. It's rare when you have one that is decided by more than that. It's always in the balance. It's tough. It's very difficult."- Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell on the identity that he wants for his team, and how tough the NFL is.
"Every game is a big game for us. It's always great to have an opportunity to play in the limelight. I think our guys, there is no question they enjoy that. There is no doubt about it. It's one of the reasons they play this game. But we don't go about it any differently, in terms of how we prepare, how we play, what our emphasis is on that particular game."- Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell on if he approaches prime-time games any differently.
STORYLINES TO WATCH FOR…
1. Colts and Redskins in Three-Point Ballgames
The Redskins have been involved in a league-high 24 games since the 2006 season where the final margin was three points or closer, including two this season. The Redskins are 10-14 in such games.
While the Redskins have played the most, it's arguable that no team has had as much success in games that ended three points or closer than the Colts. Since 2006, the Colts are 14-5 in games closer than a field goal. That mark includes this season's defeat to Jacksonville where the Jaguars hit a 59-yard field goal with no time remaining to win the game. Before the loss to Jacksonville, the Colts had won their last six contests that ended with a final margin three points or closer.
RECORD IN GAMES THAT ARE THREE POINTS OR CLOSER
Year Redskins Colts
2006 1-4 4-2
2007 3-2 3-1
2008 3-2 3-1
2009 2-5 4-0
2010 1-1 0-1
Totals 10-14 14-5
2. Colts on the Road in Prime-time
The Colts have the best road record in the league, 32-11, since the beginning of the 2005 season, but the team has saved some of its best road performances for primetime. Since 2005, the team is 13-2 in road games that started in prime-time, including a 7-1 mark on Sunday nights.
Last season, the Colts won all four of their regular-season road prime-time games, defeating Miami, Arizona, Tennessee and Jacksonville. The team has won its last six prime-time road games. The last time the Colts lost in prime-time on the road was October 27, 2008, when the team fell to Tennessee on Monday Night Football.
COLTS PRIME-TIME ROAD RECORD SINCE 2005
2005: 2-0; Defeated Baltimore (Sun.) and New England (Mon.).
2006: 2-0; Defeated New York Giants (Sun.) and New England (Sun.).
2007: 3-1; Defeated Jacksonville (Mon.), Atlanta (Thurs.) and Baltimore (Sun.); Lost to San Diego (Sun.).
2008: 2-1; Defeated San Diego (Sun.) and Jacksonville (Thurs.); Lost to Tennessee (Mon.).
2009: 4-0; Defeated Miami (Mon.), Arizona (Sun.), Tennessee (Sun.) and Jacksonville (Thurs.).
3. WAYNE CLOSING IN ON MILESTONES
Reggie Wayne is in reach of a couple of milestones Sunday when the Colts face the Redskins.
The four-time Pro Bowl selection needs 76 yards against the Redskins to become the 34th player in NFL history to amass 10,000 receiving yards in their career.
Also, possible on Sunday is for Manning and Wayne to move up on the list of the most prolific QB-WR touchdown duos in NFL history. Currently, Manning and Wayne are ranked tied for fifth with former Colts John Unitas and Raymond Berry with 63 touchdown connections. Two touchdowns between Manning and Wayne on Sunday would move them into a tie for fourth with Buffalo's Jim Kelly and Andre Reed at 65. The most touchdown hookups between a quarterback and wide receiver in league history is Manning and Marvin Harrison, who connected for 112 touchdowns.
Manning and Wayne currently are the most prolific active duo in the NFL. The next closest duo is Manning and Dallas Clark with 44.
For the season, Wayne leads the NFL with 39 receptions and ranks second with 531 yards. He also has scored two touchdowns.