A Capsule Look at the Colts' Monday Night Showdown against the Texans
**Houston Texans (4-2) vs. Indianapolis Colts (4-2)
Monday, November 1, 2010 (8:30 p.m. ET)
Lucas Oil Stadium (63,000 capacity) – Indianapolis, Indiana
Television/Radio: ESPN and My-Indy, Channel 23, Westwood One Radio and 1070-The Fan/HANK-FM 97.1**
The Colts return home for only their third regular season game inside Lucas Oil Stadium, hosting division foe, Houston Monday night. The Colts look to even the season series between the teams after dropping the first meeting on kickoff weekend, September 12.
As the season creeps closer to the midway point, division games begin to take on added meaning. The easiest way to make the post-season is to win the division and get an automatic berth, which is why the Colts place an emphasis on winning the division race at the beginning of every season.
"It's your only guarantee of getting into the playoffs," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said. "So, therefore that's always been (our) goal number one."
But the AFC South, which is the only division in the NFL to have three teams that are two or more games above .500, is anything but easy to win. The quality of the four teams in the division makes each regular season meeting between them very important.
The Colts (six times) and Tennessee Titans (twice) are the only teams to have won the AFC South in the eight years since NFL Realignment. The Colts have started this season off 0-2 in the division and remain the only team in the AFC South that hasn't won a division game.
"This is a tough division to win," Texans Head Coach Gary Kubiak said. "Indianapolis has had control of this division for a long, long time with great football teams, so it's very difficult for everybody in our division, not just us. We're trying to play better football, and we know how well we'll have to play to have a chance to win this week."
With the Colts having won the division six of the last seven seasons, the other three teams have placed an emphasis on performing better in the division, especially the Texans.
"I think for us, it was very important going into this season," Kubiak said. "We have to play a lot better in our division. We were 1-5 in our division last year. In this league, even if you're winning nine or 10 games, if that's your record in your division you're not going to win any tiebreakers. You're not going to get any breaks at the end of the season. It's very important for us to play much better in our division."
Houston comes into the game with a chance to do something that has only happened once in the eight years of the AFC South's existence, sweep the Colts in a season series.
"I think it will mean a lot for us," Texans running back Arian Foster said. "They've been a juggernaut in the division for years, and they've been our Achilles heel here in Houston. The fact that we have that chance and we're looking at that opportunity is big for us. We're not trying to look at it too big or in a wide spectrum. We're just going to go out and do what we know how to do, and that's just play good ball."
While the Texans' early win has put them in a good position in the division race, they know the battle for the division crown is far from over.
"It was only one game," Foster said. "You can't win a season in one game. It was the first game of the season, so we had to put it behind us really quick. We knew we had to face them again, so it wasn't like, 'We did it, we won it,' because we didn't do anything but win a game. It was an important game, don't get me wrong, but it was just one game."
It was just one game, but it gives the Texans, Jaguars and the Titans, who lead the division with a 5-2 record, assurance the division will not be a one-team race.
"Every year is different," Caldwell said. "We certainly don't hang our hat on the past. What we have to deal with is the here and now, and right now, we have a fight on our hands."
FOCUS ON THE COLTS
The Colts often talk about having blinders on.
They don't look too far into the future, and they don't look in the past. They concern themselves with the task at hand.
The task at hand this week is the Houston Texans, a team the Colts already have played once this season, and while nothing they do now can change the result from their 34-24 September 12 loss, the team has spent time watching film and reviewing not only the first game in preparation for Monday night's showdown, but the Texans' other games as well.
"You look at everything," Caldwell said. "You evaluate and analyze and take a look and revisit a lot of things because they had some success with a lot of things they did against us. I'm sure there is a possibility that we are going to see them again. We better take a look at and make sure we get those things covered. For the most part, things change, too, from now and then. It's been a few weeks and our team certainly looks a little different. So we have to adjust and look at the most recent game so that we could reformulate our plan."
Colts defensive players said while they would like to forget the first game as the Texans scored 34 points, the most points the Colts have allowed Houston in their 17-game series history, there are things to learn from as well.
"Obviously, you use a little bit of what happened in the past," Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney said. "Potentially, they can come back in here and change things up. I don't see why they would change as much because obviously they won. Chances are they'll probably keep things similar."
The Colts offense had 463 total net yards against Houston in the teams' first meeting, but while Houston might have a similar game plan for the upcoming game, the Colts will not be able to as they will be without tight end Dallas Clark and wide receiver Austin Collie on Monday night.
Clark was placed on injured reserve after suffering a wrist injury and having season-ending surgery. Collie is out for the Houston game after having thumb surgery. In the first meeting between the two teams, Clark and Collie combined for 22 receptions, 243 yards and two touchdowns.
Without Clark and Collie, four-time Pro Bowler Reggie Wayne, who needs just five yards to become the 34th player in NFL history to amass 10,000 career receiving yards, may see even more attention than he already does from defenses. Wayne currently leads the AFC and ranks second in the NFL with 45 receptions, and his 602 receiving yards are second in the AFC and third in the NFL.
Wayne, though, is not the type to run away from a challenge. The NFL's leader in receptions and receiving yards since the 2004 season has shown in the past that he is up for anything that opposing defenses may try to do to stop him.
"I don't think there is any question about that," Caldwell said. "He is a very highly competitive guy, and it's not the first time that's happened to him. You probably recall even last year when WR-Anthony (Gonzalez) went down, we had a couple of young guys playing that no one knew anything about and Reggie got quite a bit of attention during that time, but yet when you look at the end of the year in its entirety and his whole body of work, he was still able to get 100 catches."
On the opposite end of the spectrum from the Colts' banged up receiving corps is the team's offensive line, which has gotten steadier as the season has progressed. The offensive line had two starters, tackle Charlie Johnson and center Jeff Saturday, who suffered injuries in training camp and saw their first game action of the 2010 season in the first meeting between the Colts and Texans.
"We certainly feel like we're better up front now than we were then, just from a health standpoint, from a little bit of chemistry, some guys playing together," Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said. "Now, we face an extremely tough test against these guys. They are active up front. They play a lot of guys. They are very familiar with us and what we do. It will be another tough test. There is no question that we feel we are better off than we were that week, but we still have to go out and play them."
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE TEXANS
The Texans defeated the Colts, 34-24, in the first game between the two teams this season. After finishing last season with the franchise's first winning record at 9-7, the victory over Indianapolis to open the season, which was only the second victory ever for Houston in the series between the franchises, immediately made some outsiders feel this was the year the Texans would take the next step.
"Not much changed internally," Foster said. "There were more expectations placed upon us, nationally and locally, because you beat a prestigious team like the Indianapolis Colts, that's going to happen. I think the viewpoint of the Houston Texans didn't change. We knew what we could do. We believed in ourselves from day one. I just think the opinion of us changed."
Foster also had a lot more expectations placed on him after he rushed for a franchise-record 231 yards on 33 carries against the Colts. For some, that was the first introduction to the second-year running back, but Foster, who was making just his second career start in that game, had rushed for 216 yards and three touchdowns in the last two games of the 2009 season, proving to the Texans he was capable of playing a more prominent role in 2010.
"He showed us something at the end of last year, so it's not like he didn't do anything last year," Kubiak said. "He did play very well the last month of the season for us. Sometimes players will do that, but they won't progress in the offseason. What we saw from him was a continuous progress in the offseason, probably one of our harder workers. You could see him heading in the direction of becoming a good pro. Now has he surprised everybody? Yes, he's surprised somewhat, but he's had a lot of help. We've given him some opportunities up front, and we've been running the ball better as a football team."
Foster, who led the NFL with 635 yards rushing after six weeks before the Texans' bye week, went unselected in the 2009 NFL Draft. And while Foster admits that he is enjoying the chance to prove to everyone he belongs in the NFL, he says he never really got a chip on his shoulder, but just concentrated on getting his opportunity and making sure he made the most of it.
"I do to a certain extent, but I don't ever let it bother me, game-wise," Foster said. "I don't let any of that get to me. I'm self-validated. I don't really need anybody's approval. I don't really need anybody's criticism because I'm my worst critic. I know you hear that all the time, but I think (with) great athletes that is the truth because they always expect so much of themselves. I'm not out to try to prove the league wrong. I'm out to play good football and prove to myself that I belong here."
While Foster is enjoying a fine season, Kubiak said he is still trying to figure out the rest of his team. They looked great in beating the Colts on the opening weekend and on the road at the Oakland Raiders. But Houston needed big fourth-quarter comebacks to rally and win at the Washington Redskins and at home against the Kansas City Chiefs and suffered double-digit losses at home to the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants.
"We've been up-and-down," Kubiak said. "We've been inconsistent as a football team. We've struggled on defense. We've found a way to win four games, but we've got to get a lot better here in the next 10 weeks."
Some critics point at the defense as the cause for the team's inconsistent play. The Texans were without last season's NFL Rookie-of-the-Year linebacker Brian Cushing for the first four games of the season. Cushing will move to middle linebacker with the loss of DeMeco Ryans, who was placed on injured reserve. But Kubiak claims the Texans problems lie on both sides of the ball.
"We've been inconsistent a little bit everywhere, not just defensively," Kubiak said. "On defense, we've had some issues, we've lost some players and now we've lost a great player and a leader (LB-DeMeco Ryans), so we've got to adjust to that. We have a young secondary. We've lost three defensive linemen over the course of the first part of the season, so we've had to adjust from that standpoint. Offensively, we've done some good stuff, but we turned the ball over against the Giants and Dallas, and that gets our team into trouble. We're just trying to play better as a football team."
While Kubiak said he would like to see his team become more consistent, he is happy it has shown the ability to win games in different ways.
"Every game is different," Kubiak said. "You never know what it's going to take to win a game on a given Sunday. We've had some where we ran the ball well, and we had one in Washington where our quarterback had to throw for 500 yards for us to win. I don't think you ever know exactly what it's going to take to win. You don't know how people are going to play you, offensively or defensively, until you show up. You've got to be willing to win all kinds of ways, and that's usually what good teams do in this league. They are able to win offensively, defensively, special teams, not just one isolated reason."
The Colts on Friday issued the game status/injury report for Monday's game against Houston with the following players listed as out: WR-Austin Collie (hand), LB-Kavell Conner (foot), 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: RB-Donald Brown (hamstring), WRs-Pierre Garcon (hamstring), Anthony Gonzalez (ankle) and Reggie Wayne (hamstring) and DBs-Jacob Lacey (foot) and Jerraud Powers (foot). LB-Gary Brackett (groin) is listed as probable.
"My job is to win, plain and simple. I do not get concerned with things that I cannot control. I have to deal with the here and now, what we have, what we have to play with. The guys we have, have plenty of talent. We have more than enough to get it done. That's what we try and focus in on. The negative side of it, everybody is in tough shape. All across the board, it's nothing unique to our location. You have to deal with this every year. I call it the Gideon Principle in this league. At some point in time, you get paired down to the absolute bare minimum, so you see who can stand tall and who can function in their present circumstances."
-Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell on if he is concerned with the number of players the team has lost this season due to injury.
"High. A high confidence. I think the biggest key is getting as much repetitions as I can with them during the week in practices and in the games. I look forward to seeing where we are in this game. I think we'll get better each game with some of the new guys that are going to be playing in some different spots."
-Colts quarterback Peyton Manning on what his confidence level is with the receivers the team has left with TE-Dallas Clark out for the season and WR-Austin Collie out for the Houston game.
"You never want to get onto the field due to an injury, and that is no different here. But, when you are out there you have to go out and do your best. I will step in there and do whatever I can do to help us win, help us move the ball and put points on the board. As a group, I think we will all be working together to fill that void. Whatever position we get put in, we will go out there and do our best."
-Colts tight end Jacob Tamme on trying to replace teammate Dallas Clark, who is out for the season with a wrist injury.
STORYLINES TO WATCH FOR…
1. Colts have had success in their first game back after a bye
The Colts have been very effective in their first game after their bye week, winning seven of their last eight games after a bye.
The team has won five consecutive games after a bye, last losing in 2004 when the Colts fell to Jacksonville, 27-24.
The club has faced Houston twice in the last eight years coming off a bye, defeating the Texans 30-21 in 2003 and 31-27 in 2008.
COLTS RESULTS AFTER A BYE SINCE 2002
Year Opponent Result
2002 vs. Cincinnati W, 28-21
2003 vs. Houston W, 30-21
2004 vs. Jacksonville L, 24-27
2005 at New England W, 40-21
2006 vs. Washington W, 36-22
2007 at Jacksonville W, 29-7
2008 at Houston W, 31-27
2009 at St. Louis W, 42-6
2. Colts looking for first win in AFC South
The Colts entered the 2010 season with an all-time record of 38-10 in the AFC South. The team had won the division six of the eight years in existence, been wire-to-wire leaders four times and had owned or shared the lead in the division in 112 of the 136 weeks of the division's existence.
But so far in 2010, the Colts are 0-2 against division opponents after dropping their season-opener at Houston, 34-24, and losing at Jacksonville, 31-28. Houston comes into Indianapolis on Monday night with a chance to sweep the season series with the Colts, which would be only the second time an AFC South opponent has swept the Colts. Tennessee won both meetings with the Colts in 2002.
The Colts' worst AFC South record was 3-3 in 2006. That year, the Colts won their first three games in the division, but lost the final three meetings, all road games in December, to finish 3-3. In an example of the numbers not always meaning everything, the Colts' worst year in the AFC South, 2006, also happened to be the year that the Colts won the Super Bowl.
COLTS RECORD IN AFC SOUTH
3. Manning has the best winning percentage of starting quarterbacks on MNF
Peyton Manning has a 10-3 record playing on Monday Night Football in his career, which is the best winning percentage of any starting quarterback in the history of MNF.
STARTING QB WIN PERCENTAGE ON MNF (min. 10 wins)
Player Record Pct.Peyton Manning 10-3 .769
Ken Stabler 11-3-1 .767
Steve Young 16-5 .762
Joe Montana 14-5 .737
Dave Krieg 10-5 .667
Manning and the Colts have won eight of their last nine appearances on Monday Night, including last season's win at Miami, 27-23. Overall since Manning joined the Colts in 1998, the club is 6-0 at home on Monday Nights and 4-3 on the road.
MANNING AND THE COLTS APPEARANCES ON MONDAY NIGHT
Date Opponent Result 9/25/00 Jacksonville W, 43-14
12/11/00 Buffalo W, 44-20
12/10/01 at Miami L, 6-41
10/21/02 at Pittsburgh L, 10-28
10/ 6/03 at Tampa Bay W, 38-35
11/ 8/04 Minnesota W, 31-28
10/17/05 St. Louis W, 45-28
11/ 7/05 at New England W, 40-21
11/28/05 Pittsburgh W, 26-7
12/18/06 Cincinnati W, 34-16
10/22/07 at Jacksonville W, 29-7
10/27/08 at Tennessee L, 21-31
9/21/09 at Miami W, 27-23