**A Capsule Look at the Colts' Sunday AFC South Showdown Against the Texans
Indianapolis Colts (10-0) vs. Houston Texans (5-5)
Sunday, November 29, 2009 (1:00 p.m. EST)
Reliant Stadium (71,054 capacity) – Houston, Texas
Television/Radio: CBS Sports and 1070-The Fan/HANK-FM 97.1
Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell often says that every week presents a new challenge.
And while Week 12 does do that, it also features a familiar foe.
For the second time this month, the Indianapolis Colts and the Houston Texans will meet this Sunday when the Colts travel to Reliant Stadium to take on their AFC South rivals.
Three weeks ago, the Colts outlasted the Texans inside Lucas Oil Stadium when Houston kicker Kris Brown missed a 42-yard field goal as time expired that would have sent the game to overtime.
Indianapolis prevailed with a 20-17 victory and improved their all-time record against the Texans to 14-1. The Colts have won the last five meetings, with Houston's only victory against Indianapolis occurring in 2006.
Despite the historical advantage, Caldwell said the Colts are expecting a "very, very tough ballgame."
"They've played extremely well, no matter where we've played them," Caldwell said. "They've been a very, very difficult team to deal with, and they just keep getting better every week. It's going to be tough."
Since playing the Colts last, the Texans have had a bye week and a Monday night game against Tennessee, which they also lost 20-17.
With little new tape to watch and so much familiarity between the two teams, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said this Sunday's game presents a unique test.
"You have to look at your personnel and figure out what you will be able to do best," Manning said. "We'll then make some adjustments."
Manning, who led the Colts on a game-winning drive against the Texans on November 8, said the team is preparing to face a hungry Houston squad fighting to make the playoffs.
"Going down there to Houston is always a tough place to play," the quarterback said. "We've always had close games down there and it will be a challenge. It is a team that we are familiar with, but they're familiar with us. It'll come down to who executes better."
With an Indianapolis victory and a Jacksonville loss on Sunday, the Colts can clinch the AFC South division. But Caldwell said the team is not overly concerned with playoff implications at this point, nor are his players.
The only thing the Colts are centered in on is the game itself.
"There is a sign hanging in our locker room," Caldwell said. "It's hanging over the door when you exit to go out to the practice field in the back. It's a quote from Joe Paterno that he used to always use and I'm certainly a big believer in.
"It says, 'Take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves.' What I talk to the team about are the things that put us in the position to win. I don't talk about necessarily what's going to happen until after we win," Caldwell said.
It is the type of mentality that has helped guide the Colts to a 10-0 start this season and kept their 19-game regular-season winning streak alive.
"We try not to get ahead of ourselves," Caldwell said. "We figure if we prepare like we've been preparing and focus in on getting better, and we prepare to win, those other things will take of themselves. We'll talk about those when it's over with."
The Colts have had plenty to talk about after their last four victories. All four games have featured Indianapolis comebacks in the fourth quarter and were decided by a combined margin of only 10 points.
Caldwell said the games have given him an opportunity to talk about pressure situations and teach from it. While the Colts have a veteran core, they also have several younger players making big contributions this season that have not experienced crunch time at a professional level.
"Obviously, since they've had an opportunity through several of them now, now they understand why it's important to play all 60 minutes, and why it's important to always make certain that we finish a ball game," Caldwell said. "So it serves as some great teaching, but also, I think it shows that we do have some guys that have some strong constitution and strong character on this team. I think that helps us."
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE TEXANS
Sunday's game marks the Colts' first trip back to Houston since their thrilling comeback victory last October.
The Texans built a seemingly insurmountable 27-10 lead in the fourth quarter before the Colts rattled off three late touchdowns to win, 31-27.
Along with the New England game two weeks ago, it was one of Indianapolis' greatest comebacks in franchise history.
But it also showed what the Texans are capable of doing.
On the ground, the Texans picked up 156 yards and two touchdowns. Through the air, they utilized wide receiver Andre Johnson for nine catches and 131 yards. And on defense, defensive end Mario Williams sacked Manning twice.
Costly turnovers caught up with the Texans, but Houston proved last year they were contenders in the AFC South.
This year, the Texans boast the third-best passing game in the league and a strong running attack that features Slaton and running backs Chris Brown and Ryan Moats.
"They are a dangerous team" Colts defensive end Raheem Brock said. "They have a good running game and passing attack, and they can beat you with either one."
Houston quarterback Matt Schaub continues to enjoy his best season as a pro, ranking third in the league in passing yards and seventh in touchdowns.
"Schaub is doing a great job getting his guys the ball," Colts linebacker Gary Brackett said. "You have to recognize that they want to put the ball in the air."
On defense, the Texans feature a reenergized unit thanks to an influx of talented personnel.
"You see some similarities, you see some differences," Manning said of Houston's defense. "They've added (LB Brian) Cushing and (S Quin) Glover as good rookie players that have given them some flexibility to do some different things on defense. But they're very sound in what they do. Guys are in the right position. You don't see a lot of mental mistakes out there on the field, and to move the ball against them, you truly have to be good and disciplined at what you're doing."
The Texans' defense has improved in almost every statistical category this season and has created 17 turnovers, tied with the Colts for eighth-most in the league.
"I think they're just a very, very talented football team," Caldwell said. "I think overall, from top to bottom within their organization, they do a tremendous job of identifying talent and getting that talent on the field. Coach Kubiak has done a tremendous job, just in terms of building a real solid foundation on both sides of the ball and the kicking game. They're a very, very difficult team to deal with. They're very tough on us."
The Colts issued the game status/injury report for Sunday's game at Houston with the following players listed as probable: RBs-Joseph Addai (knee) and Donald Brown (shoulder), DBs-Antoine Bethea (foot), Melvin Bullitt (shoulder), Tim Jennings (ankle) and Jerraud Powers (knee), DEs-Raheem Brock (neck) and Robert Mathis (neck), WRs-Pierre Garcon (ankle) and Reggie Wayne (foot), QB-Peyton Manning (glute), TEs-Tom Santi (hip) and Jacob Tamme (quadriceps), C-Jeff Saturday (calf) and OT-Tony Ugoh (knee).
Listed as questionable for Sunday are DE-Dwight Freeney (abdomen), DB-Kelvin Hayden (knee), LB-Ramon Humber (calf), OT-Charlie Johnson (foot), TE-Gijon Robinson (concussion) and QB-Jim Sorgi (right shoulder), while the following are listed as out: DT-Keyunta Dawson (knee), DB-Aaron Francisco (ankle), WR-Anthony Gonzalez (knee) and K-Adam Vinatieri (right knee).
• "The competition in this league, the coaching, the playing, the week-to-week grind, how tough it is to play on the road in this league, for them to do that, that's incredible. I've been doing this for a long time. I've been at it for 26 years. I remember being a part of a team that won 13 in a row in Denver starting the season. What they've done over the course of those 19 ballgames, and look at the last three weeks, the games they've won the last three weeks have been incredible." – Houston Head Coach Gary Kubiak on the Colts' 19-game regular-season winning streak
• "It is a tremendous honor. Everything he's done for the position and for this organization and for the NFL in general. He revolutionized the position and made it a more meaningful position, rather than just being a blocking tight end. It's a tremendous honor, not only to be mentioned, but to pass something he accomplished." – Colts tight end Dallas Clark on breaking John Mackey's franchise record for most receptions by a tight end
• "I don't make any excuses about anything. There is that old saying, 'Excuses are tools of incompetence. They are used by monuments of nothingness and those who specialize in them are seldom good at anything else.' We don't deal with those issues at all. Our job is to get it done and be effective, regardless of the circumstances." – Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell on if injuries are ever used as an excuse
STORYLINES TO WATCH FOR…
1) ADDAI GETTING STRONGER
Colts running back Joseph Addai is coming off his best game of the year, after rushing 19 times for 74 yards against the Baltimore Ravens, and their fifth-ranked rushing defense, last week.
But all season, Addai has been performing well in the red zone. The fifth-year veteran has 10 touchdowns on the year and eight in his last seven games.
"He's done a great job getting down there inside the 10- or 15-yard line and smelling the end zone and going and getting it," Manning said. "You're always drawing up red zone plays, and that sure makes your red zone offense a lot easier when he just powers one in there from the 10. He had a great run the other day against Baltimore. He's been durable, he's been working hard, and he's been passing protecting well, all the things you like in a running back."
Because of his ability to run, block and catch passes out of the backfield, Manning said Addai is the perfect back for the Colts' offense.
"He's a guy that the only time he comes out is when he needs a little break … There are certain backs that you say, 'Hey, this really isn't suited quite for him.' Joe's an every-down back, a goal-line back, a short-yardage back, a third-down back," Manning said. "It's a credit to his versatility."
2) DOUBLE THE TROUBLE
Either tight end Dallas Clark or wide receiver Reggie Wayne has led the Colts in receiving yards in eight of 10 games this year.
Last week's game against Baltimore was not one of those games.
Clark leads all tight ends in the NFL in catches with 65, while Wayne is second in the NFL in receptions with 76 and leads all players in receiving yards with 968.
But against the Ravens, Clark recorded just one catch and Wayne was held out of the end zone. With his two favorite targets covered, Manning turned to wide receiver Pierre Garcon (six catches, 108 yards) and tight end Tom Santi (six catches, 80 yards) in the passing game.
Should the Texans employ a similar strategy, Clark said the Colts would be ready.
"We'll see. Whatever defenses do, we just have to react," Clark said. "If Reggie is double covered, then everyone else will step up. If they are giving me attention, then everyone else has to. It's kind of like a revolving door and just responding to whatever the defenses give to us."
3) THE STREAK CONTNUES
Just two games shy of the all-time record, the Colts have a chance to extend their regular-season winning streak to 20 games against the Texans.
But Caldwell reiterated earlier this week that the streak is not weighing heavily on his team's conscience. In fact, most of them are not thinking about it at all.
"If you have a bunch of guys that have never had a lengthy streak going before and never been in the situation, it would be a bit more difficult to deal with," Caldwell said. "All these guys have all had some extended streaks. For example, most of the core guys around here have been 13-0 at one point. They've been 9-0 several different occasions. I think they know how to handle it and focus in on the next game."
The Colts coach said that despite the unblemished record in 2009, the Colts have yet to accomplish anything in terms of their division or postseason plans.
"That's the thing that most people don't realize, the fact that we have not accomplished one thing even though we have a real fine record," Caldwell said. "We haven't put ourselves in any better position than anybody else at this point."