Colts Approaching Third Week of Preseason Like a Regular-Season Game
INDIANAPOLIS – The days aren't exactly the same.
But aside from the game being played on a Thursday night rather than a Sunday afternoon, Head Coach Jim Caldwell said as the Colts prepare for their third preseason game, just about everything will be set up as close as possible to a regular-season game week.
The meetings will be the same. So will practices.
The road travel will be the same.
The game plan will be installed.
And through the first half on Thursday night, starters and front-line players likely will play essentially the same amount and same roles as if the game against the Green Bay Packers counted in the standings.
It's the closest thing the Colts have to a preseason dress rehearsal.
And Gary Brackett said that makes it an imant week.
"I think so," Brackett said Sunday as the Colts (0-2 in the 2010 preseason) prepared to play the Packers (1-1) at Lambeau Field in Green Bay at 8 p.m.
"We do a lot more planning for this game – actually game-planning and watching film of the opponent all week leading up to the game. We actually break down their tendencies – trying to attack a team as we would during the regular season.
"We really gear ourselves to the third preseason game."
The Colts, after a 34-21 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Thursday, began their regular-season approach with a full practice Sunday afternoon. They will have another full practice Monday and Tuesday, then travel to Green Bay Wednesday.
"This one we go about it just we would a normal regular-season game in terms of our preparation," Caldwell said. "We try to familiarize our younger guys with protocol and how things are done from a meeting standpoint. We do a pretty thorough job in terms of game planning.
"It does change up a little bit in terms of how we go about things."
Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said the week is important not just for rookies and younger players who never have played a preseason game with the team, but for veterans and older players.
"We're just starting (this week), but that's something we've always done," Manning said. "I think it does help everybody – the veterans and the coaches – just remember what it is we do in the weekly routine going into that first week: 'Oh, yeah, I forgot that we normally do this on a Wednesday or a Thursday.'
The Colts in the first week of training camp focus entirely on themselves, and in the first two games of the preseason, Caldwell said that approach continues with a minimum of planning for the opponent in the final days leading to the game.
Manning said while the Colts remain very much in training camp mode, approaching the third preseason game as a regular-season game helps preparation.
"It's good for me," Manning said. "It's good for the coaches and I think it's good for the young guys, to give them an idea of how we game plan and what a Wednesday practice and what a Thursday practice is like – then the fact that we're going on the road gives us a good test."
The Colts' opponent Thursday is a solid test, Manning said.
Not only will the game be played in an environment that traditionally features large, enthusiastic crowds, the Packers play a complex defense with talented front-line players.
"It will be a good test for crowd noise, and playing against a really good team in Green Bay," Manning said. "It's a good situation. It will be a great test for everybody. They have great crowds no matter what the situation is."
The Colts play four of their first six regular-season games on the road – at Houston in Week 1, at Denver in Week 3, at Jacksonville in Week 4 and at Washington in Week 6.
"A lot of our games early in the season, including the opener, are on the road," Manning said. "It's really a good test for us. We'll face a lot of situations in this game, dealing with crowd noise and working against some different defenses. Green Bay really mixes it up. They play a lot of different looks.
"All of those things combined – it will be tough to execute, but it will be good for our team to see those different things in the preseason."
The Colts, after a 37-17 loss in the preseason opener, lost to the Bills Thursday after being tied, 21-21, late in the first half. Manning and the first-team offense scored touchdowns on their first two possessions, but Brackett said the Colts allowed too many big plays defensively.
One of the Bills' touchdowns came on a 78-yard interception return, with the others coming on a 31-yard run by C.J. Spiller and a 70-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Trent Edwards to wide receiver Lee Evans. The first-team defense allowed no points and forced two turnovers against San Francisco in the preseason opener.
"We're inconsistent," Brackett said. "We have to limit those big plays. That just comes from tackling better, better communication across the board. I think we can get that done."