INDIANAPOLIS – That the Colts suffered a difficult season-opening defeat at Houston is not in question.
Neither is it in question how Indianapolis will approach breaking from last weekend's result to try and square its record after two games.
The secret is easy and has been espoused by a few members of the team. Now, Dwight Freeney can be added, 'Just do your job and big things will be fine.'
"Sundays are about everyone doing their jobs," said Freeney. "Just do your jobs and the big things will take care of themselves. You don't really think about the big scheme of things. If each individual does their job, the big things should take care of themselves."
The message and variations of it have been used by the club for years. It is not lip service the players give to the message, it is something they take to heart. It is something that serves the team well, particularly when Freeney was asked recently if the players had to respond to outside notions like there is great peril because of the loss to Houston.
"Not at all, not at all. Last year at this time we had the same record, similar score and we ended up doing some nice things last year," said Freeney. "(Last week was) obviously not what we wanted…(but) we definitely turned some things around. We're hoping for a similar type of thing this year.
"Not every game is going to be your best game. Starting the year we don't ever say, 'We're going to be 16-0.' We have a challenge with whoever we're playing next, and our challenge is to beat that team. If you don't, go back to the drawing board, figure out why you didn't do it and move on to the next one (opponent)."
Indianapolis had two preseason games when it faced large halftime deficits. Last week at Houston, the club gave up 17 quick points and trailed again by a large margin at intermission. That is something Freeney and his teammates say they must address.
"You don't ever want to start the game like how we started last week," said Freeney. "Hopefully, we can get some things corrected. Defensively, we started the game fast, but it's collective. We have to make sure we start off the game (sharply) on all phases of the game."
The club has distinguished itself over the seasons with an ability to come back from deficits. While the offense has created some of those comebacks, the defense played its part as well. The defense has done so often enough that Freeney refuted the notion that the unit is constructed to play better while the club is ahead. He also says the club has abilities to approach opponents with differing tactics.
"Regardless of whether we have the lead or not, we are very capable of doing everything, which is playing the run, stopping teams from scoring in the red zone even if they get the ball at our 20-yard line," he said. "We've had our years of being aggressive. I think it (the approach) changes from week to week, from team to team. We have more packages of pressure and being more aggressive defensively. It's up to the coaching staff and team to decide if this is going to be a week if we're going to use more pressure based on what they show us or if it's going to be more traditional, cover-2 and kind of 'keep the guys in front of you and prevent the big play.' "
In facing the Browns on Sunday, Freeney will be meeting one of the top left tackles in the league in Joe Thomas. Thomas is a four-time Pro Bowler who has not missed an offensive snap since being the third overall pick in the 2007 draft. A Pro Bowler himself, Freeney has a professional regard for Thomas.
"Joe's a great tackle. I think he's one of the elite tackles in the league," said Freeney. "It's going to be a challenge. (I'm not) sure it's going to be like it was back in the day, mano-a-mano just one-on-one. I don't know if those days are over with or what, but I do kind of get revved up on a game like this…He has a little bit of everything. He's strong and he's quick."
Another force for Freeney and the defense to contend with is running back Peyton Hillis, who plays around 250 pounds. Hillis rushed for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2010, while he also caught 61 passes in amassing more than 1,600 scrimmage yards.
Freeney knows Hillis can be a force and he knows sometimes opponents target rushing the ball against the Colts. Freeney says the club plans the same specific approach weekly regardless of the size of competing rushers.
"I'm not going to say (we're going to make) an adjustment scheme-wise, maybe an adjustment mentality-wise just knowing what type of an animal is back there," said Freeney. "Is he a guy who is going to take one, two or three guys to get him down? It isn't necessarily a change like we have a back who is not 240 pounds. We still think we need to get two or three guys to that tackle. Now, we may emphasize it a little bit more. We understand we have a dangerous back who likes to make things happen."
For Freeney, who has seen almost everything the league has to offer in his 10 years and 134 outings, it will be a typical NFL opponent that can present multiple problems.
"Obviously, they have a great running back, so they like to run the ball and pound," he said. They have a lot of different kinds of runs, so we have to be on our toes. They like to also pass the ball. They do a lot of everything, so we have to be really sharp out there."