Imant Thing Against San Francisco 49ers Sunday was Finding a Way to Win, Caldwell Says
INDIANAPOLIS – A day later, Jim Caldwell found several things to like.
Because winning in the NFL is difficult, Caldwell – in his first season as the Colts' head coach – said the process of finding those things was not particularly difficult. While he said the offense Sunday was at times "out of sync," he said it was just as true that it made plays at critical times.
The defense and special teams were solid, he said.
But beyond the specifics, Caldwell said there was a big-picture truth.
The Colts won the game. And that mattered not a little.
"Often, people take a little too much away from the opponent," Caldwell said Monday, a day after the unbeaten, AFC South-leading Colts (7-0) rallied in the second half for an 18-14 victory over the San Francisco 49ers (3-4) at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis.
"They (the 49ers) played well. They did a nice job. They hustled. They covered well. It was just a matter of timing for us. We just didn't get in sync like we normally do. The good thing is, we find different ways to win. I think you have to do that. Winning in this league requires you find ways to win when things aren't going very well.
"Things weren't going very well for us consistently, yet we were still able to work through it."
The Colts, one of two remaining unbeaten teams in the NFL along with New Orleans, with the victory extended their franchise-record regular-season winning streaks to 16 games. The NFL record is 21, set by New England in 2006-08. Only three teams have won 17 or more consecutive regular-season games.
Indianapolis also remained two-and-a-half games over Houston (5-3) in the AFC South. The Texans have won their last three games, including a 31-10 victory Sunday at Buffalo.
The Colts will play host to the Texans Sunday.
"They have been playing extremely well," Caldwell said, adding that while the Colts have lost once in 14 meetings with the Texans, "All of our games have been very close over the last few years. I wouldn't expect this to be any different."
The Colts twice rallied in the second half for victories over Houston last season.
"We are concerned with them," Caldwell said. "We have to get focused on them come Wednesday and be prepared for a real tough game."
This is the fourth time in five seasons the Colts have started the season 7-0. They started 13-0 in 2005, 9-0 in 2006 and 7-0 in 2007, winning the AFC South title in each of those seasons.
Sunday's game was not only the Colts' first at home in nearly a month, it was the first time since Week 2 they did not lead by double digits throughout the second half. The 49ers led 14-6 late in the second quarter, 14-9 at halftime and 14-12 entering the fourth quarter.
The Colts took their lone lead of the game on the first play of the fourth quarter, when running back Joseph Addai passed 22 yards to wide receiver Reggie Wayne. They then kept San Francisco out of scoring range on its final two possessions, with a sack by Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Mathis ending one possession and a sack by four-time Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney ending the 49ers' final possession.
The Colts this season have allowed more than 17 points just once, and have not done so since a 27-23 victory over Miami in Week 2. They have allowed just more than eleven points a game for the last five games. The Colts, who have ranked in the Top 10 in the NFL in total offense nine of the last 10 seasons, this season rank No. 9 in total defense.
On Sunday, they allowed the 49ers 295 total yards and two of 10 third-down conversions.
The 49ers scored on a 64-yard run by Frank Gore in the first quarter, then drove 89 yards for a late-second quarter touchdown. Aside from those two drives, the 49ers produced 136 total yards, including 87 in the second half.
"We're moving in the right direction and becoming fairly consistent," Caldwell said. "We're coming along and doing some good things. Our defense did a great job of obviously getting us a couple of key sacks that made a huge difference in the ballgame. We're getting better."
Caldwell said while the Colts' offense was less consistent than normal Sunday, he also said, "It's something that obviously doesn't happen to us very often."
The Colts produced 410 yards total offense, and quarterback Peyton Manning completed 31 of 48 passes for 347 yards and no touchdowns with no interceptions. Wide receiver Reggie Wayne, after missing practice Wednesday and Thursday with a groin injury, caught 12 passes for 147 yards and a touchdown, but the Colts scored just one touchdown – the first time this season they hadn't scored at least two – and scored their second-fewest points of the season.
The Colts beat Jacksonville 14-12 in the season opener, but hadn't scored fewer than 27 points since.
"It's also something you can't put your finger on," Caldwell said. "That's why that general term is used for the most part, because it's a number of things. If it was one thing, I'd be able to tell you. There are a lot of different things that contribute to it. Thus the term, 'out of sync,' which is what we were for a little stretch."