Colts Want to Get Back to Winning Ways Away from Lucas Oil Stadium
INDIANAPOLIS – Dwight Freeney says history tells you all you need know about one of the Colts' themes entering this week.
Think all you have to do in the NFL to win is play well at home?
Think doing OK on the road is . . . well, OK?
Freeney, the Colts' five-time Pro Bowl defensive end, said reality is far different. And he said that can be seen by the Colts' recent history. The Colts, one of the NFL's most consistently successful franchises in recent seasons, as often as not also have been one of the league's better road teams.
And one, Freeney said, has a lot to do with the other.
"One of the big marks for a championship team is how you do on the road," Freeney said this week as the Colts (1-1) prepared to play the Denver Broncos (1-1) at INVESCO Field at Mile High in Denver.
"I think that's huge. When we had that championship run, and when we've done really well, we've done really well on the road. We have to get back to that."
The Colts indeed have built much of their recent success on being a successful road team.
Since 2007, they are 20-5 at Lucas Oil Stadium, and including games played this season, they have the same record in the regular season away from Lucas Oil Stadium.
Since 2002, the year Tony Dungy took over as the head coach, the Colts are 48-17 on the road and they never have finished a regular season below .500 on the road. Four times during that span – 2003, 2005, 2007 and again last season – they have finished 7-1 on the road.
Before this season, their last loss in a road game with playoff implications came on October 27, 2008, when they lost 31-21, to the Tennessee Titans.
Which is one of the factors that Freeney and Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said makes this weekend's game with Denver particularly imant.
The Colts in the regular-season opener this season lost to the Houston Texans, 34-24, a game played in Houston's Reliant Stadium in which the Colts trailed throughout and allowed 257 yards rushing. They also allowed Manning to be sacked twice and pressured about 10 more times.
That, Manning said, is not how the Colts see themselves on the road.
"We want to establish ourselves as a good road team," Manning said.
Manning said there's more to doing that than talking about how well they have played on the road in the past. A week ago, Manning stressed the need to focus on the New York Giants, and not to assume that just because the Colts typically respond well after a loss they would do so again.
Yes, Manning said, the Colts have played well on the road in the past. Their offense, despite being based on calling plays at the line of scrimmage without huddling, typically is not hurt by crowd noise, and in the past Indianapolis has had strong offensive games in venues such as Denver (34 points, 2006), New England (40 points, 2005), Jacksonville (35 points last season), Baltimore (44 points, 2007) and Cincinnati (45 points, 2005).
"What you've done in the past just doesn't carry much weight as far as this season," Manning said. "We want to establish ourselves as a good road team. We did not get off to a good start in that phase with the first game of the season.
"We're playing in one of the loudest, most hostile places in the NFL this week and playing against a good football team. It will be a great challenge, but to be a consistent team in this league, and to hopefully be one of the top teams, you have to be able to win on the road."
Following the loss at Houston, the Colts talked last week of not panicking, of the need to refocus and correct fundamentals, and they did so this past Sunday, taking an early 24-0 lead en route to a 38-14 victory. But because the victory over the Giants came at home, Freeney said the Broncos game still in a sense is "an opportunity to correct what happened last game.
"It's definitely one point of emphasis each year – win on the road," Freeney said.
Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell agreed with Freeney and Manning, that while winning on the road is critical – and while it is something the Colts have done as well as any team in the NFL – the ability to do so is not something that necessarily carries over from one year to the next.
"You do (have to re-establish that each year)," Caldwell said. "It is certainly something that is not granted to you. You have to go out and certainly play well in some very unique and hostile environments, and the big thing is we try and make certain that there are certain things that we think that should be fairly prominent when you do take the field in an opposing stadium.
"You have to have poise. You have to have great passion, pride and some confidence in what you are doing. That all comes from your preparation during the week."