Colts Commit Fewest Penalties of Season in Victory over Patriots
INDIANAPOLIS – For much of the last month, he has discussed the need to reduce mistakes, particularly penalties.
Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said the Colts did that on Sunday.
And they did it in a notable way.
The Colts, who had committed 28 penalties in their past three games – with many coming at critical times – committed a season-low one penalty and were assessed no yards in an 18-15 victory over the New England Patriots at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday.
The last time the Colts went a game without being penalized was 1999.
"From an execution standpoint, when we had control of it, we did a good job not getting penalties, although I'll say this was probably a crew that didn't call a lot of penalties," Dungy said. "We had a couple they could have called, but overall, this was a much better game for us."
The Patriots, the NFL's least-penalized team entering the game, were called for just two penalties for 20 yards Sunday.
The Colts, who committed 11 penalties against the Baltimore Ravens three weeks ago and 12 in a loss to the Green Bay Packers a week later, committed five for 35 yards in a 31-21 loss to the Tennessee Titans a week before. But although they reduced their penalties against Tennessee, Dungy said the ones they committed came at critical times, with two giving the Titans first downs on a game-tying drive in the third quarter.
On Sunday, the Colts' lone penalty came on the final play of the first half. Trying to spike the ball to stop the clock and attempt a field goal, the Colts were called for a false start penalty.
Because it was a penalty against the offense, the call resulted in a 10-second runoff rather than a yardage assessment.
"That was one you had to take," Dungy said. "You had to try to snap the ball."
The Colts are now tied for 19th in the NFL in fewest penalties allowed. They never have ranked outside the Top 10 in the NFL in the category in Dungy's six previous seasons.
AN ISSUE OF PRESSURE: Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel threw 37 times Sunday without being sacked, the third consecutive game the Colts have not sacked the opposing quarterback.
Against New England, Dungy said the statistic was hard to analyze.
The Patriots, who have allowed 29 sacks – the third-highest total in the NFL this season – threw mostly off quick drops and often ran draw plays designed to slow the pass rush. It's a tactic New England often uses against the Colts, Dungy said.
"We knew they were going to be concerned about the pass rush," Dungy said. "We kind of expected that. We don't play a lot of man-to-man coverage to give them shots to take deep. They did a good job possessing the ball.
"They had been sacked a lot coming into this game and didn't get sacked at all. I think they had a good plan."
Through eight games, the Colts are tied for the third-fewest sacks in the NFL with 10.
ETC., ETC.: Safety Bob Sanders – the 2007 Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year – returned from a five-game absence Sunday, making eight tackles and intercepting and defensing a pass. "He makes a lot of plays for us," Dungy said, "The position he plays he's expected to make plays. I think the guys feel good when he's out there. They feel like he's going to make some things happen. That helps everybody relax. He's one of the guys who helps us play with energy. It's kind of infectious, his hustle and his effort out there." . . . The Colts used 13-year veteran Marvin Harrison as a punt returner early in the game, the first time he had returned a punt since 2005. The plan was to use Harrison once, then use rookie Pierre Garcon in the role, Dungy said. The Patriots did not punt after the one Harrison returned two yards in the first quarter. "We had a deal that we were going to use Marvin on the first one," Dungy said. "We were probably going to go back to Pierre after that, but we never had another one, which is not good." . . . The game Sunday was played with the retractable-roof at Lucas Oil Stadium open and the retractable window closed. "We had thought when the schedule came out that in November it wouldn't even be a debate (that the roof would be closed in November)," Dungy said. "But it was so nice on Friday and Saturday. (Colts Owner and Chief Executive Officer) Jim Irsay said, 'Hey, what do you think?' To me, when it's nice, you have to have the roof open. It was a fun atmosphere, to have it open and be playing outdoors." . . . The Colts, after a pair of preseason losses at home and losses in their first two regular-season home games, have won their last two games at Lucas Oil Stadium. "We're starting to play better," Dungy said. "We can't do anything about those first two games. We just have to try to win the rest of our home games. If we play well, I think we'll have a great shot."