Colts Travel to Lambeau Field Seeking Third Consecutive Victory
INDIANAPOLIS – To Peyton Manning, one game in the NFL is just that.
Manning, the Colts' eight-time Pro Bowl quarterback said that means although the team won by more points than it has won by in more than a season last week – and although it played with the efficiency, energy and productivity it had sought all season – it doesn't mean much. Not anymore.
That's because nearly a week has passed.
And now Manning said the Colts must do it again. And again. And again.
"We're in the quick-summary type of world now," Manning said as the Colts (3-2), the five-time defending AFC South champions, prepared to play the defending NFC North champion Green Bay Packers (3-3) at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., Sunday at 4:15 p.m.
"We try to summarize what's going to happen based on one game or one play. As we all know (the NFL regular season) is 16 games, so the idea is to try to find some consistency.
"Every game presents its own challenge."
That search for consistency begins anew Sunday.
And unlike many recent Colts seasons, through five games this season, the search at times has been a difficult one.
They began the season fighting injuries, and they began, too, fighting inconsistency on offense, and struggles on defense.
Manning missed the entire preseason after off-season knee surgery, three-time Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday missed the first two games with a knee injury, and safety Bob Sanders – the 2007 Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year – has been out the last three games with a knee injury.
The Colts, who started the past three seasons 13-0, 9-0 and 7-0 and hadn't trailed in the AFC South since midway through the 2004 season, fell into second place immediately, losing the regular-season opener for the first time since 2004. They then lost in Week 3 to Jacksonville, the first time in 10 seasons they had been under .500 after three games.
The Tennessee Titans won their first five games, and the Colts – who in the first six seasons of the AFC South never trailed the division by more than a game – enter this weekend trailing by two games.
The Colts and Titans will play for the first time this season on Monday, October 27.
And until then, Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said, the Colts' spot in the standings – and that of Tennessee – won't be something discussed by coaches and players.
"We'll talk about it when we get ready to play Tennessee, because that will be such a big game in the division standings," Dungy said. "I usually start talking about (standings in late October or early November. But more than anything, especially this year, I've talked about us getting to play well. If we play well, the standings will take care of themselves.
"We can say, 'Hey, Tennessee's two games ahead of us right now,' but if we don't play well and win our games it doesn't matter. If we go on a three-game losing streak, it won't matter where Tennessee is or what they do. For us, it's getting ourselves geared in and playing well. We're starting to show signs of that and if we can win this coming week, it will set up a big game next week and we won't have to talk about the standings. . . .
"The difference between 5-0 and, in our case, 3-2 or 1-4 is not that much. That's what people don't understand. You win a couple of close games and they want to proclaim you as great. You lose a couple of close games and you're not very good. The answer is usually in the middle somewhere. Usually, teams get better as the season goes on. The teams that do get better are the teams that have a chance. I never really look too much at who's great or who's going to the playoffs in Week Five."
Said Manning, "What we talked about all along, but especially as the season gets going, is all you can do is worry about yourself and take care of the Colts. You watch other games when you're not playing, so you do see some different things happening, but all we can do is worry about us. It would be nice to get a little bit of continuity going and some kind of a streak going if possible, but it's going to be a tough challenge going on the road to Green Bay this Sunday."
Dungy said the Colts in recent weeks have shown signs of consistency, and signs of being a team that can contend for a seventh consecutive playoff appearance.
After losses in two of the first three games, with the lone victory a rally from a 15-point third-quarter deficit in Minnesota in Week 2, Indianapolis trailed the Houston Texans, 27-10 with less than five minutes remaining. They scored 21 points in a 2:10 span to win, 31-27, then last Sunday, they scored the first 31 points en route to a 31-3 victory over the Baltimore Ravens, a team that entered the game ranked first in the NFL in rushing yards allowed, passing yards allowed and total yards allowed.
"We showed signs of improvement," Colts tight end Dallas Clark said. "We hope to continue to improve and get better, and making big plays like that. That would definitely help our team out.
"It's only been one week, so we have to keep doing it."
The Colts' offense, which entered the Ravens game with just one pass play of more than 40 yards in the first four games of the season, scored on a 67-yard touchdown pass from Manning to eight-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Marvin Harrison in the first quarter, and had a 63-yard touchdown pass from Manning to two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Reggie Wayne in the fourth quarter negated by a penalty.
"We just need to try to establish some consistency," Manning said. "There are still some things from the game Sunday that we need to improve on. We still need to find a way to convert more third downs, be a little more balanced, try to improve our running game and those kinds of things. It was good to hit some plays. We were a little better on third down and we've been pretty good down in the red zone, not having to settle for field goals and getting some touchdowns.
"It's a whole new challenge this week against a really good Green Bay team playing on the road. We always know that's tough, so we're just trying to establish some kind of consistency throughout the game and hopefully throughout the season."
The Colts' defense also played its best game of the season against Baltimore, and a unit that entered the game last in the NFL in rushing defense held the Ravens – who entered the game fourth in the NFL in rushing – to 51 yards on 19 carries.
The Ravens' three points were the fewest allowed by the Colts in December 2005.
"We did a good job last week, but we have to keep that momentum going against Green Bay," Colts middle linebacker and defensive captain Gary Brackett said. "Early in the year, and in previous games, Coach always talked about Colts ball. The young guys didn't really realize what that was. Playing how we did last Sunday really emphasized what it means to stay in your gap and stop the run and let the team force them to be one-dimensional.
"When we do that, we're a tough team."
Maintaining that momentum, Manning said, is the goal now, but he said doing so has little to do with last week. Because last week, he said, was just one game.
And in the NFL, one game is just that.
"You have one good game and they say you're back," Manning said. "To me, it's about trying to find some continuity and consistency. Certainly, Sunday was more of what we like to see, but there are still some things we need to work on. . . . We would like to establish some kind of consistency throughout the entire game. Certainly, Sunday was a step in the right direction as far as the offense and defense feeding off one another.
"The defense was creating turnovers, and we protected the ball and kept them out of bad situations. Those are the kinds of things we have won with in the past and hopefully we can keep that going throughout the rest of the year."