INDIANAPOLIS – No position on a football field is easy to play.
Challenges are unique to every position. A multitude of things must happen for a team to succeed and perhaps no unit on the field has the isolated nature of the secondary.
Cornerbacks and safeties must read and react in a split-second like all teammates do. They must cover a tremendous part of the field while expecting collisions on virtually every play.
Like an outfielder in baseball, those in the secondary are in an exposed area. Often, it is an island. Praise and criticism are a part of the game and in a league that has become more pass-oriented in recent years, opportunities for both are frequent.
Jacob Lacey has started four of the club's five games this season. Lacey has seen as much action come his way as any Colts defender. Kansas City's Dwayne Bowe was the most recent receiver who Lacey was assigned to defend. There were other receivers to match up with previously and Sunday will bring more challenges in Cincinnati.
Lacey will stand firm and prepare for the moment. He and his teammates know execution for 60 minutes is essential, and he will confront all challenges that lie ahead. It is what he has done before and it has served him well.
"I definitely feel like we are almost there. We're a couple of plays away in a sense that we're making strides and we're in the ballgame," said Lacey. "It's not like we're completely out of the games. It's just a few plays here and there that we can change, and I think the outcomes will be different. It's just a case of sometimes being there and not being able to make a play. Whenever the turnaround comes it will happen, and I will be ready for that moment."
When asked during the week if the club needed to make changes, the third-year pro asserted that finishing tasks that are practiced is the thing that needs to occur on game day.
"No, I definitely don't think we want to get away from what we're doing," he said. "We need to come together within what we're doing and execute better."
Lacey has not been the only Colts player asked about the club's 0-5 start. Like many teammates who have been faced with the question, he also has been the part of many previous successful moments. Lacey's focus is to help those moments come again and keep a positive frame of mind.
"The mood has always been set the same. We are going to come in here and we're going to work," said Lacey. "We're going to compete and try to come up with a game plan, and execute it on Sunday. It (the start) has been rough. We just need to rally around each other and try to sort some things out and, more than anything, just make some plays."
Lacey would be the first to admit his play has not been quite where he wants. He is not the first person who has played in a secondary who has experienced challenges. He also knows he is the first one who can do something about it.
"You never want to start off the season 0-5, or lose a game, period. (It's) a tough time," he said. "We have to rally around (each other) and fight."
Head Coach Jim Caldwell was a defensive back in college, and he has experienced what comes with the position. Having a backbone of steel and the mental approach to forget can help.
"I just tried to reassure him. There are going to be days that you're going to have games that sometimes you go through a little spell (of tough luck). I've been there before," said Caldwell. "I've played back there, so I know what it's like. You've got to be a little bit of a riverboat gambler with a short memory. Sometimes that's tough to do, because those things gnaw at you a little bit. At some point you have to shake it, and you have to go back to doing the things that you know how to do, lean on your fundamentals and get back to business.
"We'll keep working with them (Lacey and the secondary) and keep getting them a little bit better. We just have to keep getting better, and we'll be a little happier when we get a victory."
Business awaits in Cincinnati for Lacey, his three comrades in the secondary and seven other defenders. A 3-2 Bengals team has an offense that is playing well. Two components he will confront will be rookies off to good starts, quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green.
Lacey will hit his mental and physical rewind button and forge on.
"They have two young, great guys in Andy (Dalton) and the receiver, A.J. Green," said Lacey. "It's the same week as every week in this league. It's going to be great players that you have to play against that are explosive and know exactly what they are trying to do. They are trying to win just like we are. Everybody knew that from college that he (Green) was going to come in this league and produce at a high level. He's been doing that. The challenge is set and we just have to step up to the plate."
COLTS FRIDAY NOTEBOOK (QUOTE-UNQUOTE): Jim Caldwell(on if team can work on 'finishing' games) "You can (work on it). It's something you can talk about, discuss, focus in on and try to get it done during practice. You make sure you finish drills and finish (practice) periods properly. Also the end of practice itself, those are constant reminders that you have to continually go through. The big thing is to make sure your fundamentals hold up all the way through the ballgame. I think that's one thing that is extremely important. It's the little things that make a difference. Down the stretch sometimes because things get a little tight you may get a little out of whack here and there. Oftentimes, I think that's the tale of the tape. Caldwell(on team's mentality at 0-5) "You look at the way in which they play, and that's the key. Are we in every game? We are right in the thick of it. We just have to learn how to finish. We've got a lot of men of character, of good focus and integrity and those guys will fight you tooth and nail. We just have to get it to tip in our favor there at the end, which we haven't been able to do. (I) haven't been concerned about their effort, haven't been concerned about their preparation and I don't think you see any of those things in terms of how they play. If that were the case, then you'd see a lot of blowouts going the other direction, which does not happen. Has not happened, let me put it that way." Caldwell(on importance of stopping opponents on third down) "It's one of those things that it's part of getting yourself in position to win. Stops are extremely important, and sometimes it doesn't have to happen after three (plays), maybe it's six. It's just one of those things where we need to get better in that area. It's something that we work on, and we've changed a couple of our periods now. We typically had what we call a blitz period, but we've changed that period to third down, because both sides need the work. We go offense vs. defense and one unit vs. one unit, trying to get over that third down sort of a hump. Offensively, we certainly need to convert more, and, defensively, we need to be able to get a stop. We're trying to change our emphasis to get some improvement there." Caldwell(on Curtis Painter as a leader) "I'm not one of those that think a leader is a 'cookie-cutter,' because there are all types of them. There are those individuals that lead by example. I always say, 'A mark of a true leader is a man that can lead himself, regardless of his style.' Curtis can lead himself. He's not a big 'rah-rah' guy, but yet he gets his point across. Also, guys gain confidence in him in the way in which he handles himself. He just does not get rattled, which I think is huge at the position in which he plays. He doesn't have a whole lot of ups and downs, which I think is very, very important as well. He's got real good focus. Every day he gets a little bit better, which is great. In terms of his leadership style, he's not a guy that's going to be out there yelling, screaming and those kinds of things. Nevertheless, he can directly tell them what he wants to get done." Caldwell(on Pierre Garcon's performances in last two games) "We've all seen over the years that he's an explosive individual that has great speed and power. He can catch it and run with it. He can go deep. He can catch it short and turn it into a long gain. Pierre's having quite a year thus far, and I think you've seen him in spurts do it before. He's been able to put a few back-to-back this time around. I think we've always kind of recognized that as one of his traits. He's a big-play guy." Caldwell(on Pat Angerer leading the NFL in tackles) "He's played a lot of plays because our defense has been on the field a bit, obviously. It also tells you that he's a pretty active guy, and he has natural instincts and can get to the ball. I think that's a two-edged sword. That means he's taking a lot of hits, which is obviously a problem. He's been a good, durable guy, but it also tells you we've been on the field a bit too much. It's not always a badge of honor, but he's been effective." Jeff Saturday(on if it's easier to find the secret to turning it around because of past culture internally) "There is no secret to football. You have to make enough plays down the stretch. If you're on offense, you have to extend drives. You have to give yourself a chance to score. You have to run the ball better. As it got later in the game, we didn't run it as much. We didn't have the same opportunities, and they kept the ball away from us. You look at both of those things and it's one of those things that we have to play better as a team. There's no secret to it. If you play better, you have a good shot to win." Robert Mathis(on what the defense needs to do) "We've got to make sure that all 11 guys on defense see the guy with the ball and hit the guy with the ball. Bottom-line. It can't get any simpler than that." Mathis(on the defense getting off the field on third downs) "That's our M.O., just get off the field. Create opportunities for the offense, and lately we haven't been doing that. So we just have to get back to basics." Dallas Clark(on keeping focus only on immediate game) "You just look at each week, and we can't control Week 8, Week 9 and all that. We can only control this week against the Bengals, and its great competition and a great team we're facing. So we can't look any further than that, and we have to put all of our energy and focus on that. Take each week like that." Joseph Addai(on his hamstring injury) "Yeah, I had it three years ago, and it was something that kind of lingered. I was trying to come back and some games I was trying to play with it, and I didn't actually know that I was delaying myself. This time I'm trying to be smart about it, and make sure that I'm 100 percent before I actually come back." Dwight Freeney(on what reaching 100 sacks will mean when he gets there) "I think it means a lot for me personally, means a lot to the team and people who've been here through that, too. A sack is just not an individual thing. It's great coverage, the other linemen doing what they need to be doing. Sometimes it is just you running over a guy. It's a little bit of both. It means a lot to me, because it's someplace where a lot of guys haven't been, and it's a pretty number. It's a three-digit (number) and 100 (of) anything is good, almost, other than 100 strikeouts or 100 missed tackles. (For) 500 home runs for baseball you've got 20-something guys that are on that list. That is kind of comparable with the sacks." Freeney(on the team's professionalism since goals of the season are over in the estimation of some outside observers) "Nothing has fallen yet. Obviously it's a high mountain and it's a climb. Not until it's actually written off is when we write it off. Those goals are still there. It (the mentality) doesn't change, it doesn't change. We didn't win all these games for no reason. We had these goals and we stick to them, and that's kind of what's gotten us through a lot of bad times we've had over the years, too." Freeney(on the return of Dan Muir) "Yes, it is great to see Dan back. Dan's one of us, he's family. Having a guy like that who has started two years for us, knows the scheme, knows what's going on, it's exciting for everybody. It (his return) is very critical. He knows what he's doing out there. We're thin at the position. (Eric) Foster goes down and we have a guy who steps in and knows the system. Now we don't have to move a defensive end to defensive tackle. Now we have a D-tackle D-tackle." Quinn Ojinnaka(on playing last week after only three practices) "It's not as hard as it seems. Football is football, no matter how you cut it. There are not a lot of plays you can add that guys have not run before. It's about learning the terminology and how quick you can do that. It's about the extra hours studying and try to learn (the system)." Ojinnaka (on the difficulty of line having continual changes) "I won't say it's hard, it's a challenge. It's about guys communicating and trying to work with each other. It's more of a challenge. I don't think it's difficult. Guys who don't start have to think and prepare as if they were going to start on Sunday, though they're not. When the time comes when you have to go in and play, it should be easy." Curtis Painter(on getting comfortable) "Going all the way back to camp, the more reps always helps. I think each week the things we do in practice as far as routes on air, or one-on-one, anything like that is going to get you comfortable with receivers. It's one thing to know the game plan and do the 'checks' when you're watching other people do it. It's another thing to get in there and get the reps to do it. That's been helping me a ton, just getting that opportunity to get those reps instead of looking in a meeting at it. (Now, I'm) doing it on the field."