Victories Rarely Come Easy in the NFL, Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell Says
INDIANAPOLIS – As Jim Caldwell sees it, little has been easy for the Colts through five games in the 2010 NFL season.
Then again, Caldwell said, in the NFL easy doesn't come easily. At least not often.
Caldwell, now in his second season as the Colts' head coach, said while Sunday's victory over Kansas City at Lucas Oil Stadium indeed was a tight, hard-fought game, such games are the norm and not the exception in the NFL. It's a tough league, Caldwell said.
And when it comes to winning, no victory is a bad victory.
"We all have an idea what we expect," Caldwell said Monday, a day after the Colts (3-2) pulled away from the Kansas City Chiefs (3-1) for a 19-9 victory, "but to get what we're going to get is different. We say that, but you also have to understand that this league is so competitive and the talent level is so close, every game is going to be a close game.
"It's rare when a game is decided by more than a touchdown."
The Colts on Sunday out-gained the Chiefs, 341-261, and had 23 first downs to 16 for Kansas City, with kicker Adam Vinatieri's four field goals giving Indianapolis a 12-9 lead early in the fourth quarter.
The Colts defense, which held the Chiefs to 113 yards rushing, forced two fourth-quarter three-and-out series holding the three-point lead, then with 4:02 remaining, Mike Hart – substituting for injured starting running back Joseph Addai – clinched the victory with an 11-yard touchdown run.
The Chiefs had entered the game as the NFL's last remaining unbeaten team.
"You take what you can get in this league," Colts middle linebacker Gary Brackett said. "You don't take winning for granted."
Said Colts cornerback Kelvin Hayden, "There are no pushovers in this league."
Caldwell said that was a lesson he first learned in 2001, his first season in the NFL as an assistant with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Once during that season, then-Buccaneers Head Coach Tony Dungy – for whom Caldwell worked as an assistant that season, then from 2002-08 in Indianapolis – noted that most games in the NFL came down to the final drive.
Dungy said what that meant was the offense was either trying to drive or win a game late, or that the defense was trying to stop a drive to tie or win a game late.
"He said that's how it boils down a great majority of the time," Caldwell said. "That's indeed the case. It's rare when you have one decided by more than that. It's always in the balance. It's tough. It's really difficult."
Caldwell said it's a lesson that was not only taught this past weekend, but that is taught on most weekends in the NFL. On Sunday, four games were decided by seven points or less, with the Colts pulling away late, the Arizona Cardinals turning a tight game into a 10-point victory with a late interception return for a touchdown, the Jacksonville Jaguars falling behind by 10 points before rallying in Buffalo to win by 10 and the Oakland Raiders beating San Diego by eight points after returning a fumble for a touchdown in the final two minutes.
"Look at how many teams had to come from behind and win, how tight they were," Caldwell said. "That's the nature of this game."
Caldwell, too, said while the Colts won their first 14 games last season, the reality is the games more often than not were close, difficult games. Eight of those 14 victories were by eight points or less, and Indianapolis seven times rallied from fourth-quarter deficits to win.
"Just look at last year," Caldwell said. "Last year, we had seven games we had to come from behind to win. That's the norm to me. That's the world we live in."
Caldwell, speaking at his weekly next-day news conference, also discussed various areas of the victory:
*Offense. Caldwell said the offense moved well at times, but could have finished drives better. He also said the running game, which produced 97 yards on 31 carries, was effective early. He also said the pass protection "wasn't as sound as we'd like to be," despite quarterback Peyton Manning being sacked just once for no yards. "We always say the quarterback getting hit one time is too many," Caldwell said. "He got knocked around a couple of times." Manning completed 26 of 44 passes for 244 yards and no touchdowns.
*Defense. Caldwell said he liked the energy of the defense, and that the area made "very few mistakes." The Colts held Kansas City – the NFL's third-ranked running offense entering the game – 42 yards below their seasonal average through three games. "To be able to hold a pretty potent offense without a touchdown is pretty significant," Caldwell said. "We certainly were pleased with the way in which we played. We still have room to improve. That's the great thing about it. We still have a challenge ahead."
*Special teams. Caldwell also said special teams played well on punt and kickoff coverage, with Pat McAfee punting twice for a 52.5-yard average and kicker Adam Vinatieri converting 4-of-4 field goals attempted. "All of those things you can't be displeased with," Caldwell said.
Defensively, Caldwell said he wasn't surprised with the improvement shown from the previous week.
The Colts, after allowing 31 points and three red-zone touchdowns in a last-play loss at Jacksonville the previous week, not only held the Chiefs without a touchdown, they held them to a field goal on two red-zone possessions and one first down on 10 third-down situations.
"I tend to think these guys have a lot of pride in what they do," Caldwell said. "When they don't perform well, they usually try to find a way to correct that problem. We have a bunch of guys who aren't necessarily externally motivated. They get motivated by being better and doing better at what they do.
"These guys work hard and work hard all the time. There wasn't any real difference in that regard to me, but in terms of intent, I don't think there's any question when they went out on Sunday, they were looking to try to establish themselves and establish it early."