INDIANAPOLIS – Sunday was center Jeff Saturday's 182nd career game. He has been a part of some very impressive seasonal starts – 5-0 in 2003, 13-0 in 2005, 9-0 in 2006, 7-0 in 2007 and 14-0 in 2009.
Saturday also has been a part of some difficult season-opening losses as well. He has seen what this league has to offer with highs and lows, victories and defeats.
What he knows for certain is this: One game does not define a season. He and his teammates know early successes guarantee nothing for how seasons progress and conclude.
They also know a rough spot in the road early means just to get back to work.
Sunday, the Colts had a rough outing at Houston, dropping an AFC South battle to the Texans, 34-7. Houston jumped to a 17-0 first-quarter lead that swelled to 34-0 at intermission. The Colts found a little better rhythm in the second half to finish the game. Saturday put the outcome in perspective.
"It's a loss to a division opponent, and that's tough. It's one game," said Saturday. "We have a long season. We have to come back and correct these mistakes and do better next week and try to get to 1-1."
Indianapolis was playing with new quarterback Kerry Collins, starting for the injured Peyton Manning in just his 18th day with the team. The offensive line also had first-time starters on the left side in rookie tackle Anthony Castonzo and guard Joe Reitz. Veteran Ryan Diem started at right guard (his first start there since 2002), while second-year pro Jeff Linkenbach played at right tackle.
Indianapolis turned the ball over on its second and third possessions on fumbles, and Houston converted both takeaways. The team battled difficult field position as well through the first half before establishing a better level of play in the second half.
"At first, obviously, we were all kind of out of sorts," said Saturday. "We had all kinds of issues early but I felt as we progressed through the game we were able to get better. There are things offensively we can build on for next week."
The Colts were facing a familiar opponent in the Texans, but the defense was something new. Houston employs a 3-4 base set, but Saturday said Indianapolis saw what it expected, but the team did not deal with it as successfully as hoped.
"They were exactly what we thought they were," he said. "They rushed the passer the way we thought they would. They lined up like we anticipated. They just had a better day than we had."
At halftime, head coach Jim Caldwell told Colts Radio he wanted the team to come out and work on its rhythm and to get untracked. At that point, the club had five first downs and 72 net yards, but only two of seven possessions had more than five scrimmage plays and on three of those drives the offense did not produce a first down. Saturday believes the club was able to accomplish Caldwell's wishes a little better over the final 30 minutes
"We wanted to get some consistency and some rhythm, to make some plays, get some first downs, drive the ball and set yourself up where you can learn on the film," said Saturday. "When you're having the setbacks over and over, it's hard to learn from that. We wanted some consistent drives, and that's what we wanted in the second half."
Indianapolis finished with 236 net yards and 15 first downs. The club missed one scoring opportunity on an errant field goal attempt, then came back to score when Collins teamed with wide receiver Reggie Wayne on a six-yard scoring pass with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter. Indianapolis reached the Houston seven-yard line on its next possession before losing the ball on downs.
The club did rush for a four-yard average on 16 attempts, and that is something Saturday believes was a positive that was not something the club could truly accentuate given the score of the game.
Running back Joseph Addai gained 39 yards on eight attempts to lead Colts rushers.
"I felt like we actually had a good rushing day," said Saturday. "Had we had the opportunity to be able to get in there and run it, I though Joe (Addai) was doing a good job. Those are things we're going to have to build on. When you're down 34, you're not going to be able to run the ball (often). It (the chance to run often) was one of those things by the nature of the game that was cut short. We'll keep working on that as well."
Saturday knows the work for game two against Cleveland next Sunday will begin tomorrow. He knows what the line will focus on prior to meeting the Browns.
"I think we need to work on our consistency," he said. "We did a lot of things to hurt ourselves. We gave up big plays early. We turned it over twice inside our 20-yard line and did some things to really hurt ourselves. We can't shoot ourselves in the foot. We had penalties to stop drives and sacks to stop drives. We have to be more consistent. We have to give our defense a chance to make plays. If we don't get a first down and punt it, don't give them (opponents) short fields to get points."
Saturday and his veteran teammates have been trained to expect execution and not to offer excuses. He was blunt about parts of the execution, but not the effort expended by his young linemates and as Caldwell pointed out after the game, there is football to be played.
"We did not start very well. We gave up some plays to them that we can't do," said Saturday. "We can't allow that. Overall, we will get back and assess the film. They (the young linemen) fought, I know that. Nobody quit. Everybody put forth the best effort they could in the second half. I respect how they played. Remember, it's one game. We have a lot of football ahead. This thing's a marathon."