Colts Still Finding Different Ways to Win after Eight Games, Caldwell says
INDIANAPOLIS – Halfway in, Jim Caldwell said there's much to like.
Caldwell, in his first season as the Colts' head coach, said that's just as true of the Colts' season a day after a second consecutive come-from-behind victory as it was in late September and October, when Indianapolis won four consecutive games by double digits.
Yes, Caldwell said, it's fine to win big.
But he said on Monday that because the NFL is a difficult league with new difficulties by the week, being able to win in many, many ways is as imant as large margins of victory.
And recently, Caldwell said the Colts have done just that.
"That's the great thing about them," Caldwell said Monday, a day after the Colts rallied from a four-point fourth-quarter deficit for a 20-17 victory over AFC South rival Houston at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"They're resourceful. Sometimes, things might not be going very well in one area, and they find a way to strengthen us in another. Maybe it's our kicking game that comes up, or maybe it's our defense. Or maybe it's the offense getting out in front early so we can turn our pass rushers loose."
The Colts (8-0), one of two unbeaten teams remaining in the NFL with New Orleans, extended their franchise-record regular-season winning streak to 17 games, and are one of four teams in NFL history to win at least 17 consecutive regular-season games.
New England holds the NFL record with 21 consecutive victories from 2006-2008.
The Colts, who play host to New England Sunday night, moved three and a half games ahead of Houston (5-4) in the AFC South with the victory. Jacksonville (4-4) beat Kansas City, 24-21, Sunday afternoon, and defending division champion Tennessee (2-6) beat San Francisco, 34-27.
The Colts, who have started 8-0 three of the past five seasons, beat Arizona (31-10), Seattle (34-17), Tennessee (31-9) and St. Louis (42-6) by a total of 96 points, but they trailed San Francisco 14-6 last week before rallying in the second half for an 18-14 victory.
On Sunday, they took a 13-3 halftime lead before Houston rallied to take a 17-13 on the first play of the fourth quarter.
The Colts re-took the lead on a 2-yard touchdown run by Joseph Addai, then clinched the victory when Houston kicker Kris Brown missed a 42-yard field goal on the game's final play.
"The ability to win a number of different ways is good," Caldwell said during his weekly next-day news conference at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. "This league will force you to do so. Oftentimes you find what you may consider to be a strength one week – the opposition is going to look at that and say, 'How can we take this particular phase away from them and try to make them play left-handed?'
"Therefore, you have to find other ways to win. I think our team has been good at that so far."
One area of concern, Caldwell said Monday, has been the Colts' effectiveness in the red zone. Against San Francisco two weeks ago, the Colts kicked field goals on all three trips inside the 49ers' 20-yard line that weren't in game-ending situations.
On Sunday, the Colts scored two red-zone touchdowns, but twice in the first half kicked field goals after moving deep into Houston territory.
"I don't think it's ever play selection," Caldwell said. "I think if you execute, that solves all of your problems, regardless of what it is. Every play that you draw up, if everybody blocks who they're supposed to block, run the route they're supposed to run, there's going to be someone in position to make a play.
"It boils down to execution for the most part. We don't make any excuses about that. We just need to finish and finish better. We've been able to do so, week in and week out.
"We're sputtering a little bit right now, but we believe in how we practice. We believe in the guys who are playing for us, and we'll find a way to get it done."
What Caldwell again said wasn't an issue Monday was the place in NFL history he earned Sunday. With the 8-0 start, Caldwell became the first Colts head coach to win his first eight games, and also became the only rookie head coach in the Super Bowl era to start 8-0.
He also became the only coach to start 8-0 when succeeding a head coach who won had won more than 100 games. Former Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy won 139 games.
Caldwell also has tied Potsy Clark (Portsmouth, 1931) for the best start by a rookie head coach in NFL history.
"There's a quote in the Bible, 'Exalt thyself and be humbled, or humble thyself and be exalted,' Caldwell said. "I like to take the latter part of that, and really, it is more an indication that our team is playing well – every player, every coach, everybody in this organization certainly has a part in it."
Caldwell said if there is something about which he is proud of the 8-0 start, it's that he knows how difficult it is to accomplish as an organization.
"Anytime anyone starts to think that they are the reason why, or all of a sudden there's a pedestal set that you've accomplished something – it's a team-oriented game," Caldwell said. "It doesn't have a whole lot to do with my effort, and my work and those kinds of things. I'm part of it. It's not exclusive.
"I refrain from talking about it a whole lot, but I do recognize that it is something of note, because it's hard to win one game in this league, let alone what our team has done – putting together back-to-back games for eight in row . .
"That's something that's very, very difficult to do. I don't want to discount it."