INDIANAPOLIS – Center Jeff Saturday will be playing in the final home game of his 13th season on Thursday when the Colts host the Houston Texans.
Saturday has been a part of 131 regular-season victories with Indianapolis, a total that ranks behind only quarterbacks Peyton Manning (141) and John Unitas (132) in franchise history. He would like nothing more than to be in second-place in the category when the 2011 season concludes.
Victory always has been the aim of Saturday, and many times he has been a key cog in the Colts reaching the team objective of winning, too.
He and his teammates felt that feeling last Sunday when Indianapolis bested Tennessee. Back on the job on Tuesday, Saturday liked the feeling of tape review.
"Any time you win you sure do like to watch film and make adjustments and improvements after you get a win instead of looking at a loss with all of those things," said Saturday. "(I am) happy with the way the guys played. I thought our defense set the tempo and did an incredible job getting us on the field and putting the ball back in our hands. Those guys played awesome. Donald (Brown) had a heck of a game. We ran the ball well and protected Dan (Orlovsky). It didn't necessarily look pretty, but the 'W' made it feel awfully pretty."
The reward for last Sunday's win was a five-day week with a meeting with the AFC South champion Houston Texans on Thursday. Indianapolis has this game and one remaining with Jacksonville on January 1 to conclude a rough year. The last two games have the attention of the Colts.
"For us, we understand that our season as a whole hasn't been what we wanted," said Saturday. "We're looking at these things as one-game seasons. We have for a while. A division opponent at home, you've got to win. You're going to play them again twice next year, so you would sure like to put up a good effort and try to knock them out a little bit.
"They're the AFC South champions this year. … They've got a good squad. They're a heck of a football team. They have got a great defense and probably the best front seven in the league on defense. They run the ball well. They've got a good offensive line. That blueprint does awfully well, usually, this time of year. I've got a lot of respect for the way they play the game, but I would sure like to beat them this second game."
Houston beat Indianapolis in the opener, 34-7. It was a day where the team fell behind early. Saturday was the only member of the line starting in the same position as the season before, and two newcomers, first-year pro Joe Reitz and rookie Anthony Castonzo, were making their career debuts. Kerry Collins, a 17-year NFL quarterback, had joined the club recently and was answering the starting bell. Saturday acknowledges it was a tough day and feels the team is better situated this time around.
"I feel like we're more familiar with ourselves," said Saturday. "(In the opener) Kerry (Collins) had just been here three days. That was a tough experience for everybody. Snap count, I about broke his hand on one of them. Everything went wrong that could go wrong. I think in the first three plays, we're down 20 points or something. That's about as tough as it gets. I think we're more comfortable with ourselves, but that's not going to take away from how good they are. We're still going to have to go out and execute and play good football."
The Colts will be starting quarterback Dan Orlovsky for the fourth straight game. Last week, Indianapolis rushed for 205 yards, while he tossed a touchdown pass in directing the win. Saturday would like to see more of the same, and it would have to come against a talented defense. Having a successful mix in the attack is imperative.
"We need to run it," said Saturday. "The one thing about their defense is (if) you get into a one-dimensional football game throwing it, it's going to be a nasty afternoon. You saw it in the first game of the year. They can turn it loose. They'll rush five (guy) all day and play man-to-man behind it. They're as good as it gets when you get one-dimensional. Regardless of what their offense is doing, our offense needs to control the ball, control the line of scrimmage and get first downs, no matter what it looks like."
The five-day week from Sunday to Thursday is a challenging one for any team. This is the fifth straight season Indianapolis has had to contend with such a scheduling quirk. In the previous Thursday games, Indianapolis beat Atlanta and Tennessee, while topping Jacksonville twice. All were played on the road. Saturday likes the fact the short week provides a division opponent, and he likes doing it at home this time.
"Really the good part about it is you're facing a division team, so at least you know them," said Saturday. "It's not going to be a schematic deal, it's execution. When we get out there make sure a snowball effect doesn't happen, one bad play turn into another, it quickly can turn on you. You haven't been in your same rhythm or routine. As far as schematically, we know these guys. There shouldn't be any surprises.
"It's a good time to be at home. With the year and struggles we've had, it's always nice to be around your home fans."
The first stated goal each season to the players is the imperative nature of competing well in the division. Indianapolis has split with Tennessee and shoots to achieve the same results with Houston and Jacksonville. Saturday knows divisional efforts are key for the team.
"This (the AFC South) is your backyard, and you'd better take care of it," said Saturday. "The same mentality we took with Tennessee we have to take with Houston, then following with Jacksonville. These are guys you are going to face twice a year. You'd sure hate to let somebody feel like they have the advantage over you and build a bunch of confidence against you. We're going to have to come out (strongly) against them. They're going to come out ripping and roaring, coming off a loss and their playoffs (fight) and what they're trying to get accomplished. It's going to be a tough game. We have to be ready for it.
"These guys have played us tough from day one. They're a team that was built to beat us. You knew when we were winning divisions that was their mindset and their goal. They built their team to try to combat us. They're a good football team, and I have a lot of respect for them."
INJURY UPDATE – QB-Peyton Manning (neck) is out; TE-Dallas Clark (neck) is doubtful; LB-Philip Wheeler (foot), DE-Jamaal Anderson (groin), DB-Antoine Bethea (knee), RB-Delone Carter (forearm), LB-A.J. Edds (ankle), DE-Robert Mathis (knee) are questionable.