Come-From-Behind Victories No Formula for Long-Term Success, Dungy Says
INDIANAPOLIS – A day later, Tony Dungy said his emotions were still mixed.
Dungy, in his seventh season as the Colts' head coach, said there positives to the dramatic, historic, hard-to-believe victory over the Houston Texans Sunday afternoon.
The Colts played well early. And late. They played with passion in the final five minutes, and big-play makers make big plays at critical moments.
The Colts, who trailed 27-10 with less than five minutes remaining, scored three touchdowns in a 2:10 span to beat the Houston Texans, 31-27, at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. The victory was the second time in three games the Colts had rallied from a deficit of 15 points or more to win, but while it was critical, Dungy said something else was just as true:
Dramatic rallies, while thrilling and memorable, are no formula for long-term success.
Not in the NFL.
"That's not what we're looking for," Dungy said Monday, a day after the Colts became the first team in NFL history to win in regulation after trailing by 17 or more points with less than five minutes remaining.
"That's not the way we practice. That's not the way we've done things for a number of years. For some reason, we seem to have it this year. We have to get through that and fight through that and build on it. You're not going to be able to come from 15 points down week after week after week. It just doesn't work that way in the NFL. We have to work to eliminate that.
"A lot of it just knowing what we're doing and not having critical errors at the wrong time."
The Colts, who rallied from a 15-0 third-quarter deficit to beat Minnesota in Week 2, have trailed in each of their first four games. The last three games have been down-to-the-last-minute dramas, with the Colts losing to Jacksonville in Week 3 on a 51-yard field goal with :04 remaining.
"We just have to get consistent," Colts defensive tackle Raheem Brock said Monday. "That's our problem right now. We're inconsistent. We know we can play Colts football. We just want to get everybody on the same page and have that confidence and swagger and play like this for 60 minutes."
The Colts, the five-time defending AFC South champions, moved into second place in the South on Sunday, a half-game ahead of Jacksonville, 26-21 losers to Pittsburgh in Jacksonville on Sunday night.
A loss to the Texans would have left the Colts tied for third place with Houston and in last place for the first time since the South's 2002 inception.
It also kept the Colts from starting 0-2 in the AFC South for the first time.
"We just needed a win," Colts offensive lineman Charlie Johnson said. "Just coming off the game against Jacksonville, how that played out, we just needed a win. It does help that it was Houston. It kept us out of an 0-2 hole in the division and kept us out of last place."
Instead, the Colts trail the Tennessee Titans (5-0) – the AFC's last remaining unbeaten team – by two and a half games.
"It's going to be that way for most of the year," Dungy said of the narrow difference between second and last place. "That's why you can't really look at how other teams are doing, and who's where – who's ahead of you, who's behind you. We have to get ourselves playing good football and winning consistently. It's going to be the type of thing where you have teams up and down and a win or a loss can make a big difference in how you feel for a couple of weeks.
"I think that's just what you're going to see."
Dungy, speaking at his weekly next-day press conference at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, said what he most wanted to see on Sunday wasn't there.
And he said he wasn't completely sure why.
The Colts spent the Week 4 bye working on fundamentals and basics, with Dungy saying the hope being the Colts would play more consistently and with more focus.
Instead, he said the Colts played well for 10 minutes, scoring on their first two possessions for the first time this season and taking a 10-0 lead, their largest lead of the season. The Texans then scored the next 27 points, scoring on five of seven possessions, with one of the unsuccessful possessions coming when they ran out the clock at the end of the first half.
"It was really tough to take a lot from it, other than the first 10 minutes we were pretty sharp and the last four minutes," Dungy said. "Everything in between was not the type of football we're used to playing and not the type of football we're going to need to continue to play to win. It was difficult digging that type of hole. The one thing that was positive was our guys did continue to play even when mathematically it kind of looked like we were out of it. We still played hard.
"For three quarters of the game, we kind of self-destructed. We didn't play with the passion you have to play with in those types of games. We didn't play sound. It hurt us. We have to get those things squared away. I thought we'd make progress over the bye week and we did in a lot of ways, but it didn't translate out on the field.
"What we saw in those last five minutes, hopefully, we can build on and grow from there."
The Colts, after forcing two turnovers in the first 15 quarters this season, forced three in the game's final four minutes Sunday, scoring on a defensive touchdown and two touchdown passes by eight-time Pro Bowl quarterback Peyton Manning.
Indianapolis still trailed, 27-17, after Manning passed seven yards to rookie tight end Tom Santi with 4:04 remaining. Following an unsuccessful onside kick, Texans quarterback Sage Rosenfels rushed for seven yards on 3rd-and-8 from the Colts 39. As he was about to be tackled, he leaped into the air, was hit by Colts cornerback Marlin Jackson, then defensive tackle Raheem Brock's hit separated Rosenfels from the ball.
Colts middle linebacker Gary Brackett returned the fumble 68 yards for a touchdown to make it, 27-24, Texans with 3:36 remaining, and on the Texans' next series, Rosenfels scrambled to his left and Colts defensive end Robert Mathis sacked him from behind, stripping the ball away and recovering the fumble.
Two plays later, Manning threw a fade pass to two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Reggie Wayne (seven receptions, 97 yards), who touched his shin down just in bounds to give Indianapolis a 31-27 lead.
On the sixth play of the ensuing drive, Colts safety Melvin Bullitt intercepted Rosenfels.
"You hope that it's a game that kind spurs us on to play that way all the time," Dungy said. "We'll see down the road. We just have to play the way we played the last four minutes. If we do, we're going to be in good shape."
Dungy said one factor in the early-season inconsistency may be young players thinking too much. He said on Sunday and again Monday that he was concerned about what seemed like a lack of passion at times. The Colts rallied in the final minutes Sunday, Dungy said, because of plays such as the ones made by veterans such Mathis, Brackett, Brock and Wayne.
"It comes to a point to where it's just energy and making things happen and not being denied," he said. "You have to do that. You have to go get a second block. You have to run over people. Things aren't going to go perfect, and that's what we have to get a little bit of also."
And Dungy said while a positive sign is that the Colts have proven themselves capable in the first four weeks of overcoming huge deficits, and of winning in improbable situations, he said such inconsistency is worrisome.
"We have talent, but right now, we're at .500 because we aren't playing consistent football," Dungy said. "You just don't have that many 15-, 17-point comebacks in the NFL. We've had two in three weeks and we have another game where we score to take the lead and don't hold the team. It's been kind of a roller-coaster, but it probably tells us we haven't been consistent enough."
Said Brackett, "We have to play good football. That has to start in the first quarter and continue on to the fourth quarter. Well take the win, but obviously, we know we need to improve on some things."