Solid, Sharp Performance Wanted Against Houston, Dungy Says
INDIANAPOLIS – As Tony Dungy sees it, preparations have been good.
Dungy, in his seventh season as the Colts' head coach, said the bye week was a good time for the team – a time of focus on fundamentals and basics – and said this week of practice as the team prepared to play the Houston Texans has been productive, too.
Now, Dungy said, comes the crucial part:
Translating that solid preparation into a more consistent, all-around performance on Sunday.
"I told the team (Friday), 'We really haven't played a good, sharp game all the way around – all three units for 60 minutes,''' Dungy said as the Colts (1-2), the five-time defending AFC South champions, prepared to play the Texans (0-3) in a division game at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday at 1 p.m.
"We've had spurts – a good series here, a couple of good series there – but nothing with the consistent flow that we're used to."
The Colts, a playoff team the past six seasons and the AFC South champions the past five seasons, haven't been under .500 after three games since 1998. They exit their bye week two and a half games behind the unbeaten Tennessee Titans, who visit Baltimore (2-1) Sunday.
The deficit is the largest the team has faced in the six seasons of the South's existence, and Dungy said the focus since a 23-21 Week 3 loss to Jacksonville has been "trying to get sharper so we can play better, play faster, play more efficient . . ."
"There's not a lot wrong with our approach," he said. "We just have to play better. . . . The old-fashioned remedies are the best, which is get back to doing what you do and make sure you're doing it well."
Dungy said the Colts had a strong week of practice, with the players "anxious to play."
"We realize we've got 13 games where we have to get better every week," Dungy said. "We want to make improvement. It's just on an individual basis everybody being anxious to play and play little better. . . .
"Our practice week has been pretty good. We're looking forward to going down to Houston and seeing if we can get back on track. It feels like a long time since we've played, and I think our guys are anxious to go, get ready, and I think we'll play pretty well."
Sunday's game is the Texans' first home game this season. Because of Hurricane Ike, they began the season with three consecutive road games and now will play consecutive home games against Indianapolis, Miami, Detroit and Cincinnati.
"You don't want this to be an emotional, fourth-quarter battle," Colts center Jeff Saturday said. "Obviously, if it gets to that, you still have to fund a way to win, but you'd much rather go ahead and take them out of it early and make them play chase up on you all day and just kind of wear themselves down.
"You don't want it to be 3:50 left on the clock, it's a tie ball game and they have the ball. The fans will be going nuts. You won't be able to hear anything, so from our standpoint, you try to take it out of their hands."
Because of damage from Ike, the roof at Reliant Stadium will be open Sunday. According to weather.com, the high in Houston Sunday is expected to be 87 degrees.
"It is what it is," Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said. "It's going to be hot. We've played in hot weather before, but we do things during the week. Jon Torine, our strength coach, passes out hydration tips and things like that. All those things come into play – how you eat and drink during the week can play a factor in how you play on Sunday. It will be imant to do all of those things he wants you to do."
Said Colts tight end Dallas Clark, "It's good Texas weather, so we're looking forward to it."
Also on Friday, the Colts released their final injury report of the week, with safety Bob Sanders (knee), wide receiver Roy Hall (knee) and offensive lineman Dan Federkeil (shoulder) ruled out for Sunday's game. Defensive end Dwight Freeney and wide receiver Marvin Harrison each missed practice while being rested.
"I think we have our full complement of guys other than Bob Sanders, Roy Hall and Dan Federkeil," Dungy said.