INDIANAPOLIS –Bruce Arians says no one remembers what a team has done previously once December hits.
Sunday at Detroit is December 2. The next five games determine how important the Colts' 7-4 start is.
Legendary NFL Films voice John Facenda once intoned, "Hopes that were high in the heat of September can wilt and die in the chill of November." I could have jimmied his quote to say December, but you do not mess intellectually with Facenda. The meaning is the same, however.
Early-season aspirations and accomplishments pale as the calendar turns. The calendar is turning, and Arians says, "it's December, the price of poker has gone up."
Road game number six is the time to play well. Detroit has lost a number of close games and is dangerous. Indianapolis has a great deal riding on Sunday and must stay ahead of pursuers.
Getting their eighth victory is the aim for the Colts on Sunday, and here are SEVEN THINGS NEEDED TO WIN:
LIMIT CALVIN JOHNSON – Johnson provides one of the league's toughest challenges at any position. He has the size, speed, leaping ability and game-breaking talent to shatter any opponent. Any athlete on his level will make plays. Johnson averages 81.9 yards/game, the NFL's best mark of any receiver with 80 career games. The Colts need to be assignment-sharp to limit what he can do. Easily said, definitely understood, but incredibly tough to execute.
GET "CRUNKED" OR CHUNKED – Years ago "getting crunked" was a defensive motto to play tough. The Indianapolis defense must "crunk" against the Lions' high-powered offense. That offense grabs chunks of the field – 48 gains of 20 or more yards, 46 via passes. They've done it three-plus times in 10 different games. Get Crunked.
BE SHARP – The minus-14 season turnover ratio includes minus-12 in three road losses (Bears/Jets/Patriots) by a 135-54 combined score. Win the turnover battle, or break even.
MOVE THE CHAINS – Like New England, Detroit will move the ball. The best defense might be a good offense. Detroit's 412.9 yards/game ranks second and 312.5 passing yards/game ranks first. Detroit (271) and Colts (263) are second and third in first downs produced. Moving the chains and converting third downs keeps a potent opponent sidelined.
WIN FOURTH QUARTER – Detroit has scored 128 of its 267 points in the fourth quarter, 60 points more than any other total in a quarter this year. The Lions have permitted 107 of 280 points in the same quarter, the most allowed in any stanza. Indianapolis has won four games in the fourth quarter or overtime. If the game is close after 45 minutes, win the final 15.
FIRST-DOWN EFFICIENCY – Bruce Arians wants the offense to gain six yards on first down plays. Arians says early troubles this year hurt and the current 5.59 first-down average is not enough. Only five teams hold a 6.0 average, and Arians loves that number.
FRONT IS MORE THAN SUH – Ndamukong Suh gets the ink, but the entire Detroit front gets the attention of the Colts. It is big, strong, active and six players deep according to Arians. The line has 23 of team's 25 sacks and every lineman with multiple starts has multiple sacks. Suh (4.5), Nick Fairley (4.5), Cliff Avril (7.5) and Kyle Vanden Bosch (3.5) are stout and coached well by Jim Schwartz and Gunther Cunningham. The sum is strong, and so is each part.
QUOTE TO NOTE: Bruce Arians (on if he thinks Ndamukong Suh is a dirty player)
"No, I don't think he's a dirty player. I like the way he plays. He plays aggressive, hard, fast and physical. I don't think there's anything wrong (with that). That's kind of why they call it football."