A Weekly Conversation with Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy
Each week during the 2008 regular season, Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy will discuss topics pertinent to the Colts with Colts.com.
Question: A 29-13 loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday in the regular-season opener. You were disappointed afterward and said Monday things didn't look much better the following day. This really was a disappointing game for you, was it not?
Answer: I thought we would play better. I thought we would be sharp coming off the preseason and really (the Colts weren't sharp in) all three areas. We had penalties that really hurt us in special teams that took away field position. Defensively, we gave up a lot of rushing yards and had no takeaways. Offensively, we were just off. They basically forced us to throw. We had some deep balls that we usually get that we didn't get and we couldn't get any rhythm going. It was just disappointing to see us get outplayed like that in the opener.
Q: Did you sense anything in the preseason that would have made you expect that?
A: Not really. We had our routine pretty much the same as it always has been. We were having pretty sharp practices. It (Chicago) was a team we knew well, so it wasn't like we were going to have a mental problem figuring out what they were going to do or not really knowing how they were going to approach us, so no, I didn't really see it coming.
Q: This hasn't been something that has happened lot lately, particularly early in the season. Do you spend much time this week trying to figure out what happened Sunday, or is it just a case where you have to get back into the routine and do what you normally do?
A: You have to move forward and make sure you're doing the right things in practice, that you're working hard, that you're preparing hard. Players have to take it on themselves to do what they normally do to get ready. You can't really try to analyze why something happened last week. It's really just working on doing what we do this week.
Q: By the same token, as safety Bob Sanders said this week, you do what you do, but you have to realize what went wrong and get back to the details and the fundamentals. You can't assume it's going to be OK. You have to work at it.
A: Right. We just have to focus in and we have to come out and play and make sure we take care of business on the field. We had a lot of things going for us (against Chicago), playing at home. It's going to be tougher this week. No doubt.
Q: It's been a long time since the Colts have played in Minnesota. You've never coached up there with Indianapolis, but coached there six times with the Buccaneers. You also were the defensive coordinator there in the mid-1990s. It can be a tough place to play, similar to how the RCA Dome used to be in Indianapolis.
A: They're a high-energy team. They have some good young players, young talent. They have a different kind of defense. It is structured like ours, but they have some big, strong guys inside and guys who are tough to move. It will be a nice test for us.
Q: Leslie Frazier, an assistant for the Colts in 2005 and 2006, is now the defensive coordinator in Minnesota. How much could that come into play Sunday?
A: He'll be able to tell them some things about our defense. He has watched our offense for two years, but it was the same thing when we played Chicago (where former Dungy assistant Lovie Smith is the head coach). It's not that knowledge is going to be anything. You have to go out and play.
Q: The question most often heard after the loss to Chicago was, 'How much did quarterback Peyton Manning's not being able to play in preseason hurt on Sunday?' But you were very pointed following the game and again on Monday that rust was not an overriding issue.
A: No. No, it wasn't. If it had just been our offense or if it had been just our passing game you might be able to say that. It wasn't that solely. There were just too many other things we didn't do well enough to win. If we play better defense and get ourselves better field position and don't have the penalties and different things, we still have a chance to win. We couldn't attribute it just to rust of one person.
Q: A lot of the Colts' younger players never have been under .500 in the NFL. The last time the team lost a regular-season opener was 2004. What message do you send those guys this week?
A: I had to talk about that Monday, that one loss is tough no matter when it comes. There's no good time to lose, but they're all the same. Whether you lose opening day and don't lose again or whether you lose Week 16 or any week in between they're all one loss. You can't make more of it than it is, but we don't have one win yet and that's probably the difference for a lot of these guys. Especially the young players, you can't say, 'The season's over,' or, 'We can't go to a bowl game now,' or, 'We can't be in the BCS championship.'
Q: You're laughing, but that is a big difference in the NFL, isn't it?
A: That's the way guys feel. The other thing here is we haven't had that success (this season), especially for our young guys. We were 1-4 in the preseason and now you don't win. You can start to question what's going on. You certainly don't want to do that. When you don't play up to your potential, you just have to zero in on what's going to help you do that. Really, what's going to help you do that is preparing next week.
Q: You've always said this is what this team does well in the sense that there's not a lot of panic when you come off a loss. These players tend to focus in on what needs to be done and are very efficient in this sort of situation.
A: You have to block out all of the things that don't really matter. People say, 'It's rust,' or, 'It's this,' or, 'it's that.' You can't worry about all of those theories that are floating around out there. We just have to know what our job is, know what the system is, prepare and work hard. That's how you come out of it.
Q: You always say games turn on two or three plays. Sunday night's game against the Bears was another example. The Colts are two points down in the third quarter with possession and the Bears return a fumble for a touchdown. The play completely changed the game.
A: That's how most football games are. You have to be prepared to make those plays. That's where our team usually has been good. We didn't on Sunday night. When it was a 3rd-and-4 and we could get off the field (defensively), we didn't do it. When we had the ball to drive to go ahead, they got the fumble recovery and scored. We face a 4th-and-1 and we're nine points down. You make that and get a field goal, even, and you're six points down. Instead, the game does turn on those momentum plays. On Sunday night, they all went for the Bears.
Q: One point of clarification on the safety. It appeared on the replay that Colts running back Joseph Addai got the tip of the ball out of the end zone, but in that situation, just breaking the plane with the ball isn't enough, correct?
A: The whole ball has to be out. It didn't look like it to me, but it wasn't really a view where he could have overturned it, anyway.
Q: Vikings running back Adrian Peterson set the NFL single-game rushing record as a rookie last season. The Colts have never played him. Is there an adjustment period early with a player of that caliber where you have to get used to what it's like to play him compared to seeing him on tape?
A: I think there will be. He's a dynamic guy with great speed. He runs through tackles. I remember the first time playing against (Hall of Fame running back) Barry Sanders. You really don't know until you see it live. I'm anxious to watch him up close.
Q: You haven't coached in Minnesota, where you played college football, since you left Tampa. That has been since 2001. Is it still special?
A: It will be. There are people that you know. I was talking to (Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach) Mike Tomlin on another subject the other day and he mentioned it, that going back was really fun for him. It will be.
Q: As you enter this week, is there an anxiousness to see how the team responds to a relatively unfamiliar situation?
A: There is, and we really haven't played great football yet this season. We haven't in the preseason and we've practiced well, but it hasn't translated the six times we've had a chance on the field in the game. We have to make sure that that happens and we're going to need it to win the game up there, for sure. We're going to need to play well.
Q: There was a lot of talk throughout the offseason about the return of defensive end Dwight Freeney from a foot injury. He had a sack on Sunday night and two or three pressures.
A: Dwight was rolling and had the game turned into a passing game for them, he would have had a big night. He was close on four or five other ones. That part of his game seems to be coming back. I think he played in the mid-30s in terms of plays. He'll get better as we go, but it was good to see him back.