Each week during the 2008 regular season, Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy will discuss topics pertinent to the Colts with Colts.com.
* Question: An 18-15 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. The Colts came from 15 points behind in the third quarter. You talked several times since about this being one of the most satisfying victories in your seven seasons as coach. Why was this one so special?*
A: It was really all of the things you preach about when you start a season off. You talk about being mentally tough and working no matter what the situation. We have a lot of veteran guys who have been through that and you expect that from them, but to have some of our young guys have to go in there - who haven't really been through that a lot - and you're going through a game where you're playing hard, but you really aren't having any success, you haven't really stopped them and you haven't gotten anything going on offense and nothing good seems to be happening - to continue to believe in the coaching staff and to believe in each other and to keep playing . . . to come back and win when it really looked like to probably everybody else in the building that we weren't going to win, that's a good feeling. And it will be something that sticks with these guys a long time.
* Q: How much credit goes to just having created that culture here? That sort of approach is something that is preached all of the time . . .*
* * A: I think the continuity of it, where you have some people who have been in that situation together before, helps. You don't panic, and (quarterback) Peyton (Manning) isn't trying to just make every play a touchdown pass. You aren't gambling and you don't all of a sudden start blitzing or doing crazy things. You stay within the structure of what you have been doing because you do believe in each other. That is part of having a lot of people who have been there for six or seven years.
Q: A huge AFC South game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. Several players on Monday said it likely will be easier preparing for the Jaguars than the Vikings because the teams know each other so well from past matchups . . .
* * A: It's going to be an execution game again. They're going to come up here and stick with their plan and run their two backs and throw accurate, medium-range passes. They're going to be in a four-man front and line up and see if you can move their big guys inside. They're going to give us coverages that we know we're going to get. We're going to do the same thing, so it is one of those games where you just feel like, 'We've got to go out and outplay them.' Whoever does that the best is going to win.
Q: That's something that maybe the average fan doesn't realize - just how different a division game is in the NFL than a non-division game . . .
* * A: Usually that's why the toughest thing to do is sweep a team. Because you just know each other so well. You don't fool them. You win the first game and they have that mindset and that attitude coming back. Division games, that's what makes the NFL season.
Q: There are so many streaks and records the Colts have accomplished since you became the head coach in 2002. Is that one of the things you're proudest of, the 28-8 record in the division?
* * A: They're the tough games and that's why we've won the division (five consecutive seasons). We've had a better division record every year. To get up and play well every time you play a division opponent is hard to do. Our Super Bowl year (2006) is the toughest one we've had, at 3-3. That second time around, we weren't able to win those games.
Q: It seems it's a different dynamic every season in the division. In 2006, you played your division home games early in the season and the division road games late. Some years, it's practically the opposite. This season, your first division home game is at home in September. Any preference?
* * A: It really doesn't matter. However they come up you know the pressure's always on the home team. You just feel like when you have your division home games you have to win them. Whether they're at the beginning of the year or at the end of the year, those are the ones you have to win.
* Q: The Jaguars present an interesting situation. They're 0-2, but they're not a team that expected to be 0-2 after two games. There's a real urgency there on their part, isn't there?*
* * A: There will be. They understand what the stakes are right now. They certainly don't want to go to 0-3 and 0-2 in the division. For us, the pressure is this is our home game. We don't want to lose to them, then have to go down there. I think there's pressure on both sides.
Q: Is this a situation where you have to talk to the rookies this week and emphasize the importance? The veterans know how dangerous this team is, but a rookie may not know how different a team can play with that urgency . . .
* * A: They don't know. They haven't been in the Jacksonville rivalry, No. 1. They don't really know what division games are all about. You hope that they watched the tape and don't just get caught up in, 'Well, we're 1-1 and someone else is 2-0 and this team is 0-2, so they must not be very good.' We will have to talk about that a lot with our young guys. The good thing for our young guys is we can point to Minnesota and say, 'You guys just saw them. They're 0-2.'
Q: Something you touched on during your Monday press conference was the play Sunday of Peyton. You were maybe as impressed with that performance as any you've seen from him in seven seasons . . .
* * A: With everything that took place and the substitutes we had in, the type of defensive line they have, being down 15-0, the fact that he just really got zeroed in to what we could do, and stayed with the plan . . . He had to make a bunch of really good throws to get us back into it. It was a pretty special performance.
Q: And it may not be one that people look back on and rank statistically as one of his best . . .
* * A: It really was very special. Most people would think, 'Hey, we've got to get a play here. We've got to get something. I've got to make a big play.' When that happens, you don't throw the ball away when you really need it. You try to make big plays instead of just saying, 'OK, we're going to march and score and eventually we'll get the plays that are going to come available.' I thought he kept his composure. He took the hits. He still made accurate throws. The last throw of the game, he's getting hit as he throws. He doesn't have any place other than to fit it right into (Colts wide receiver) Reggie (Wayne). He made a number of plays like that down the stretch. And they (the Vikings) are built for that (situation). They had two really good pass rushers. They're able to play zone defense and tee off on us. It was difficult.
Q: And it's important not to let the performance of Reggie Wayne get overlooked. He caught five passes for 93 yards and a touchdown, but every catch was critical, wasn't it?
* * A: He's playing very, very well. He feels that confidence of, 'I've done this a while and I know what our offense is like and I know when the balls are coming and I feel good about seeing the whole field.' He's probably at that crossroads where the physical talent and knowing what's going on are coming together. He's making plays you need.
Q: Back to Peyton quickly. How impressive was what he did considering how fast the Vikings' defensive line was getting pressure?
* * A: We had to speed up our rhythm and figure out what we could throw. They're crowding us, because their defense knows they're rushing well and it's tough to get the ball up the field. With that whole combination, he still stayed patient. To be able to be accurate when your rhythm gets sped up a little bit is not easy. If you're just a little bit off because you have to go faster than you're used to, that's what defenses try to make happen. To be able to know that you have to go a little but faster but still be patient and calm is hard.
Q: You had an interesting perspective on the team's running game when asked about it Monday. You said the Colts certainly have to run better as the season continues, but you maintain that the primary issue is not necessarily the rash of injuries that have hit the unit . . .
* * A: That's the easy thing to point to, 'Well, this guy wasn't here,' or, '(Safety) Bob Sanders is out so we didn't play run defense well. (Center) Jeff Saturday's out, so we're not running the ball well.' We had runs where we knew what to do and we blocked everybody. We made some yards. (Running back) Joseph Addai had a run that went for six yards and (wide receiver) Anthony Gonzalez ran a pass route because he didn't hear the audible. If he (Gonzalez) blocks his guy, it might be 65 yards. You look at it and say, 'Well, it's a six-yard run.' People don't know. You say, 'You only ran for 20 yards.' That might have been 90 yards with just one guy hearing the audible correctly. Is it easier with your five starting offensive linemen? Yeah, but it's not just that. We have to get those things straightened out and we'll be fine.
* Q: Something that was interesting was at the end of the game Sunday guys were fighting and clawing to win. A team that has won five consecutive division titles and made eight playoff appearances in nine seasons might have complacency, but that wasn't a complacent team Sunday.*
A: The energy level was good. Even when (kicker) Adam (Vinatieri) missed a field goal, we got the ball back and drove it down a little bit. We still couldn't get it in. It's 15-15. We have to punt to them. Even at that point, everybody was excited about doing their job. (Third-year) cornerback Tim Jennings went down and made a great play (to down the ball on the Vikings 2). We got them backed up and guys were excited. (Rookie) Justin Forsett, he made a (punt) return and put us in position. Guys were on the sidelines pumped up. We got the penalty and found a way to get it down there with Reggie. Adam kicked it and the sideline exploded. It's great to see. That kind of chemistry is what helps you win.
* Q: You mentioned Wayne, but second-year wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez has been a big-time factor early. He had career-highs in receptions and yards on Sunday . . .*
A: It is what we thought he could do in this system. He's getting into a comfort zone and he is going to get the benefit that most of our third receivers and tight ends have gotten, that a lot of coverages are designed to take away the other two guys. If you go into every game thinking, 'Hey, I'm going to get some chances because of the coverages we're going to see and if I'm on my game I can have a good day . . .' I think that's where he is. He just feels like every week he may be the guy because of the way the coverages are going.
Q: You don't want to put too much emphasis on one game, but what sort of an impact can a victory like that have as you move forward?
* * A: There would be so much pressure on us now if we hadn't won that game. We'd be in Jacksonville's shoes saying, 'Hey, we're 0-2 and we have this big division game coming. How do we get things going?' Winning that game was important. How we won it, I think, will set the tone all year that you never feel like you're out of it.