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 31-21 victory over the winless Detroit Lions, and once again, it's evidence that there are no untalented teams in the NFL . . .
Answer: We had seen it on tape. Carolina is playing for home-field advantage, and against the Panthers, Detroit had the ball to win the game in Carolina. That's just the way it is. We ended up winning the game by 10 points, which has disappointed a lot of people. We could have done things a little bit better and not mishandled two punts and those kinds of things, but that happens. That's how you win games and how you lose games, but we made the plays in the fourth quarter that we had to make to win and that was the imant thing.
Q: And in the NFL, a couple of turnovers truly changes the momentum. That was two times the Colts didn't have the ball . . .
A: A three-point swing or a 10-point swing in a game is huge in the NFL. When it's 7-0 and our defense goes three-and-out, they punt the ball to us and you're feeling good and we have a chance to take the ball and make it 10-0 or 14-0, then all of a sudden, they have a field goal and it's 7-3 rather than 10-0. That's a big difference. That's what happens and that's how you win and lose in the NFL no matter what the records of the teams are.
Q: It's sort of what you talked about after losses at Tennessee and Green Bay, that the difference usually isn't as pronounced as it initially appears – even when the margin is great. The score isn't always indicative and neither are records . . .
A: That's so true. I'm sure people just looked at Detroit's record and said, 'Well, the Colts will win this game.' They didn't look at the fact that the Minnesota game was exactly the same way. Minnesota needed a drive at the end to win the game against Detroit last week. You can't go on what happened before. Cincinnati came in (the previous week) and we got a couple of takeaways from them. We got the turnover right before the half and we ended up having a high-scoring game. They (the Bengals) didn't have them (turnovers on Sunday) and they beat Washington, so that's the way it works in the NFL.
Q: That's the reason you focus on the details. Because it's those little things that swing momentum . . .
A: No question about it, so you have to continue to focus on those. During this win streak, we have done a lot of those things right and we have been on the plus side of the takeaway ledger and we have to get that back.
Q: The turnovers on special teams not only led to two field goals by Detroit, in a very real sense they take away two opportunities that the offense never can get back. Offensively, you had eight possessions and five scores . . .
A: We were not having trouble moving the ball. We had one situation where we had a holding penalty we had to overcome and weren't able to do it. That was the time they stopped us in the first half, but other than that, we were moving the ball and scoring. You take away two opportunities and you still got 31 points – that kind of showed you what type of offensive day we were having. With a special teams turnover, that's your opportunity to get the ball and start a drive that you never get. You'd like to think we'd have had more points.
Q: Do people truly realize what a difficult task it is to turn around and get ready for a Thursday night game? This week becomes very, very condensed . . .
A: It is tougher and you have to work a little harder, but the thing that's kind of nice is both sides have the same thing. It's not like, 'OK, we played on a Monday and we have a short week and they didn't,' or, 'We're playing on a regular week and they had a bye,' so you know it's still a matter of, 'Hey, we have to work and out-prepare the other team.' We have the same amount of time they do, so we'll cut back on some things. We'll cut back on the contact in practice a little bit and we'll be ready to go. Fortunately, this coaching staff has done this a couple of times, so we have some experience with it.
Q: People get very concerned if games get close or if they get tied late, but in that situation, when you're getting the ball back tied in the fourth quarter, you feel good offensively, do you not?
A: A lot of people go in feeling as if it wasn't going to be close, so they maybe weren't prepared for it. We don't look at it that way, so it was fourth-quarter football and we always feel good when our offense has the ball with a chance to win the game, so we're tied up and we feel like, 'OK, we can't make a mistake,' but we've been moving the ball all day, so if we don't have an error we should be in good shape.' We take it down and get the touchdown, then defensively we got them stopped and (Colts quarterback) Peyton (Manning) asked me, 'How do you want to play this?' I said, 'Let's just play to move the ball and score.' We wanted to. We didn't want to get out of our rhythm at that point. I think there was 5:39 or something like that left, so we did kind of have workmanlike fashion to make a couple of first downs. Now, you're to the point where you're close to the two-minute warning. You talk about strategy. Do we want to stay in bounds? Do we want to throw or not throw? When we first got the ball back, it was, 'Let's just continue to play and move it.'
Q: Was that always something this offense could do? Back in 2002 and 2003, could it basically decide how it wanted to move the ball late? Or when did that start?
A: We've had more experience at it, working the clock, and running the ball and running the ball no matter what . . . and what he means by that is that normally we have fronts where if they show us something we're going to throw the ball. He's saying, 'Do you want to do that, or are we in a run-no-matter-what mode – that type of thing?' We've been able to discuss that a lot in the past and he's very good at understanding the situation.
Q: Not only have Peyton and Offensive Coordinator Tom Moore been together for 11 seasons, you and Peyton have been together seven seasons now. Does that help your communication in such situations? Is there a rapport?
A: There really is. A lot of time he won't even have to ask me. He'll kind of know. But to be able to talk about and think, 'This is what we want to do,' but it is a good feeling, to have that rapport.
Q: People try to break down what makes Peyton special, but what you just mentioned – his ability to function in a variety of situations – is a big part, isn't it?
A: (Nodding) Being cognizant of those situations. It came up in Cincinnati in 2005. (Colts cornerback) Marlin (Jackson) intercepted a ball and I was talking to the defense, congratulating them. They showed us some blitz fronts and our mode was, 'Hey, if we see this front, we're throwing.' We threw a couple of incomplete passes and I said, 'Hey, I should have told him at that time I wanted to milk the clock.' Since then, whenever it's even close to a situation like that, he'll always ask me, 'Are we changing modes yet? How do you want to play this?'
Q: That's why veteran quarterbacks thrive in this league, isn't it?
A: He understands the whole picture. That's one of the things that makes him great.
Q: You're always very detailed with the players about the scenario, and you've outlined this one. Win and get in and get rest the following week . . .
¨A: I always think it is. I just think there are so many things that can happen next week. If you have a chance to win and get in, you want to do that. For us, it really solidifies us in the spot we want to be in. That's how we're going to approach it.
Q: Is there anything to getting in with a victory in terms of getting a feeling of accomplishment?
A: There's something to that. We're going to go in having to play on the road. You're going on the road playing a game you really have to win. You want to be able to play your best and win and know, 'Hey, we can go on the road. We can go in tough places.' We have a nice road winning streak going right now, so that would be another reason we want to play well and get it done this week.