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: An improbable 31-27 victory over the Houston Texans Sunday, but when talking with the media Monday afternoon, you seemed somewhere else. You seemed more concerned about why the Colts were down by 17 with a little over four minutes remaining . . .
Answer: I was disappointed. It's just our consistency hasn't been there – some things that we have normally taken for granted, that when plays are available for the offense we're making them, when we have certain things we have to do defensively we do it . . . People may move the ball and make first downs, but not because we're out of position or not doing the right thing. That's what I saw that led us to be 17 down. That's what we have to get corrected.
Q: After the game, you said it was "quite a shock" what happened early in the second half on Sunday, meaning the 27 consecutive points the Texans scored to take a 27-10 lead . . . What, exactly, was shocking?
A: It was the way it happened. We're getting holding penalties on 3rd-and-18. They're getting 40-yard runs on plays we've worked on. It was things we did to create those plays. They had a good plan, which they always do, but it's something we have faced for seven years now, playing against Denver and those guys. It was nothing unusual. We got off to such a good start. I thought we might not be able to handle the emotion early, when we're up 10-0 you feel like you should be in pretty good shape. Then, to give up all of those unanswered points – it was really uncharacteristic and you're sitting there feeling like nothing's going right. Then, in the last three minutes we made some good things happen.
Q: In a sense, it was a similar game to the one in 2003 when the Colts rallied from a 35-14 deficit with under four minutes remaining to win, 38-35, in Tampa. But this was different in a lot of ways, too, wasn't it?
A: It really was. We had some things go right in that game (against Tampa Bay). We got the ball back on the onside kick and things like that whereas here, we had to make more plays to make it happen.
Q: The amazing thing is you're down 17 with a little over four minutes remaining and you win in regulation – and still have a timeout left at the end of the game . . .
A: (Smiling) We're thinking at 17 points down that you just don't have enough time, that it's not going to happen. Now, you're at the two-minute warning saying, 'Hey, should we run the ball? Should we run some time off the clock?' It was really strange.
Q: Colts quarterback Peyton Manning mentioned something after the game about how the offense approached the drive that cut it to 27-17. He said the offense played with urgency, and when you watched the replay they did. There wasn't a sense of having given up at that point . . .
A: We all understood we had to get three scores and we had to get them quick. I think so many of those guys having been there before when we've had to do it – they understand that it's doable. They were playing to score as fast as we could.
Q: But you've seen teams in that situation handle it differently . . .
A: Their goal (offensively) was to score: 'We've got to score one touchdown as fast as we can. It might take two minutes. It might take three minutes. But we have to score as quickly as we can.' They knew we were going to onside kick. When we didn't get the ball our offense was disappointed, but then we got the quick touchdown on defense and now we realized, 'Hey, we're going to get this ball back one more time. We don't know how much time's going to be left, but we're going to get it back and we have to score a touchdown.'
Q: When you were down 27-10, you faced 4th-and-6 at the Texans 7. A lot of "conventional wisdom" would say get the points there and make it a two-score game . . .
A: It was 3rd-and-13 and (Special Teams Coach) Russ Purnell said, 'Will we kick one here?' I said, 'If we don't gain any yardage we'll kick it.' So, if it'd been 4th-and-10, 4th-and-9 we probably would have kicked the field goal, but we were down there six yards and we had a play we liked. It's obviously easier to score a touchdown and a field goal at the end, but I guess the lesson in that is take all the points when you can get them. You never know what's going to happen.
Q: Because if that goes the other way . . .
A: We're in the same situation last year against San Diego (in the postseason). You look back on it and you didn't score the touchdown. People say, 'Ah, you should have kicked the field goal then you only would have needed one field goal at the end,' but we have good offensive players and we feel good about our shots from the 5-yard line.
Q: So many of the guys who made plays late – defensive end Robert Mathis, quarterback Peyton Manning, wide receiver Reggie Wayne, defensive end Raheem Brock, linebacker Gary Brackett – are veteran guys who have been in that situation before . . .
A: (Rookie tight end) Tom Santi made a big touchdown catch for us, but if you look at the other plays, it's (veteran running back) Joseph Addai, Reggie, Peyton, Brackett, Raheem, Mathis, (defensive end Dwight) Freeney . . . It's just your star players have to come through in those situations and they usually will if you give them the opunity, if you're close enough where you can make a play.
Q: The Colts are 2-2 after four games. They haven't played as consistently as you'd like, but sometimes you see a team stop and start early, then put together a run . . .
A: We're saying, 'Hey, we've got to get on a streak. We have to put some good games together.' Right now, we've been win one, lose one and we haven't really played with that consistency you need. That can come any time. You have to hang in there and win enough of these games when you aren't playing your best so that when it does come you're in position to take advantage of it. Going into the playoffs our Super Bowl year you would have said the same thing: 'What's the chance of stringing together four really good games?' We hadn't done it in a month, but all of a sudden we did because we were getting better and improving. When we got hot, it looked like it was easy, but it was just a matter of staying the course.
Q: It seems the ends, Freeney and Mathis, are playing at a very high level defensively. Are you seeing some pieces on that side of the ball falling into place that makes you think, 'Hey, we can put this together?'
A: The other part of it is we're missing some deep balls that we normally hit. If all of a sudden you're scoring touchdowns and you're up on people, it's totally different. That's where we haven't been all year like we've normally been in the past.
Q: You touched on that a bit on Monday, the need to hit big plays when the opportunity is there. Teams are playing the Colts' receivers tighter at the line of scrimmage than they have in some time. And your idea is you have to hit big plays against that sort of defense . . .
A: If you look back at our games you can remember guys being behind the defense. Reggie caught one Sunday, but they've been few and far between. Gonzo (second-year wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez) caught one at Minnesota, but think of the ones we've missed . . .
Q: If you hit those this season a lot of things are different . . .
A: It does things to the game. All of a sudden you're up and games are played differently.
Q: You mentioned earlier the good start Sunday. You were up 10-0 and had scored on your first two drives. That's the sort of early production you've been looking for all season . . . Is that another piece you see sort of coming into place?
A: I thought that might just spark us, then we had a chance to get them stopped on their next drive and we didn't quite. We've got a good drive going and we have a couple of mistakes and it stalls out. It was good to put those points on the board early and it's something we can build on.
Q: People around here have been spoiled for so long by unbeaten starts – 5-0 in 2003, 13-0 in 2005, 9-0 in 2006 and 7-0 last season – that it's easy to forget that a lot of teams stop and start early. Plenty of teams have overcome 2-2 starts to have huge seasons . . .
A: It does happen. Look at the (Super Bowl champion New York) Giants last year and (AFC Finalist) San Diego last year – teams that ended up having very good records and ended up in the playoffs. We started that way a lot in Tampa (from 1996-2001), where you're just not quite exactly clicking and you get better and you push through it. We haven't been through it in a while, but most teams do.
Q: As you go into this week against Baltimore, is it the same story? Are you just looking for that consistent, 60-minute performance?
A: This is going to be a hard week to get that because Baltimore, especially on defense, they play not to allow that. You're going to have to make some big plays and it's going to be sluggish and you're going to have some negative plays. You just have to keep fighting and hang in there and you'll get a chance to hit some. But it won't be that consistent, machine-like offense. They just don't allow you to play that way.
Q: What have you seen from the Ravens so far?
A: They're playing pretty well. They're playing kind of like they played in 2006 (when they won the AFC North and finished with the AFC's second-best record). They're very, very tough on defense. They make you go after big plays. They're pounding the ball and running it and throwing safe passes. (Ravens rookie quarterback) Joe Flacco has had some problems trying to do too much and in these last two games they've lost, he has turned the ball over a bit, but in the first two games, he controlled things, ran the offense and they played as I'm sure they're designed to play. But they're going to be tough.