Key Entering Bye Week is Not Panicking, Dungy Says
INDIANAPOLIS – As Tony Dungy sees it, this is no time to panic.
Dungy, in his seventh season as the Colts' head coach, said on Monday – a day after the Colts' second loss in three games this season – there were plenty of things with which he was less than pleased regarding a 23-21 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday.
The run defense must improve, Dungy said.
The offense isn't as sharp as it has been historically.
And what Dungy said was particularly troubling was at times the Colts didn't hustle as much as possible.
Still, Dungy said, the problems that have faced the Colts this season are fixable.
Therefore, Dungy said the Colts – who have their bye week this week – will spend the week not making changes in scheme or personnel offensively or defensively, but focusing on fundamentals and returning to the basics that have made them a playoff team in each of his six previous seasons.
"Really, we just have to get sharp and try to get back to training-camp mentality," Dungy said Monday during his weekly next-day news conference at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
"We just have to focus in on our assignments and what we do and focus in on how we play. If we do that, I think we're going to be fine. I know we'll get a lot of suggestions about what we need to do, but for the most part, when you get in these situations if you gear down and do less and do it well, you're usually going to be in pretty good shape."
Middle linebacker Gary Brackett said the Colts have two goals entering the bye week:
1) Get healthy.
2) Cleaning up mental mistakes.
"We want to make sure every one's on the same page for the rest of the season," Brackett said.
The Colts and Jaguars (1-2) are each two games behind the Tennessee Titans (3-0), 31-12 winners over the Houston Texans Sunday, in the AFC South.
"We don't look at the standings right now," Dungy said. "We never did look at the standings when we were rolling well. We concentrated on us playing and improving every week. That's what we have to do. We have to play better. If we do, we'll be in good shape in November and December.
"If we don't – if we play the same way we're playing now – we will be behind. I think we can play better and if we do, we'll start winning games."
Said Brackett, "We have to focus on ourselves. That's where it all starts, is with ourselves. If we take care of our business, we know the type of football we can play. It's no different than any season. Guys are here to be competitive and what happened the first three weeks is not indicative of how we can play football. We know if we can go out and clean some things up, we'll be fine."
The Colts, the five-time defending AFC South champions, are under .500 after three games for the first time since 1998, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning's rookie season.
"What we have to do as coaches is just not hit the panic button," Dungy said. "We have to understand what we have to get fixed and I think we'll do that. That has been one of the things our team has done well over the years is focus in on the things that are really imant. If we do that, and get those cleared up, we'll be fine."
Since 2002, Dungy's first season, Indianapolis has been one of the NFL's fastest-starting teams. From 2002-2007, the Colts won 18 of 20 games in September and 35 of 42 games in September and October, having lost just one regular-season opener under Dungy.
That was the 2004 opener in Foxboro, Mass., to the New England Patriots, who that season finished 14-2 and won the Super Bowl. The Colts then won 12 consecutive games in September before a 29-13 loss to Chicago in the regular-season opener.
"We've been real blessed to be in situations where we've been successful early in the year," Colts linebacker Freddy Keiaho said. "Coach Dungy said it: we're capable of running of 10 straight, and everybody believes that."
The quick starts were key to their division success. Indianapolis started 2003 with a 5-0 record, and started 13-0 in 2005, 9-0 in 2006 and 7-0 last season.
The Colts never trailed in the division in any of those seasons.
"That (a 1-2 record) doesn't sound good, but it's still a long season," Brackett said. "We're not out of anything yet. We still have a lot of football to play. That's our mindset going into the bye week."
The Colts, who entered the game ranked 28th in the rushing defense, allowed Jacksonville 236 yards on 48 carries Sunday, with Jaguars running backs Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew each rushing for more than 100 yards.
"Jacksonville gives us a little bit of a problem," Dungy said. "They have two really good backs. We played a lot of eight-man front where you have an extra guy up there and our eighth man had trouble tackling those two backs. They made a lot of things happen when we had unblocked players. They did a lot of good cutback running and we didn't really control it that well. . . .
"Those backs make you miss. They had had a lot of missed tackles in the first two games they played, but they were four and five-yard runs.
"I thought we relaxed. We didn't hustle as well as normally do, and that's something we stressed all week – that these guys were going to make some people miss and you had to fly and hustle to the ball. In the second half, especially, we didn't really do that."
The lack of hustle, Dungy said, "is not characteristic of us."
"It's something we have to get back to," Dungy said. "We have to go to work on that and the fundamentals of things and not spend so much time worrying about who's not in the lineup or whatever and just do what we do and what we're supposed to do and I think we'll be OK."
Taylor, an 11-year veteran, rushed for 121 yards on 26 carries, and Jones-Drew – a third-year veteran – rushed for 107 yards on 19 carries.
"It's not a situation where you want to point fingers," Brackett said. "We're all to blame for it. I could point on film where probably every player had a play or opportunity he didn't make. It's just a matter of guys being consistent in their position. There's no reason we can play solid defense for 30 plays and then let them off for 15. That accounts for some of the big runs where we took a hit as far as the run average is concerned.
"I'm confident. The same group of guys was here last year (when the Colts ranked second in the NFL in total defense, 15th against the run) minus one or two guys. It's the same group of guys for the most part that was here in our Super Bowl run (following the 2006 season).
"We can't let everyone else determine what we can and cannot do. We all believe in each other and we know what we have to do after the bye week."
The Colts, who allowed Chicago 183 yards rushing in the opener and Minnesota 180 yards in Week 2, are now ranked 30th in the NFL in rushing defense at 199.3 yards per game.
"It's the same team that won the Super Bowl two years ago," Colts defensive end Robert Mathis said. "We just do what we do. Sometimes, like last (Sunday) night, it doesn't work. Most of the time it does work. You just have to stick with your guns."
Said Keiaho, "We don't have to reinvent our defense or anything like that. We just have to get better at executing our defense."
On Sunday, the run defense also helped limit the Colts' offensive effectiveness, particularly in the second half. The Jaguars held possession 41:35 minutes to 18:25 for the Colts, a margin that was more pronounced in the second half.
"We didn't get the ball back for our offense," Dungy said. "The big thing is you just have to do what you're supposed to do. You have to trust the system. We'll see some things when we watch the tape where we got a little frantic. We just have to gear into what we're supposed to do and play hard. Usually good things will happen to you."
The Colts produced 231 yards and 14 first-half first downs on Sunday, taking a 14-10 lead. But in the first 27:27 of the second half Sunday, they ran just six offensive plays for 17 yards.
The Jaguars in the second half had drives of 8:41, 3:59 and 12:18.
"We didn't get the job done on third down in the second half," Dungy said. "There just wasn't much in the second half that was really sharp and good enough. . . .
"All in all, it just worked out that we didn't play well enough to win."