A Day After 31-10 Victory at Arizona, Caldwell says Colts Have Improved Each Week
INDIANAPOLIS – A day later, Jim Caldwell again liked what he saw.
Not only that, Caldwell – now nearly a month into his first regular season as the Colts' head coach – said he liked not only what happed during a nationally-televised, prime-time victory on Sunday evening, but what he has seen during the season so far.
Because overall, Caldwell said the Colts are getting better.
And right now, he said that is what is imant.
"Overall, the thing that we're pleased with is the fact we've been improving every week," Caldwell said on Monday, a day after the Colts' 31-10 victory over the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday night.
"We're getting a little better, and getting to the point where we think we're a pretty consistent-performing team."
The Colts (3-0), who played Sunday just six days after beating the Miami Dolphins, 27-23, in a Week 2 prime-time road game, now lead the AFC South by two games over the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2) and the Houston Texans (1-2). They lead defending division champion Tennessee (0-3) by three games.
The Colts are one of seven NFL teams remaining unbeaten.
"Live I've said before, I think everybody understands how difficult this game is, and how tough it is to win a game, period, in this league," Caldwell said during his next-day news conference at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. "All the 3-0 start has done is ensure we won't go 2-14. We still have a lot of work to do. . . .
"This league is so tough to win a game. It (being 3-0) doesn't give you any indication for what we are going to do in the future. It doesn't give you any indication for what will happen this week."
Of the two-prime-time-road-games-in-six-days stretch, Caldwell said, "This is a team that's never made excuses. We've been able to go and look at the schedule and play it as it shows, and whatever comes along with it. They do a great job overall of adjusting."
After narrow victories over the Jacksonville Jaguars (14-12 in Week 1) and Miami, the Colts took a 21-3 lead at halftime against Arizona. The Cardinals cut the lead to 11 early in the second half, but got no closer, with Colts quarterback Peyton Manning's three-yard touchdown pass to Joseph Addai in the third quarter giving Indianapolis a 28-10 lead.
"Anytime you can win a couple of close ones, then have one that kind of goes your way in terms of overall performance, we feel pretty good about where we are," Caldwell said.
Caldwell said the Colts played solidly in all three phases:
• Offense: "Once we got rolling offensively after the first four possessions we really got hot and a number of guys stepped up." The Colts punted on their first three possessions and quarterback Peyton Manning was intercepted to end the fourth. They then scored touchdowns on their ensuing three possessions to take a 21-3 halftime lead. "Peyton had a big day, and our receivers did a nice job as well," Caldwell said of a unit that produced a season-high 505 total yards.
• Defense: "I thought they really accepted a challenge that was before them." After allowing 239 yards rushing in a 27-23 victory at Miami the previous week, the Colts allowed Arizona 24 yards rushing on 12 carries and forced three turnovers. "They came out and did a very nice job stopping the run and making Arizona a bit more one-dimensional," Caldwell said. "That gave us an opportunity to rush the passer."
• Special teams: "I thought we were solid, and I thought we covered well, particularly against a team that has a real fine kickoff return and punt return. I thought our guys did a nice job overall." The Cardinals returned three punts for 13 yards and four kickoffs for a 19.5-yard average.
"I thought we played well in all phases," Caldwell said. "I think we were pretty sharp – certainly not perfect, but the guys certainly demonstrated a lot of resolve in terms of this victory. They played hard, played smart and executed well once we got rolling."
Manning completed 24 of 35 passes for 379 yards and four touchdowns with an interception for a passer rating of 130.5. He is the AFC's leading passer, having completed 66 of 96 passes for 983 yards and seven touchdowns with two interceptions for a passer rating of 117.7.
"There is a difference between last year and this year because he started the (2008) season after (knee) surgery," Caldwell said. "In years past, he's been pretty productive around here. His preparation and dedication is always the same. He is never satisfied with a performance. Every single snap he takes in practice, he exhibits the same type of effort and enthusiasm.
"He plays it as if it's the most important play in the Super Bowl. That's how he prepares in the meeting room and in everything he does. That's the reason why he's so consistent. He does it week in week out, day after day, meeting after meeting. He's a real professional."