Dawson, Brackett Could Miss Bengals Game, Dungy Says
INDIANAPOLIS – The winning streak continued for the Colts Sunday.
So did the juggling.
The Colts, who went 5-0 in November while continuing to play through a season-long rash of injuries, may be without two more starters against Cincinnati Sunday, Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said on Monday afternoon.
Gary Brackett, the Colts' starting middle linebacker and defensive captain, sustained an ankle/lower leg injury in a victory over Cleveland Sunday, and likely will miss Sunday's game, Dungy said. He also said defensive tackle Keyunta Dawson could miss Sunday's game after sustaining a hamstring injury Sunday.
Each player started the first 12 games of the season.
"Keyunta has a hamstring pull – don't know how long that's going to be," Dungy said a day after the Colts' 10-6 victory over the Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
"The early guess is a couple of weeks."
X-rays were performed on Brackett Sunday night, Dungy said.
"The fact that he had to go get X-rays, I'd say he's highly doubtful for this week," Dungy said.
If Brackett cannot play, Dungy said weakside linebacker Freddy Keiaho likely will start in the middle with veteran Tyjuan Hagler – a starter at outside linebacker last season – likely starting in Keiaho's place outside.
Dungy also said second-year veteran Buster Davis, acquired off waivers from Detroit early in the season, could play a reserve role.
At defensive tackle, Dungy said "it will be a combination of everybody," including starter Eric Foster, a rookie free agent; second-year veteran Antonio Johnson, signed from the Tennessee practice squad last month; four-year veteran Darrell Reid; second-year veteran Dan Muir, who has been active two games since being acquired early in the season.
"Darrell has played well when he has gotten in there," Dungy said. "Fortunately, we do have Dan and he has been here and been trained. I think he's very healthy right now. We should be in good shape."
Center Jeff Saturday, who missed Sunday's game with a calf injury, likely will miss at least one more week, Dungy said Monday.
A BIG-PLAY GUY: Veteran defensive end Robert Mathis registered two sacks against Cleveland Sunday and also scored his first career touchdown.
His 37-yard return with a fourth-quarter fumble – a fumble forced by three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney – provided the winning points in the Colts' 10-6, come-from-behind victory but Dungy said it provided little surprise.
That's because if Mathis has been anything in a six-year career it's a player with a propensity for big plays.
"It seems like it's been someone different every week in this five-game stretch, but Robert has a knack," Dungy said. "Per play, he probably has made more big plays for us in the last five years than anyone on the team.
"He just plays hard every single play. We give him enough rest so he's not totally drained, but the chances he gets to go, he goes hard and generally makes something happen. He had two big rushes for sacks and then the play to scoop the ball up and score . . . that was something that doesn't happen all of the time.
"I was happy for him, because he has worked hard and if anyone deserves credit for making plays, it's Robert."
Mathis, who leads the Colts with nine sacks this season, has forced four fumbles and recovered three this season. For his career, he has 51 sacks, with 29 forced fumbles and 10 fumble recoveries.
GETTING CLOSER: Safety Bob Sanders was close to playing against the Browns, and could play against the Bengals Sunday, Dungy said.
Sanders, a two-time Pro Bowl selection and the 2007 Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year, has missed the last three games with a knee injury.
"We were toying with the idea and we just decided to give it one more week, so I would think he has a good shot to play this week," Dungy said. "I actually don't know how much he'll be practicing. That's what we have to do as a staff is try to find that balance of what days to practice him on and how much practice to give him, so he can get sharp, but not have his knee swell up.
"Whether it's going to be what he did last year, which was practice on Thursday, we haven't really figured that out yet."
EXPECTED APPROACH: The Colts had 215 total yards and 14 first downs Sunday, failing to produce an offensive touchdown in a regular-season game for the first time in five years.
But in a sense, Dungy said the offensive day wasn't a complete surprise.
Romeo Crennel, the Browns' head coach since 2005, was the New England Patriots' defensive coordinator from 2001-2004. In one of his last games in New England, the Patriots held the Colts without a touchdown in a 20-3 postseason victory following the 2004 regular season, and in his second game as the Browns' head coach, the Colts beat Cleveland, 13-6 at the RCA Dome.
Including Sunday's game, the Colts have scored one offensive touchdown in their last three games against Crennel-coached teams or defenses.
"When Romeo was in New England, they played us that way a lot," Dungy said. "They make you go the long route and rush three guys and try to take away the big plays. You have to be precise. You can't get penalties. You can't have negative plays."
Dungy said the Browns' approach Sunday was more than just solid defense. They also emphasized short passes and runs offensively in an effort to control the clock and reduce the Colts' offensive possessions.
"They played us like that a couple of years ago," Dungy said. "That seems to be the way they play us."
Dungy noted that of the Browns' 64 offensive players, 20 were third downs.
"That was their idea – to hang onto the ball and not try to go up field too much, and to really possess it and use the clock," Dungy said. "They played that game well. We just made one or two plays that made the difference in the game and fortunately for us, we got out of there with a win."