Search for Consistency Remains Key Issue Entering Week 6, Manning Says
INDIANAPOLIS – Peyton Manning has heard the message. He couldn't agree more.
Manning, the Colts' 10-time Pro Bowl quarterback, said a major theme from Head Jim Caldwell this week has been about finding something that the team has lacked this far this season, a season in which the Colts have won twice at home and lost two of three games on the road.
That something is something the Colts typically have had in recent seasons.
That something, Manning said:
"That's what we'd like to find," Manning said Wednesday afternoon as the Colts (3-2) prepared to play the Washington Redskins (3-2) of the NFC East at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., in a nationally-televised prime-time game Sunday at 8:20 p.m.
"That's what Coach Caldwell has stressed to us, that he'd like to see us put two good wins in a row together and not have these peaks and valleys that we're having."
The Colts lost to the Houston Texans, 34-24, in the regular-season opener in Houston, then followed that with a 38-14 Week 2 victory at home over the New York Giants before beating Denver in Denver, 27-13 in Week 3.
They then lost for a second time in as many AFC South road games, falling to Jacksonville, 31-28, on a 59-yard, last-play field goal in Week 4, before beating Kansas City, 19-9, at Lucas Oil Stadium this past Sunday.
They enter Week 6 in a four-way tie for first place in the AFC South.
"You'd like an identity where you're performing well in all three phases," Caldwell said this week. "That's what you're searching for, real consistency in all those areas where you come out week-to-week and know what you're going to get."
Manning, who has thrown 11 touchdown passes and two interceptions this season, said he agrees that that's the key to consistency: not just playing well week-to-week, but having the offense, defense and special teams perform well at the same time.
"I think what we're looking for, too, is kind of all three phases playing at the same level," Manning said. "If you don't do that, it shows you can still win. The defense kind of picks up the offense, and the offense kind of kept the defense in it against Jacksonville – not enough.
"We're looking for a little more playing well together at the same time."
Manning and Caldwell each said that will be difficult against the Redskins, a team the Colts haven't played since a Colts victory in the RCA Dome in October 2006, and a team Caldwell said is similar to the Chiefs in many respects.
"They're probably a lot like what we saw last week," Caldwell said. "They're a team that has talent, and a superior pass rush. They have a pretty veteran team over there. . . .They find a way to keep you in front of you and bottled up, and they don't make a lot of mistakes.
"It will be imperative we finish drives off. We know that won't be easy."
The Colts, who rank third in the AFC and tied for fifth in red-zone efficiency with touchdowns on 12 of 18 possessions inside the 20, scored a touchdown and two field goals in such situations against the Chiefs, a team that Manning said employed a defensive scheme that has become familiar to the Colts in recent seasons.
Kansas City often played seven or eight defensive backs in coverage, an approach against which Manning said the Colts need to run efficiently. Indianapolis rushed for 97 yards on 31 carries against the Chiefs, with reserve running back Mike Hart rushing for 50 yards and an 11-yard, game-clinching, fourth-quarter touchdown on 11 carries.
"You've seen games where a team has given up on running the ball – they're just throwing every time," Manning said. "What does that do? That really helps the defensive linemen teeing off, (and) safeties really starting guessing, making plays. It's about the threat of the run. I still think our threat is there. I hope they feel it."
Manning said the Chiefs also extensively double-teamed tight end Dallas Clark, holding the 2009 Pro Bowl selection to three catches for 20 yards. Clark, who last season become the second tight end in NFL history to catch 100 or more passes in a season, has 31 receptions for 295 yards and three touchdowns this season.
"It's game-to-game – it really is," Manning said. "It's really nothing totally new from what we've been seeing for a number of years now. We probably are seeing a little more of the Dallas double-team, if you will. That seems to be kind of the 2010 trend so far. Every week you have to kind of be ready for something different."
Manning said whatever the approach of the Redskins' defense, what's imant for the Colts as much as showing more consistency is re-establishing themselves as a strong road team. Since 2002, former Head Coach Tony Dungy's first season, the Colts are 49-18 on the road and never have finished with a losing record on the road.
They went 7-1 on the road last season, and their worst road record since 2002 was 4-4 in 2006, their Super Bowl championship season.
"The main thing for us is it's a road game, and we need to find a win on the road," Manning said. "We had a good win over Denver, but we've lost our other two – at Houston and at Jacksonville – so we need to find a way to get a win on the road. That's what you have to do in this league if you want to truly be a good team.
"It's really going to be a tough challenge."