A Capsule Look at Sunday's Colts-Lions Game
COLTS (9-4) vs. LIONS (0-13)
Sunday, 1 p.m. EST
Lucas Oil Stadium
Colts – Tony Dungy, seventh season as Colts Head Coach (82-27, 89-32 including playoffs) and 12th season as NFL Head Coach (136-69, 145-78 including playoffs).
Lions – Rod Marinelli, third season as Lions Head Coach and NFL Head Coach (10-35).
Colts – 9-4, 2nd in AFC South.
Lions – 0-13, 4th in NFC North.
LAST TIME IN PLAYOFFS
Colts – 2007.
Lions – 1999.
2008 NFL RANKINGS
Offense – Overall, T-20th (320.1 yards per game); Rushing, 31st (78.1 ypg); Passing, 6th (242.0 ypg); Defense – Overall, 13th (316.8 yards per game); Rushing, 25th (129.8 ypg); Passing, 5th (186.9 ypg).
Offense – Overall, 30th (261.3 yards per game); Rushing, 30th (78.2 ypg); Passing, 26th (183.2 ypg); Defense – Overall, 31st (386.9 yards per game); Rushing, 32nd (173.3 ypg); Passing, 17th (213.6 ypg).
Colts – Peyton Manning (307-477 completions, 3,225 yards, 64.4 pct., 22 TD, 12 INT, 88.8 passer rating).
Lions – Dan Orlovsky (88-156 completions, 1,033 yards, 56.4 pct., 5 TD, 4 INT, 76.7 passer rating); Jon Kitna (68-120 completions, 758 yards, 56.7 pct., 5 TD, 5 INT, 72.2 passer rating); Duante Culpepper (60-115 completions, 786 yards, 52.2 pct., 4 TD, 6 INT, 63.9 passer rating).
Colts – Joseph Addai (154 carries, 540 yards, 5 TD); Dominic Rhodes (118 carries, 425 yards, 4 TD).
Lions – Kevin Smith (167 carries, 684 yards, 5 TD).
Colts – Reggie Wayne (67 receptions, 918 yards, 5 TD); Anthony Gonzalez (51 receptions, 608 yards, 4 TD); Marvin Harrison (51 receptions, 583 yards, 5 TD); Dallas Clark (51 receptions, 542 yards, 4 TD).
Lions – Calvin Johnson (56 receptions, 1,055 yards, 9 TD).
Colts – Robert Mathis (11.5), Dwight Freeney (9.5).
Lions – Dewayne White (5.5).
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME LATELY?
Colts – The Colts, after back-to-back double-digit road losses, have won six consecutive games – including two against AFC division leaders – to solidify their position in the AFC playoff chase. The Colts lost at Green Bay (34-14) and Tennessee (31-21) before beating New England (18-15) at home, then rallying from a 10-point deficit to beat Pittsburgh (24-20). They beat Houston, 33-27, at home and San Diego, 23-20, on the road before a 10-6 road victory at Cleveland. They beat the Cincinnati Bengals, 35-3, this past week.
Lions – After losing four games by a cumulative 19 points in October and early November, the Lions struggled through late November with a series of one-sided losses to Jacksonville, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Tennessee. They began December this past week with a four-point loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
QUOTES TO NOTE
"What I've seen on film from their defense is that the defense plays hard. They should have won the game against Minnesota, it seems like, from a defensive standpoint. They created, I think, four turnovers on defense and had chances for a couple more, actually, that just barely went the other way. They played hard on Sunday. We know they'll play hard this Sunday, and that's what we need to get ready for."
--- Colts Quarterback Peyton Manning
"The one thing that I've been able to do, I just go day by day, and I really treasure every day. I'm just telling you, I can do that. Because if you're dreading the season, you're wishing your life away, and I'm not going to do that. I just absolutely adore every day that I'm in this position, and having the opunity to coach the people I'm coaching. So I'm about as excited of a guy as you can get each of every day."
--- Lions Head Coach Rod Marinelli
The Lions, a season after finishing 7-9, are nearing the end of a difficult, disappointing season and through 13 games, they have yet to win.
They are the sixth team in NFL history to start 0-13. Three of the previous six teams won their 14th game.
And while Colts President Bill Polian said the desire to avoid becoming the first team to go through a season without a victory will motivate the Lions, he also said that isn't the only factor making Sunday difficult for Indianapolis.
"It is a team that will be fighting tooth and nail for their pride," Polian said. "They certainly don't want to be the only team to go through a season 0-16, No. 1, and No. 2, they have a potent offense. . . . It doesn't matter who we're playing and it doesn't matter what their record is or what our record is. We want to play the best we can.
"If we do that, the results will usually take care of themselves."
The Lions, who have lost 20 of 21 games, rank 30th in the NFL in total offense, and because of injuries, have started three quarterbacks, recently signing former Minnesota Vikings starter Daunte Culpepper out of retirement. He has started the last five games, and has thrown four touchdowns with six interceptions.
Offensively, the Lions also feature running back Kevin Smith, a player Polian called a "home-run hitter" and "a very talented runner." He has rushed for 684 yards and five touchdowns on 167 carries.
But the Lions' premier player offensively may be wide receiver Charles Johnson, a player Polian called the best wide receiver to enter the NFL in a long, long time. He has 56 receptions for 1,055 yards and nine touchdowns.
The Lions, despite injuries at quarterback and despite their record, have had several chances to win this season, with five of their losses coming by eight points or less. That total includes two losses by a total of six points to AFC North-leading Minnesota, as well as a four-point loss to playoff-contending Chicago.
"The Lions have had some, I don't know whether to say tough luck, but they've had some games that they really could've won, should've won, and just haven't gotten the job done in the fourth quarter," Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said. "We'll look at the tape and look at their players and what they're doing. We're not going to take them lightly."
"You can't worry about that at this time of year. We have one game this week that we have to win and it happens to be Detroit. We're happy it's a home game and we're going to try to use that to our advantage, but whoever it is you have to win these games this time of year."
Culpepper sustained a shoulder injury late in Sunday's loss to Minnesota and underwent an MRI Monday. Other quarterbacks on the Lions' roster: Dan Orlovsky, who sustained a thumb injury in Week 9; Drew Stanton; and, Drew Henson, the backup the last two games.
Three key head-to-heads . . .
• Colts cornerbacks Kelvin Hayden and Tim Jennings versus Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Colts President Bill Polian this week called Johnson – a second-year receiver and the Lions' first-round selection in the 2007 NFL Draft – the best young receiver to enter the NFL in years. In his second NFL season, Johnson living up to such praise. He has 56 receptions for 1,055 yards – an 18.8-yards-per-reception average – and nine touchdowns for a team that ranks 26th in the NFL in passing. The Colts have allowed just four touchdowns passing this season, and Hayden – despite missing six games with injuries – has continued developing this season into one of the NFL's top young players at his position.
• Colts defensive ends Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney versus Lions offensive tackles Jeff Backus and Gosder Cherilus. Mathis and Freeney, long one of the NFL's top pass-rushing duos, have reestablished themselves as such in the past few weeks. Mathis has 11.5 sacks this season – a total that is tied for third in the AFC – and he has 6.5 sacks in the last three games. He also has two or more sacks in each of the last three games, while Freeney – a three-time Pro Bowl selection who missed the last half of last season with a foot injury – has 9.5 sacks this season, including 6.5 in the last five games. Cherilus was the Lions' first-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft and Backus never has missed an NFL start in eight seasons.
• Colts linebacker Freddy Keiaho versus Lions running back Kevin Smith. Not a true one-on-one matchup, but the Colts have improved drastically against the run since early in the season, and Smith is a talented runner capable of making big plays. After allowing an average of 199.3 yards through three games, the Colts have allowed 100 or fewer yards in four of the last nine games. The Lions' offense has struggled this season, but Smith has been effective at times, and rushed for 684 yards and five touchdowns on 167 carries – a 4.1-yard-per-carry average.
LIONS IN REVIEW
The Lions started the season by losing their first four games by double digits – at Atlanta, at home against Green Bay, at San Francisco and at home against Chicago.
They then lost a heartbreaking game at Minnesota, 12-10, the start of the Lions' most competitive stretch of the season. They lost at Houston by a touchdown before losing by eight points to Washington and four points at Chicago.
They lost to Jacksonville, 38-14, the following week, then lost by nine points to Carolina and by 18 points to Tampa Bay before a 47-10 loss to Tennessee at home on Thanksgiving Day.
This past Sunday, they had a fourth-quarter lead before losing at home to Minnesota. They led 13-10 after the third quarter, but lost a fourth-quarter lead for the fourth time this season when Vikings reserve quarterback Tarvaris Jackson threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Visanthe Shiancoe early in the fourth quarter. Detroit had a chance to retake the lead on the ensuing possession, but settled for a field goal.
The Lions have struggled this season, but kicker Jason Hanson has been what he usually has been: one of the NFL's most reliable players at his position. Hanson, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, is the NFL's longest-tenured player with one team and he is the Lions' all-time leading scorer. He has converted 19 of 20 field goals this season, including 6 of 6 from 40-to-49 yards and 7 of 7 from beyond 50 yards.
The Lions and Colts have played 39 times in their history, with the Colts leading the series, 19-18-2. They have played just eight times since the 1970 NFL Merger, and just five times since the Colts' 1984 move to Indianapolis. The Colts have won three of those meetings, including a 30-18 victory in Indianapolis in 2000 and a 41-9 victory in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day in 2004. The teams met twice a season as members of the NFL's Western Conference from 1953-1966. Detroit's last victory in the series was 32-10 in 1997, the year before quarterback Peyton Manning joined the team.
On November 25, 2004 – Thanksgiving Day – the Colts traveled to Detroit in the middle of one of the most prolific offensive periods in team history. The result was a 41-9 Colts victory, with quarterback Peyton Manning tying his team record with six touchdown passes. Manning that day also set an NFL record with his fifth consecutive game with four or more touchdown passes, becoming the third player in NFL history to throw 40 or more touchdown passes in a season. Manning finished the season with a then-NFL record 49 touchdown passes. Also that day, wide receiver Marvin Harrison caught 12 passes for 127 yards and three touchdowns with wide receiver Brandon Stokley catching five passes for 57 yards and three touchdowns.