INDIANAPOLIS — There's a "totally different feel" at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center this week.
That's because the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday were able to close out yet another close game, this time against the Chicago Bears, whom they defeated 29-23.
The win improved the Colts' record to 2-3, but perhaps most importantly, sets up this upcoming Sunday's game in Houston against the Texans as an early-season battle for the AFC South Division lead.
Had Indianapolis not been able to get the job done against the Bears, head coach Chuck Pagano — talking with host Bob Lamey Monday for his weekly appearance on Colts Roundtable Live on 1070 The Fan — said he didn't "even want to think about" the ramifications of being 1-4.
"Amazing what a win can do for a building, and for the locker room and for the coaching staff," Pagano said. "Totally different — totally different feel. It's a whole different world.
"When it came down to it, like all of them to this point — you know, they're all one-score games, and they've all been down to the wire — and that's why you play 60 minutes and you know you've got to have a plan for all 60 minutes," Pagano continued. "And that's what our guys had yesterday, and they found a way to get that job done."
The Colts figured out a way to get the job done early on offense, scoring 16 first-half points thanks, in large part, to a more up-tempo offensive attack. It's a strategy the team also employed late in the fourth quarter, down 23-19, when Andrew Luck and Co. moved 82 yards in just six plays, culminating in a 35-yard, game-winning touchdown pass from Luck to T.Y. Hilton.
"Having the ability to go some up-tempo, keep them from substituting, moving the chains, keeping that group on the field, you can wear down a defense," Pagano said. "You're at the line of scrimmage, so you're putting pressure on the defense, you're putting pressure on the defensive playcaller to get the people in, to get the play call in, gives your quarterback enough time to gather enough information pre-snap, see what front and coverage you're getting, try to anticipate pressures and things like that."
Pagano said utilizing the up-tempo offense will be a week-by-week decision, however.
"It's something that we work on all of the time, and it doesn't necessarily mean that we have to use it all the time," he said. "There's going to be certain points of the game, certain games, certain teams that we're going to play where it may work better one week compared to the next.
Here's some other highlights from Monday's show, including some calls from fans fielded by Colts general manager Ryan Grigson.————————————Colts general manager Ryan Grigson:On the feeling of coming off a win over the Bears:
"Yeah, no doubt. It's a much better feeling than the alternative the last week, coming back from that 8 1/2-hour flight that we did — that was brutal. But it's always good to get a W in this league, and it makes for a better environment. There's a lot of good vibes coming off a win. Obviously we have our work cut out for us, and you watch the film and you see a lot of things that you could've done better, but it's hard to get wins in this league, and we're happy to have gotten one."**
On the positives of the no-huddle offense, like catching the defense with too many men on the field and giving Andrew Luck more time to throw:** "Definitely. And I think he's comfortable with it. But again, those are things that Chud (offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski) and Coach (Chuck Pagano) work out, again, because there's a lot more that's involved with all three phases when you do that. So that's for the coaches to decide."On the defensive side of the ball vs. the Bears, and how they were able to come up with key stops at big times in the game: "They did, and we created some turnovers. We came up with one, I believe, of three, and D.Q. (D'Qwell Jackson), I think I said something to him in the locker room, he saved us there with that recovery and staying in-bounds and so forth. I was hoping that we weren't going to get that robbed from us somehow on replay. So I was happy that that, obviously, happened, and he's been in the right place a lot of times since he's been here. But he is a great leader, and D'Qwell does a lot of really great things for this defense — he got everybody together, kind of got everybody focused, because we were having some hard times out there stopping those guys. So he got those guys back on track and helped us pull out a win. So we've got a lot of work to do; there's no doubt about it. We watched the film, and we've got to get better still with the fundamentals — just tackling and, from our front to our back end, we've got to get better. Just a lot of the fundamentals got to be better on both sides of the ball."On playing for first place in the division Sunday against Houston: "That's exactly why you have to concentrate on what you can control, and, like Coach said, just keep your blinders on. Because we were left for dead last week, and now we're right back in the mix again. So you have to — this league is week-to-week. There's so much parody; that's why it's such a great league. Because there's a lot of great teams right now — if you just go through the records right now, collectively, of the entire NFL, I mean, there's so much parody right now. The teams that are winning right now might not end up being in the playoffs. It's a marathon, not a sprint. That's the thing — we're going into Week 5 here. So it's up to us, at the end of the day, to come out on the win column on Sunday, but again, leading up to this game, we were in every game, and we lost in the final minutes. So we know that, and we know for the last five years, we've competed and won, despite any type of adversity we've faced."Social media question, asking about the morale in the locker room, and who is the biggest team leader: Grigson: "You know, it's really always the same. Chuck always has these guys on even-keel for the most part since I've been here. I really can't say it's ever really any different. Are there times we go through some tough things? Sure. But that's adversity, and that's part of the game. So I'd say, just leadership-wise, if I had to single guys out, Andrew (Luck) has become a really strong leader — more vocal than ever; (Adam) Vinatieri, I mean … he doesn't really have to say anything, but he does once in a while, and it's very rare, obviously for a specialist. But two of our specialists are two of the best in the league, and Adam is maybe the greatest of all-time, if not the greatest. What he's done so far is extraordinary. (Frank) Gore and (Robert) Mathis, too, are tremendous in that respect. They have so much respect and their body of work speaks for itself."Caller Josh, on if Grigson anticipates the team going with an up-tempo offense more often: Grigson: "I think, you know, when you look at it, just from the small sample that we had right off the bat, scoring on all four of our possessions, we did have success with it. I do think there has to be a balance, because you have to take the defense into account, and so forth, and how much they're on the field. Andrew does a great job with it, obviously. So I think there is some merit there, definitely, and when we have, we've done a very good job with it. It takes some pressure off the line to a degree. There's a lot of positives. But you also have to look at it from a macro perspective, as well, depending on what the defense — how long they're going to be out there — and we have been down in numbers and so forth. It's more than just, 'Hey, let's do this every series.' But I think it was definitely a positive."Caller Ross, on the injury to cornerback Darius Butler: Grigson: "Yeah, Coach talked about it in his press conference: he's got a middle finger, he's got to have a minor surgery on it, but to stabilize it. And we've had some guys play relatively very soon prior to this at other position groups, so we'll see how his pain tolerance is, and hopefully he can get right back out there, because Darius is someone that helps that whole defense in terms of just being that conduit from the sideline. He's very smart, he knows how to get guys lined up, he helps with all the young players we have on the defense, getting them squared away out there. And then he's around the ball. He's a guy that's always been a ball hawk for us, you know? And we've got to have him out there because he helps create turnovers, so I really hope he gets back sooner than later."Caller Leonard, on if the team sees anybody in free agency the Colts could bring in to help with the pass rush: Grigson: "You know, we're always looking. Coach and I are always talking about doing what we can to upgrade any position group. You know, the defense, I think, comes down to consistency. We have to make plays when they're there to be made, and we can't make mental errors, can't miss tackles and so forth. Eleven guys have to do their job at once, and I think we could play good, sound defense — and that day's yet to come — but I think we're going to eventually get there. We have a lot of young guys that are in this mix now, especially coming off the edge. We've got guys like Akeem Ayers, guys like Curt Maggitt, that are still new to it, playing up on the line of scrimmage, and then Curt's a rookie, plays really hard; is doing a heck of a job on special teams. (He) has to develop some of his pass rush skills and things like that. But I think as the year goes on a lot of these young players — you know, T.J. Green, (Clayton) Geathers has kind of established himself, but Antonio Morrison — we're going to have some bumps along the way because they are young players. But the nice thing about those young guys is they make their mistakes 150 miles per hour, so that will even itself out and, again, like we said, we've got to have the vets on both sides of the ball — in all three phases — not making mistakes that rookies would make."Caller Nate, on what the team is looking for moving forward with the secondary: Grigson: "Well, I'll tell you what, we really liked Patrick Robinson this offseason off the film. Think he's got really good movement; he's been a ball magnet in practice and through the offseason. He just hasn't really had a chance to show it out there, because he's been constantly dinged up — really like our whole secondary, for the most part. But our safety group is a real bright spot with Geathers and (Mike) Adams and T.J. — T.J. Green. We're really high on those three guys. You know, Vontae (Davis) has been playing very well; you don't notice him out there, which is a good thing. And I think that we've got to get P-Rob some confidence; you know, Patrick needs to get some confidence. And that position group, unfortunately, is one that if you're not up to snuff physically, it's different than playing offensive guard. Out there, when you're playing on an island vs. these elite athletes, if you're not hitting on all cylinders, they're going to expose it real quick. So we've got to get his confidence back, but we have faith that he'll bounce back here soon. And I think that's actually one of the strengths of this team."Mailbox question, on who Grigson believes are the most underrated players on the roster: Grigson: "Maybe 'unheard of' would be a better word. All these players on the team, even guys that were signed as college free agents, there's guys on our practice squad right now that we're really high on. There's guys that have been hurt that aren't really quite back yet, in Henry Anderson and, really, Kendall Langford, for instance, from a vet perspective. But again, Ryan Kelly, I don't think you consider him a rookie anymore, but he's a guy that I think he's on the come. Denzelle Good and Joe Haeg are players that I think the more continuity and the more snaps they get, they're going to iron out some of those communications issues they've had, because they have the physical talent to, I think, play at a starter level in this league — and at a high level, eventually. So those three young guys I think are guys that people don't know that much yet. Antonio Morrison is somebody that's working through his kinks out there, but he plays with such physicality. And T.J., I already mentioned — T.J. Green — is just so long, fast and athletic, and the guy will put his face on you, too. He really is a physical player as well. So we're excited. We have just under 40 percent of our roster is comprised of first- and second-year players, so we have some good, young talent on this team. And even Josh Ferguson, he's got to knock out the rookie mistakes. He's doing a really good job on special teams for us. But he's got to make the plays when they're there, as well, and catch the football, secure those catches, because he can help us with that speed he has."Follow-up question about Edwin Jackson, who has seven special teams tackles: Grigson: "The thing about Edwin is, I think, a lot of people probably think that he is a rookie, but Edwin was here last year on our practice squad late last season. He was a guy that was out there all year, we brought him in for a workout — I want to say Week 1; we liked him off the Arizona preseason film — and he had a zillion tackles at Georgia Southern. He came in and he kind of just was somebody that you were waiting to get a spot at some point on the practice squad, and even from Day 1, I want to say, he made a great play on the ball, and every day he was out there, whether it was training camp, practice squad last year, preseason this year, he's just around the football, and he plays at such a high rate of speed and tempo and urgency. He's an Energizer Bunny type, you know? And he plays fearless, throws his body around. Perfect special teams guy, but you know, he's got to learn and know the game as well, because he might be called upon at some point. So we like these young guys, and there's a common thread here of these young players — most of them have a lot of speed, burst and energy, but they all love the game, and they play with a high amount of ferocity, and just finish. And he's one of those guys. We all like Edwin a lot.Caller Matt: On the possibility of moving T.J. Green to cornerback opposite Vontae Davis:
Grigson: "That's a great question. And I'll tell you what, he's been out there at practice, and we've seen him in those matchups, and it sure looks right. When you watch it and you just watch him press, flip his hips and run — there was a lot of teams that would've played him and made him a corner in this league. There was a lot of them that would've just made him a corner right off the bat. So, yeah, that's something that Coach and I have talked about at points just that, if you ever get in a jam, here's a guy that flat-out has length, can run, can press. Now there's a lot of nuances at the position that he would have to learn, but at least one thing, he's big, long and faster — heck, and can make up for any mistakes, because he has tremendous make-up speed; he's 4.34 (40-yard dash). But right now he's filling a great role on (special) teams — I mean, he had the gaffe with the field goal — but he shot out of a cannon coming off the edge there. He's got so much explosion. But we're excited about having him on the field in any role possible, because, like I said, that safety group is pretty good, even if you throw in Matthias Farley in there, too. He's no slouch."