Colts Offensive Line Looking to Improve Cohesion and Continuity
INDIANAPOLIS – Ryan Diem's assessment was simple, direct.
Diem, the Colts' 10-year veteran right tackle, said while quarterback Peyton Manning was sacked just twice in the 2010 regular-season opener – and while the offense moved effectively throughout much of the game – those were statistics.
And he said in this case, statistics were different than reality.
Diem, a mainstay at his position for eight seasons, said despite what Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said were difficult circumstances, and despite a very worthy opponent, the reality was he and his offensive linemates weren't happy with their performance this past Sunday.
He said, too, it must improve. And it must improve soon.
"We weren't good enough, flat out," Diem said as the Colts (0-1) prepared to play the New York Giants (1-0) in an NBC Sunday Night Football Game at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday at 8:20 p.m.
"Across the board, we weren't good enough. We have to improve. We have to look at those little mistakes, get them corrected and play better as a group."
Manning, the NFL's four-time Most Valuable Player, completed 40 of 57 passes for 433 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions Sunday. He did so despite pressure throughout, with the Texans being credited with two sacks – one by Pro Bowl defensive end Mario Williams – and also credited with 10 quarterback pressures.
"We've got to be better than last week, that's for sure," Colts center Jeff Saturday said.
Manning, asked about the offensive line this week, called the Houston game, "A team loss."
"I don't think anybody, anybody, played well enough to win that game on Sunday," Manning said. "Houston certainly made more plays than we did, they deserved to win. But I thought in all phases, just the execution of our run game, pass game, screen game, you name it, I don't think anybody was as sharp as they needed to be, especially early in the game, which is disappointing. . . .
"Everybody is always going to point to one thing or another, but the team lost. That's how we take it. This group sticks together, sticks up for one another. Everybody is determined to play better this week."
Colts President Bill Polian said while the Texans indeed got good pressure on Manning, the Colts' offensive line during the game faced a difficult circumstance.
Saturday, a four-time Pro Bowl center, missed the preseason with a knee injury, and Charlie Johnson – the starter at left tackle since the 2009 off-season – missed with a foot injury. Saturday returned to full practice the week of the opener, and while Johnson practiced the week of the opener, he did so mostly on a limited basis.
"In both cases, they were less than 100 percent," Polian said. "I think that will change as time goes by. They'll get healed up, and they'll get more practice, and their timing will be better."
Polian said Johnson faced a particularly difficult task.
"You couldn't find a worse match-up than to get Mario Williams coming off a month of inactivity because of a bad foot," Polian said. "It's a very tough match up. We tried to help as best we could with chips, but there are going to be times when you simply can't use the back to chip because they don't allow you to with a blitz, and they're able to get a one-on-one. To Charlie's credit, he won most of them.
"As Howard Mudd, our former great offensive line coach, was wont to say, 'You can be perfect for 59 plays and if you give up a sack on the 60th play, you had a bad day.' Charlie gave up a sack and a pressure, I believe, but that was tough duty and frankly, that's what kept me awake at night going in to the ballgame."
While Diem started throughout the preseason, with Saturday out, Jamey Richard spent much of the preseason at center before starting at guard and Mike Pollak started at right guard after playing various positions in the preseason.
"You had the problem of cohesion because of the injuries and the match-up being the worst possible match-up you probably could get when you're in that situation," Polian said. "We knew going in it was going to be a little bit difficult there, and it turned out to be what we hoped it wouldn't be.
"I think it will get better. I think the injured players will heal up. Our young players will come on. It will get better as the season goes on."
Diem said he believed Saturday and Johnson played well considering the circumstances.
"Individually, I didn't think Jeff or Charlie would require a lot of practice to go, and I think they did OK with what they had," Diem said. "Across the board, we just didn't play good enough as a unit.
"It's something we're going to work on this week."
Saturday, like Polian, said as the line plays together more in the coming weeks, continuity and cohesion should correspondingly improve.
"Playing together more and more is going to help us all," Saturday said. "We've had a lot of spotty injuries here and there. Our continuity just wasn't good. There's no excuse for it. We have to get out there and perform and play better than we did in Houston."
The Giants, like the Texans, feature one of the league's top pass-rushing lines. It's a unit that features three ends considered premier pass-rushers: 2008 Pro Bowl selection Justin Tuck, 2005 and 2007 Pro Bowl selection Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka, who had two sacks in an opening-week victory over Carolina.
Caldwell said regardless of the opponent, "We have pretty high standards in how we believe pass protection should be handled and taken care of and keeping our quarterback off the ground. We have been pretty good over the years so our standards are high; so one time is too many. Obviously he got hit a few times and a few more times than normal and that is an area we have to get shored up."
Said Diem, "That's our job. Our No. 1 goal every week is pass protection, to keep him off the ground and keep him healthy. Last week, we didn't do that."