Indy trying to rebound from rare early-season loss Print
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Monday, 08 September 2008 11:17
NFL Headline News

 INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -It was a rare early-season Monday in Indianapolis.
Tony Dungy thought Sunday night's loss to Chicago looked every bit as bad on tape. The offensive linemen challenged themselves to get the running game started, and Bob Sanders sent his teammates a warning.
``We've got a lot to improve on, and we've got to do it quickly or it will be the same results,'' said Sanders, last season's NFL Defensive Player of the Year. ``We've got to not let it happen again.''
The Colts aren't accustomed to hearing harsh criticisms one day into the regular season.
Traditionally fast starters, the Colts entered Sunday with a 21-game winning streak in September and October, the league's longest pre-November streak since the 1928-32 Green Bay Packers won 23 in a row. Last season, Indy became the first team in league history to open three consecutive seasons with at least seven straight wins.
Not that they've always been perfect.
the improbable: providing an apt description of the first early-season loss of their NFL careers.
``I was just telling a couple of my boys back home that I've not really lost in September,'' Hayden said. ``I'm not used to it, not accustomed to it.''
The Colts don't intend to get comfortable with it, either.
Dungy and his players have prided themselves on being quick out of the gate, building a lead over division rivals and using those early wins to keep the pressure on whomever is chasing them. If they're going to do that now, they must fix the flaws Dungy dissected in the film room.
Two-time league MVP Peyton Manning never quite hit his rhythm and looked rusty after missing six weeks of practice and all five preseason games while recovering from surgery on his left knee. This week, he could be without tight end Dallas Clark, who left in the first half with an injured right knee. Dungy said Clark was to have an MRI on Monday, but provided no other update.
Pro Bowl receivers Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison each let big plays slip off their fingertips, and Harrison lost a fumble that Chicago returned for a touchdown.
Pro Bowl running back Joseph Addai managed just 44 yards on 12 carries behind an offensive line playing with three new starters and without Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday. Addai eventually left in the fourth quarter with a head injury. Dungy expects Addai to play this week.
The offensive linemen seemed to take personally Indy's bleak rushing totals: 15 carries, 53 yards.
``If there's a running play called, you have to get yards,'' left guard Charlie Johnson said. ``We've got to run the ball, we've got to get yards. We've just got to get better.''
The same could be said of the defense.
Chicago put itself in enough manageable third-down situations that it converted 10-of-16 chances, and the Bears consistently won the field position battle in large part because Indy tried to play keepaway from kick returner Devin Hester.
All of it looked bad to Dungy.
``Usually on Monday, you come in and say the tape wasn't as bad as we thought,'' he said. ``But it was today. It was one of those exceptions. They played sharp, they played well and executed, and we threw our deep balls, but we really didn't get those big plays, and we got only one touchdown in the red zone.''
Perhaps it should not have been a surprise.
The Colts' regular starters failed to score a touchdown in the preseason, and the defense had trouble getting off the field on third down. Dungy routinely expressed his concerns about both parts.
But in past years, Indy has always managed to overcome its preseason sluggishness when the games started counting. What happened this time?
starters probably didn't get as much hitting in the preseason games.''
The challenge now is to recover quickly. After all they face Adrian Peterson and the Vikings, then the run-heavy Jacksonville Jaguars the next two weeks.
``We've got to go back to work,'' Sanders said. ``You can't let this game bother you because we've got a long season. This is a game we've got learn from, and we've got to play a lot better than we did yesterday.''
 

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