|Despite miscues, Indianapolis still finds way to win|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 17 September 2007 14:33|
The Indianapolis coach just hopes the Colts can make Sundays and Mondays a little less stressful this season.
A day after hanging on for a 22-20 victory at Tennessee, a key road win in the AFC South, Dungy gave his team a mixed review and suggested the Colts must play sharper if they intend to defend their Super Bowl title.
``It was a good win for us, going into a tough place to win. That's the glass is half full,'' he said Monday. ``The glass half empty is that we didn't play as well as we did in Week 1.''
Not even close.
While the Colts (2-0) again protected their distinction as the NFL's best early season team, extending their league-best September record to 16-2 under Dungy, it certainly wasn't pretty.
Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning threw an uncharacteristic interception deep in his own territory that led to a Tennessee touchdown. Adam Vinatieri, the league's best clutch kicker, missed a short field goal, had another bounce across the crossbar and had an extra point blocked. The defense that looked impressive against New Orleans struggled, at times, to get off the field.
Yet they still found a way to win.
``They attacked us in some areas, but we got off the field,'' middle linebacker Gary Brackett said. ``But I don't think we put together 60 minutes. We played about 30 or 45 minutes and you have to play 60 to be consistent.''
Dungy said Monday he's hopeful Freddy Keiaho (dislocated elbow) and Rob Morris (abdominal strain) will be back in the lineup this week against Houston (2-0)
The Texans are averaging 27 points, sixth in the AFC behind the last four Super Bowl winners - New England, Pittsburgh and Indy. The other two teams, Cleveland and Cincinnati, were involved in Sunday's 51-45 shootout.
The weather was beautiful, the stadium was nearly full, and fans, dressed in black and blue shirts, were ready to cheer on their Carolina Panthers.
And, as has become the norm, the home team disappointed.
Losses such as Sunday's 34-21 stinker to the Houston Texans are nothing new for the Panthers, who have a better road record (23-18) than home (22-19) under coach John Fox.
``It's fun to win anywhere, but it's special to win at home,'' quarterback Jake Delhomme said Monday. ``We had a good crowd and we didn't play good football.
``I wish I had an answer for it.''
The defeat, which dropped Carolina's record in home openers to 3-10, was another puzzler a week after an impressive win at St. Louis. The Panthers jumped out to a 14-0 lead before the game was 10 minutes old, and didn't score again until the Texans had built a 20-point lead.
``We didn't do anything in the last 45 minutes that gave us a chance to win,'' coach John Fox said. ``You turn it over, you have drops, you don't execute on defense, on third down. All in all, you add that up and it's usually not very good.''
Steve Smith was the lone bright spot, catching eight passes for 153 yards and three TDs.
Also, lineman Jeremy Bridges returned from a two-game suspension and apologized for his arrest on an assault charge in the offseason.
Bridges was projected to be Carolina's starting right guard until he was charged a day before training camp began with pointing a gun at a woman outside a strip club. A day later, the Panthers suspended him for the first two regular-season games.
Sean Payton showed no interest in calling out particular players on the winless Saints, or even criticizing their collective effort in a 31-14 loss at Tampa Bay that put last year's NFL Cinderella story in an early 0-2 hole.
There are no signs of any quitters or a lack of emotion on a squad that's been outscored 72-24 in their first two games, the coach said.
``I haven't seen that at all. I don't expect that. We're in the second week of the season,'' Payton said. ``At the beginning of the season, I mentioned to them at some point during the course of the season you're going to hit a skid ... you're going to hit a stretch where you don't play well, the games don't go how you want.
``Obviously, you'd rather not hit that stretch the first two weeks in the season, but if you have the right guys in the locker room, which I think we do, then you know you're going to get the right response.''
The Saints' downfall in their first two losses had more to do with untimely and uncharacteristic lapses on both offense and defense, Payton said.
Dropped balls and a fumble stalled early drives at Tampa Bay, he said, putting the Saints' tiring defense back on the field and exposing them to big plays that were well executed by Buccaneers quarterback Jeff Garcia and receiver Joey Galloway.
And once the Saints fell behind by several scores, Tampa could bring pressure on quarterback Drew Brees, knowing New Orleans didn't have time to run the ball. It was a cascading effect that made last year's league-leading passer look more hurried and harried than usual.
Tarvaris Jackson's groin injury has put Minnesota's quarterback situation in question this week.
Vikings coach Brad Childress said Jackson will start if he's healthy, despite throwing four interceptions in Sunday's overtime loss at Detroit.
Jackson strained his groin earlier in the game on a run toward the sideline, and he felt a tug while setting up a screen pass on the first snap of the extra period. Brooks Bollinger came in, led the Vikings to midfield and fumbled a snap that the Lions recovered. They kicked the winning field goal five plays later.
Childress said he thought third-stringer Kelly Holcomb was up to speed with the offense since arriving last month in a trade with Philadelphia, but the coach avoided speculating on who would step in if Jackson couldn't play.
``I'm not even going to bend an opinion on that right now,'' Childress said. ``I'm just kind of going day-to-day with the guy that is there.''
The team will have a better idea about Jackson's availability as well as the status of tailback Chester Taylor (hip) and fullback Tony Richardson (forearm) on Wednesday. Both players sat out Sunday with injuries. Also, receiver Troy Williamson had to leave the game with spasms in his hamstring. Childress said he thought Williamson would be OK.
Jaguars safety Gerald Sensabaugh is probably out for the season after injuring his shoulder Sunday against Atlanta.
Sensabaugh was getting a second opinion Monday, but coach Jack Del Rio said he expected the third-year player to be placed on injured reserve.
``We think he's going to need surgery,'' Del Rio said.
Sensabaugh started the first two games for Jacksonville, but was benched against the Falcons after missing a tackle on the opening play. He played some later, but didn't make a tackle.
Veteran Sammy Knight, signed just before the season, will replace him and play alongside first-round draft pick Reggie Nelson.
Del Rio also said defensive tackle John Henderson will be without contact this week after sustaining a ``blow to the head.'' Henderson went back in the game and then had to be helped from the field because of heat-related issues.
Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson could miss this week's game against Indianapolis after injuring his knee against Carolina.
Texans coach Gary Kubiak said an MRI on Johnson's sprained left knee revealed no damage that would require surgery, but that it was ``doubtful'' he would play Sunday.
Kubiak and Texans trainer Kevin Bastin said they should know more about Johnson's condition after he is re-evaluated sometime in the middle of the week.