|Indy uses bye week as fix-it project|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 01 October 2008 11:40|
Be sharper, eliminate the mistakes and play Colts football.
After spending the bye week trying to correct those flaws, Indy took a distinctly introspective approach to Sunday's game at Houston.
``We'd like to be able to get some offensive rhythm back and get to where we're spreading the ball around and keeping the defense off balance,'' two-time league MVP Peyton Manning said. ``It'd be nice to be able to find that.''
Instead, the Colts (1-2) are in an unusual predicament.
For half a decade no team in the AFC South has been more dominant, and over the previous three seasons no NFL team was better starting a season.
Indy opened the season with 21 consecutive pre-November wins and used those fast starts to put division foes in an early hole. The result: Five straight AFC South titles.
Now they're looking at things from the opposite perspective.
of undefeated Tennessee. A loss leaves them in last place with an 0-2 mark in the division and three straight losses to AFC South opponents dating to last season's finale against the Titans when Indy rested most of its starters.
Still, the Colts insist this is not a must-win game.
``We're not desperate in this locker room,'' cornerback Marlin Jackson said. ``We've just got to get back to doing what we do, and that's playing consistent football.''
Clearly, that's been a problem on both sides of the ball.
Indianapolis ranks 31st in run defense, behind only winless Detroit, and the offense has been out of sync. Indy has struggled to run the ball, and Manning's quarterback rating of 73.1 is better than only four players in the AFC - Baltimore rookie Joe Flacco, injured Carson Palmer of Cincinnati, Cleveland's Derek Anderson and Kansas City fill-in Tyler Thigpen.
The combination has created a stilted look for a team built on precision, efficiency and high point totals.
One factor that could help them this week is getting key players back.
The bye week gave players like left tackle Tony Ugoh (groin) and guard Mike Pollak (knee) an opportunity to recover from injuries. Both were expected to practice Wednesday and could return to action Sunday although there's more uncertainty surrounding Pollak, who has not played since late August after injuring his right knee in practice.
If both start, the Colts would have four of their projected starters on the offensive line playing together - the most they've had all season. The other starter, guard Ryan Lilja, is still on the physically unable to perform list after offseason surgery on his right knee.
``Physically, they (Ugoh and Pollak) are fine and ready to go,'' Dungy said. ``They've been cleared by the doctors. In Mike's case, it's been a long time since he's taken any hits and done anything with pads on. Tony seems to be doing well and feels well, so we'll see how they do.''
When they return, it should alleviate some of the pressure on Manning.
While the perennial Pro Bowler has been sacked five times in three games, he's been subjected to many more hits than usual and been forced to throw early because of oncoming pass rushers. Plus, Manning, too, is still recovering from July surgery to remove an infected bursa sac from his left knee.
But the bigger problem has been Indy's mistakes - missed blocks, blown assignments, dropped passes and poor timing.
``We haven't played what I would call a real sharp game for 60 minutes in all three areas,'' Dungy said. ``We've shown some signs, had some sparks in one phase or another, but not consistent. That's what we have to do.''
Co. hope that spending an extra week working out the kinks will be the remedy they need.
They'll find out Sunday in Houston.
``We've just got to go out there and execute, and it starts with a good practice,'' tight end Dallas Clark said. ``We've just got to get something going. If we can move the chains, we can get going. That's what we need to do.''