|Dungy uses lesson about late-game situations to beat Chiefs|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 19 November 2007 11:36|
If there's one thing he knows, it's this: Dungy is still learning.
A week after blaming himself for mismanaging a late-game situation for the Indianapolis Colts in San Diego, Dungy gambled in a similar scenario Sunday against Kansas City and won.
``I was disappointed in myself after that (San Diego game) because I was more concerned with the spotting of the ball and the penalty instead of looking ahead and thinking about the situation,'' the Colts coach said Monday. ``So you just try to live and learn, and do it better the next week.''
It's a point he often extols to players, regardless of wins or losses, and this time, Dungy used himself as the example.
With a chance to kick the winning field goal on fourth-and-inches from inside the Kansas City 5-yard line with about two minutes left, a virtual carbon copy of the San Diego game, Dungy changed the plan.
This time, Dungy went for the first down, and it worked perfectly.
Peyton Manning waited seemingly forever to draw the Chiefs offside, then snapped the ball and plunged ahead for the first down at the very moment it appeared the Colts (8-2) would be content to call a timeout and let kicker Adam Vinatieri win it.
A gutsy call for a coach who has sometimes been criticized for being too conservative.
Afterward, Dungy played it by the book. Manning dropped to his knee three straight times in the middle of the field, forced Kansas City to burn its final timeout and the Colts nearly ran out the clock before Vinatieri's 24-yarder gave them a 13-10 win.
There were some notable differences, of course.
At San Diego, the Colts trailed 23-21, while they were tied at 10 on Sunday and faced a worst-case scenario of going into overtime against a team playing with a quarterback making his NFL starting debut.
But clearly, Dungy wasn't about to make the same mistake twice.
``In retrospect, I should have done that last week,'' he said after the game. ``We learned from the week before and played it a little better.''
The next step is getting his players to follow suit.
Despite leading the AFC South and again in position to earn a first-round bye, the last two weeks have been a struggle for the Colts. Manning has produced his lowest back-to-back passer ratings since 2001, and the Colts' vaunted offense has looked out of sync.
The special teams, which allowed Chargers returner Darren Sproles to run back a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns a week ago, resorted to more directional kicking and even punting out of bounds. Dungy acknowledged Monday the Colts are likely to play that way until some of their injured starters return.
Dungy believes that could happen Thursday night, when the Colts visit Atlanta.
``I think we'll get some guys back this week and I think we'll get a few more after that,'' Dungy said Monday. ``I think Anthony Gonzalez, Tony Ugoh and Bryan Fletcher could all be back this week and Dante Hughes has a chance to at least be on the 45-man roster.''
The return of those players would certainly help.
Gonzalez (dislocated left thumb), a wide receiver, dressed but did not play against the Chiefs. The return of left tackle Ugoh (neck) would solidify a makeshift offensive line that has allowed more pressure than usual on Manning.
Right guard Jake Scott moved to tackle for the second straight week when Ryan Diem again went down with a knee injury in the third quarter.
Dungy gave no timetable on the return of perennial Pro Bowl receiver Marvin Harrison, who has now missed a career-high five games with a bruised left knee.
Manning is calling on his teammates to make the necessary adjustments.
``We kind of know all week who's not going to play, so we practice all week to get guys ready,'' he said. ``You've got to make it work with whoever's out there, so that's something that we don't point to.''
The Colts had five drops on Sunday, and Manning nearly lost a fumble on the winning drive when Tamba Hali slapped the ball out of his hands.
Now Dungy is hoping that's another lesson to everyone.
``I think we're fine and fortunately we've been through this before,'' he said. ``I've always said you have to play your best in November and December, and if you go back, probably 10 months, you'll see the same descriptions of this team and it turned out OK.''