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Monday, May 2, 2016

Colts seemingly more in sync - at the right time

Monday, November 17, 2008


AP Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS -- Suddenly the Colts are doing things right.

They're scoring touchdowns and punting less. They're forcing turnovers and reducing their own mistakes. They're getting ahead and winning games.

And with a favorable schedule down the stretch, they just might string together the winning streak that has eluded them this season.

It's a welcome change for Indianapolis, which spent the first half of the season mired in questions about what was wrong with one of the NFL's most consistent teams.

"We've just been a little sharper," coach Tony Dungy said Monday. "We've turned the ball over less and less, we've cut down the sacks and gotten rid of the ball a little quicker, so we've just played a little better."

Yes, things seem to be getting back to normal for the Colts (6-4).

On Sunday, two-time league MVP Peyton Manning led the team on five consecutive scoring drives against Houston and his play-calling seemed to keep the Texans on their heels throughout the second half.

They finally ran the ball with authority and for the first time in 19 games -- including last season's playoff loss -- Joseph Addai topped 100 yards. The Colts, the league's worst ranked rushing offense most of the season, went to its power game in the second half and finished with 154 yards on the ground and 474 overall -- both season-highs.

"That's been long overdue," Manning said. "It came at a good time."

Not surprisingly, the Colts won their third straight to stay in contention for one of the AFC's two wild-card playoff spots.

The improvements seem to be coming right on schedule.

Dungy often tells players he places greater significance on winning in the second half of the season, and they've taken the cue.

Since closing October with a loss at Tennessee, the Colts has beaten two of the conference's top teams -- New England and Pittsburgh -- and has won three straight at home.

The Colts playoff hopes may be about to get a boost, too.

After visiting San Diego (4-6) this week, the Colts travel to Cleveland, then host Cincinnati and Detroit before going to Jacksonville and wrapping up the regular season at home against unbeaten Tennessee -- the only team left on their schedule with a winning record.

Because the Titans have a four-game lead in the AFC South and a three-game lead in the chase for the conference's top playoff seed, Tennessee could even elect to rest its starters in the regular-season finale as the Colts did last season.

That gives the Colts an opportunity to build momentum.

"Everybody knows this is the time when good football teams step up, and that's when good football teams step out," running back Dominic Rhodes said. "Usually, in November and December, we play pretty well. We're doing that again, we just have to keep pushing on."

Clearly, there have been significant changes over the past month.

Manning has been sacked six times in the last six games. The run defense, which couldn't stop anyone early, has limited opponents to 3.7 yards per carry in those same six games, and the Colts haven't had a turnover in three November games.

"Hopefully, that's not too unusual," Dungy said when asked about the turnovers. "That's our goal. We've had three games and three wins with no turnovers, and that's a big correction."

Still, Dungy expects to see improvement.

Missed tackles allowed Steve Slaton to set a Texans record with his 71-yard TD run on Sunday, and left tackle Tony Ugoh drew three penalties for 25 yards on the Colts' final first-half series. Ugoh's mistakes cost the Colts two plays that went for 40 yards, essentially turning a 66-yard field goal drive into a 131-yard march.

There are also injury questions.

Dungy remained uncertain whether last season's defensive player of the year, Bob Sanders, will play against San Diego. Sanders sat out Sunday's game after his right knee swelled up last week during practice.

Cornerback Kelvin Hayden (hamstring) may be ready to make his first appearance since Oct. 5, and the Colts still have made no decision about whether to activate left guard Ryan Lilja from the practice squad.

But at least the Colts are starting to look more like themselves, and it couldn't come at a better time.

"It (Sunday's game) was a big win for us, one that we definitely needed," Dungy said. "I thought our offense really clicked on all cylinders, maybe for the first time all season. It was good to see."

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