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Sunday, October 19, 2008
Uncommon errors showing up more often for Indy

By Paul Kuharsky
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- In five out of their six games the Indianapolis Colts have come away talking about the uncharacteristic play that put a result in jeopardy or cost them a game.

 
 Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire
 Peyton Manning threw two interceptions on Sunday and both were returned for touchdowns.

None was worse than Sunday's penalty-filled, out-of-sync performance at Lambeau Field, where the Colts dropped to 3-3 with a 34-14 stinker.

"Obviously you're concerned when you play like that," center Jeff Saturday said. "That was one of those things where you got beat in every area of the game and they brought it to us and we didn't answer. There wasn't any area in the football game that we won."

Chief among the unusual was 110 penalty yards, the most for a Colts team coached by Tony Dungy.

Yes, we're only six games in and Indianapolis still has plenty of time to correct things and turn back into the team we've gotten used to over the last six seasons, the one that has won more than three out of every four regular-season games.

But it's fair to ask: At what point does all the uncharacteristic stuff become newly characteristic?

Here are three of the answers I got on that:

"I guess we're not going to worry about that until it becomes more of a trend, whatever that is," defensive end Dwight Freeney said. "I don't know how many games that is until something is a trend. But I know we're going to put a stop to that. We always have and we're going to have to do that -- just don't kill ourselves."

"We're definitely not there yet, but we're definitely not helping ourselves," tight end Dallas Clark said. "We've got to take it on ourselves to focus in on the details and stop doing the little things that are costing us and get this thing going again. It'll start [Monday] when we look at film with everyone being a good critic of himself and seeing what he has to do to get better."

"I think we've got to concentrate on playing our type of football, focus on what we have to do, which is to get better, to eliminate all of the mistakes," team president Bill Polian said. "If we do that, we'll win our share. Obviously you can't win when you play the way we played today, and I'm not even talking about the interceptions, it's the other stuff that you can't win doing ... We didn't execute worth a darn, really."

The Colts are as good at sticking to the company line as any team in the league and they aren't often going to concede their shortcomings. Even giving the Packers their share of credit for a strong performance, this game felt as if it was played by visitors who believed they had figured things out last week when they returned to familiar form and routed the Ravens in Indianapolis.

Aaron Rodgers is not a rookie quarterback like Joe Flacco, and the Packers executed well from the start, playing the sort of keep-away that frustrates the Colts and making Indianapolis try to come from behind.

"Tony summed it up best: We play well, we win games," Saturday said. "If we play average or below average, we get beat on pretty good. You can't make mistakes. We made mistakes in a number of different areas and they capitalized on all of them."

Other things I saw, heard, observed or learned Sunday at Lambeau Field:

-- Five of the Colts' 12 penalties produced first downs for the Packers. Seven of the 12 were before the snap, after the whistle or the result of a player taking things too far: two unnecessary roughness calls, two neutral zone infractions, a false start, a defensive delay of game and an illegal formation.

Tim Jennings started at left cornerback for the second week in a row in place of the injured Kelvin Hayden, and had a miserable day penalty-wise, accounting for one-third of the calls against Indy and 40 yards, including the defensive delay of game -- he was judged to have made a non-football move intended to draw the Packers offside -- which handed Green Bay a first down when it was punting.

He did his best to absorb his share of the blame.

"I was a little too aggressive. I've just got to be [smarter] out there," he said. "I take it hard. One guy just can't do it because you penalize the whole team. I've got to play more sound football and realize I can't do some of those things...

"Me being a 5-8 corner going against some of these great receivers, I feel like I've got to be more aggressive against those guys and they just didn't give me any slack. The penalty down the field, the pass interference, that kind of got to me. The first two calls kind of got in my head and the special teams call was all on me."

-- Not to harp on the penalties, but a bit more on the penalties ... Context from Doug Kern of ESPN Stats and Analysis:

The Colts' previous high in penalty yardage under Tony Dungy was 106, in a win against the Steelers on Nov. 28, 2005. The 112 penalty yards were the most for the franchise in more than 10 years. The Colts had 112 penalty yards in a loss to Buffalo in 1997 that dropped them to 0-4.

The game against the Packers was the 114th the Colts have played under Dungy, including the playoffs. In the prior 113, they averaged 5.47 penalties a game for a 42.0 yards. Last year's averages were even better than that -- 4.24, 33.47.

Dungy's Tampa Bay Buccaneers had two games with more penalty yards than the Colts got against Green Bay: 126 in a season-opening loss to the Vikings in 1998 and 114 against Arizona in 1996.

-- The Colts were within two scores at the half, but Green Bay's secondary keyed the transformation of the game into a rout. The sticky coverage held Reggie Wayne to two catches for 24 yards and Marvin Harrison to two for 11.

"We have to find a way to beat the double coverage," quarterback Peyton Manning said. "I think Marvin and Reggie had two catches, and that is not what we want. We need to do a better job of getting the ball in their hands and giving them a chance to make plays. That is probably my fault."

Cornerback Charles Woodson was especially effective, often follo
wing Wayne into the slot and allowing for hardly any separation. (I can't decide if it's necessary to mention he won the Heisman Trophy in 1997 in what was largely regarded as an upset over Manning).

The Packers have been playing without their complete secondary and were again without injured cornerback Al Harris and injured safety Atari Bigby.

Free safety Nick Collins picked off a high pass that skimmed off Wayne's hands and with a smart return got a 62-yard touchdown.

Rouse seemed able to lock in on Manning when he was looking for Anthony Gonzalez in the front of the end zone in late in the fourth quarter, and didn't have to work nearly as hard once he stepped in front of the pass to go 99 yards to another defensive touchdown.

-- Wayne didn't have a much of a theory about how the Colts could play so well last week in a 31-3 win over Baltimore and so poorly in Green Bay, but he tried to compare it to the life of his questioners.

"It's probably like your job, getting an exclusive one week and not getting it the next week," he said. "That's just the way it goes."

Wayne was already talking optimistically about the Oct. 27 "Monday Night Football" showdown with Tennessee. The Titans moved to 6-0 with their win at Kansas City and now lead the AFC South by a full three games.

"We play them next week," he said, "so we've got a chance to slow them down a bit and get something established on our end."