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Tony Dungy's day-after press conference Monday was particularly wide-ranging, so I thought I would share some highlights from the transcript provided by the team and offer a bit of context and interpretation.
On if the team has to go on a streak to make the playoffs:
Tony Dungy: "You really do. It's hard to win two, lose one, win one, lose one and win enough games to get there. That's how we've been in the first half of the year, and we talked about starting off the second half of the year. We got our first win, but now we have to put one together. We have a chance, coming back home, to get win number two of the second half and build on it. It'll be critical to have a good performance (vs. Houston) and play better than we did against Pittsburgh."
Paul Kuharsky: Thanks coach, for a willingness to state the obvious rather than insisting that all you can do it look at one game at a time and trying to convince us that there is absolutely no consideration of the bigger picture necessary, possible, or going on.
If making the playoffs is in the team's control:
TD: "It is, in a way, because we're playing a lot of the teams that are contending with us and we'll have a chance to have a good AFC record, which is the number-one tiebreaker, if we continue to win. If we win 11 or 12 games, I think we'll be in there. If you win nine, you probably won't. If you win 10, it's going to be dicey, so we just have to keep winning and not put it in other people's hands, not worry about tiebreakers. We just have to keep winning."
PK: The other important thing to note here is, of your remaining seven games, only one is out of conference. And it's hardly unreasonable to expect the Colts will beat Detroit, currently winless, on Dec. 14 in Indianapolis.
On if injured defensive back Kelvin Hayden will return this week:
TD: "We'll look at it and see. Hopefully, he'll be able to practice on Wednesday. I'd say it's still iffy right now, but it would be nice to get him back."
PK: Without their two starting corners, the Colts turned to a guy who committed four penalties in Green Bay (Tim Jennings) and another who they cut twice since the season started (Keiwan Ratliff) and have beaten one team with Randy Moss and Wes Welker and another with Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes. Marlin Jackson is gone for the season. Getting Hayden back will be big.
On how the run defense played at Pittsburgh:
TD: "Believe it or not, kind of average. (Pittsburgh) had some runs that we didn't play well enough and runs that we can play better. Overall, you look at the numbers, it was OK, but probably not a whole lot different. I think we can still do some things better."
PK: Feel free to shoot for the stars. But 26 carries and 55 yards both rated as the second-lowest number against you this season and the 2.1 yard-average was your season best. I say bravo and if your guys can match that with any consistency you'll be better than fine.
On the last time the team had a goal-line stand:
TD: "We had one in Cleveland, opening day of '03, the 9-6 game. That was the last one I remember."
PK: I don't know what's more significant, that it's been that long or that you remember exactly when it was when it's been that long...
On if the team's demeanor has changed the last two weeks:
TD: "No, not really. I think we're just playing a little bit better. Getting some guys back helps you, and we're a little bit healthier. But, I think guys still feel like we've dug ourselves a hole. We aren't digging down anymore, but we're still in the hole."
PK: Something about that upcoming schedule tells me you're about to climb out of the hole.
On defensive end Dwight Freeney:
TD: "Dwight played well. He was a little frustrated. He wasn't having a lot of production the last couple of weeks. We felt like if we could take away their running game and get them in situations where they had to throw, we'd have a chance to rush them. He rushed well. He had two sacks, missed a couple of sacks, but was much more like the Dwight we're used to seeing."
PK: I am sure Sage Rosenfels is excited to hear that.
On if he was surprised new defensive tackle Antonio Johnson played so much at Pittsburgh:
TD: "Not really. We had seen him in practice and he was doing a good job for us, and it was going to be the type of game that was going to be his type of game with a lot of inside running, so we thought we'd get him in there."
PK: I was surprised. If it proves to be more than a good fit against Pittsburgh, we'll have to wonder why the Colts let Johnson sit on the Titans' practice squad for nine weeks before signing him away.
On if beating the No. 1 defense gives the team confidence:
TD: "Baltimore and Pittsburgh are tough, and we scored points against them. They hadn't given up many points before we played them, either one, and we got points. We got points against Tennessee, so I think we are showing signs of moving the ball. Our whole team just has to build a little bit more consistency doing things right more often than not, and we're going to be in good shape."
PK: Just more evidence of how unpredictable the league is: The Colts scored 13 points in a loss to Chicago (currently the league's 17-ranked defense) and 14 in a loss at Green Bay (22nd), but put up 31 to beat Baltimore (second) and 24 to win in Pittsburgh (first).