8:20 PM ET, September 19, 2010
Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN
Helping his team avoid an 0-2 start is chief among them.
To prevent that from happening for the first time since his 1998 rookie season, the Colts need to bounce back from a stunning opening loss when they host Eli Manning and the New York Giants on Sunday night.
Despite the high-profile matchup between the Manning brothers, Indianapolis' focus is on correcting the mistakes that led to a 34-24 loss at Houston last week. The Colts allowed the Texans to run for a franchise-record 257 yards -- 231 by unheralded Arian Foster, who also scored three touchdowns -- while gaining only 44 yards on the ground themselves.
Indianapolis' weakened offensive line also struggled to contain the Texans' pass rush, as Peyton Manning was sacked twice and hit repeatedly.
"We just didn't do enough as a group to kind of help each other out when one unit was struggling," said Manning, who went 40 of 57 for 433 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. "That's something we've done in the past. That's something we're going to need to do starting next week."
One of those units took a big hit Wednesday, as star safety Bob Sanders was lost indefinitely after undergoing surgery to repair a torn biceps muscle in his right arm.
Injuries limited the 2007 NFL Defensive Player of the Year to eight games over the past two seasons.
Indianapolis needs to overcome Sanders' latest setback and get its problems fixed quickly -- especially along the offensive line, which may have struggled in part because of injuries and inexperience. The Giants knocked Carolina's Matt Moore out of the game last week after sacking him four times, with their usually formidable pass rush looking strong in a season-opening 31-18 win.
"It was one of those days where it was kind of a perfect storm. We were not playing well and they were playing well," Colts left tackle Charlie Johnson said after the loss to Houston. "But that (pressure) has kind of been the Giants' calling card since the (2008) Super Bowl, and we have to step up and play better."
Establishing a running game would help keep New York's pass rush in check. Joseph Addai had all 10 Indianapolis rushes last week for the club's 44 yards.
The Colts weren't able to run the ball the last time these teams met Sept. 10, 2006, a 26-21 Indianapolis home victory. Addai had 26 yards rushing and the Colts totaled 55, but Manning threw for 276 yards to help his team hold on.
Eli Manning, then in his third season, passed for 247 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Although he has a chance to even the score with his older brother, coach Tom Coughlin made it clear that's not what's important.
"... Who we are going to play -- is the Indianapolis Colts football team," Coughlin said. "And so that is the way that Eli will look at this -- and nothing different. We have got to go into their place – a domed stadium – we have all of that to be concerned with as well. So it's the competitive aspect that comes to the front. And that is where it stays."
Manning will be looking to build on a strong effort in the opener. He went 20 of 30 for 263 yards and three touchdowns to Hakeem Nicks. His three interceptions all were tipped off receivers' hands.
Like Indianapolis, though, New York has plenty of room for improvement. The Giants committed four turnovers, were penalized nine times for 95 yards and went 5 for 14 on third down.
Perhaps the biggest concern was special teams, which left Coughlin fuming after a rough performance.
Rookie Matt Dodge had a 16.0-yard net average on three punts, one that was blocked for a safety in the fourth quarter. The Giants averaged 13.4 yards on kickoff returns and 6.8 on punt returns, while their coverage teams allowed Carolina 19.0 yards per punt return and 24.6 on kickoffs.
The poor kick coverage could be of particular concern after Colts rookie Devin Moore had 155 yards on seven kickoff returns in his NFL debut last week.
New York hopes Foster's big day bodes well for its ground attack Sunday. The Giants ran for 118 yards against Carolina, 76 by Ahmad Bradshaw.
The Giants will be without starting tight end Kevin Boss, who suffered a concussion after being hit on the opening drive.
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|Avg Points Allowed||28.0||24.0|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||NYG|
|Rush Yds Allowed||NYG|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Indianapolis leads 2-1|
|Sep 10, 2006||NYG 21, IND 26|
|Dec 22, 2002||NYG 44, @IND 27|
Eli Manning has won his last 9 starts in the month of September, that's the longest active win streak in the league's opening month among starting quarterbacks. Manning's last loss in September came in 2007 at home to the Packers. Manning's 7.6 yards per attempt in September games is his highest in any month as well.[+]
ESPN Stats & Information