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September 21, 2010

Colts’ adjustments lead to effective running game

INDIANAPOLIS — For an NFL team that most people think can’t be effective running the football, the Indianapolis Colts like to prove doubters wrong.

A case in point was what transpired during Sunday night’s nationally televised game with the New York Giants. First-year Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell figured that since the Houston Texans forced the Colts to throw the football and had success, he would simply overload his unit with five and sometimes six defensive backs.

The problem with Fewell’s game plan was that Texans defensive end Mario Williams doesn’t play in New York. And since Indianapolis had seen basically the same defensive setup a week earlier, they figured the Giants might try the same thing.

“I felt like Houston really came into that game last week and played five defensive backs, sometimes six defensive backs, playing a lot of pass defense. We didn’t really know what the Giants were going to do, but they ended up taking that route. When teams are playing five defensive backs and sometimes six defensive backs on first and second downs, they are obviously playing pass coverage,” Peyton Manning explained Sunday night.

“In the past, we haven’t been able to run against that look, which has been frustrating because we are sort of playing into their hands, so it was nice to be able to run the ball [against the Giants]. There were a lot of defensive backs in there that aren’t use to being involved in the running game, so that was important to establish that. The line, tight ends and receivers all did a great job.  I thought Donald [Brown] and Joe [Addai] really ran smart and ran really hard.”

Coach Jim Caldwell credited adjustments made by Manning and the Indianapolis coaching before and during the game.

“Oftentimes it just depends on how the game goes. You have to adjust as you go. It just depends sometimes on whether or not the defense gives us certain looks. If they’re conducive to running, we run. If it’s conducive to throwing, we’ll throw it. It just depends on how they play us,” Caldwell said Monday.

• Moving on — While there was general acknowledgement that the Colts didn’t play well in their season-opening loss to Houston two weeks ago, Caldwell didn’t want to waste time worrying about a game that has already been played.

He’s using that same attitude after the Giants game. Despite an impressive victory, the game is over and it’s time to move on. There’s a road trip to Denver this week.

“I’m not a big person on looking back,” Caldwell said. “[The Houston] game is beyond us. It is what it is. We didn’t play well. I kind of like to look ahead. We played pretty well [against the Giants] and we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us this coming week.

“I don’t believe on putting labels on things. [The Houston game] is done with. I can’t do anything about the game [Sunday]. That one is over with. We just have to focus in on looking ahead. That’s what I do with the team. Let’s just look forward. Let’s look exactly what we have to face this coming week. We have a very, very difficult task ahead of us. It’s going to take everything we have, and a little bit more, to prepare for a real solid Denver team.”

• McAfee ties franchise kickoff record — Pat McAfee tied the Colts’ franchise record with five touchbacks on kickoffs Sunday night.

Adam Vinatieri had originally set the record against the Broncos on Oct. 29, 2006.

“I didn’t know anything about [the touchback record] until [Vinatieri] sent me a text about it [Monday morning],” McAfee said. “To be in the record book with Adam means a lot. Heck, just having a locker this close to a kicker like Adam means a lot.”

The second-year punter averaged 40.4 yards net on five punts and had three downed inside the Giants’ 20-yard line. Several hours after the game, though, McAfee was still stewing about a 30-yard punt that he wound up shanking.

“I’m not too serious about a lot of things, but kicking and punting are my business and it really bothers me when I don’t have a good kick or punt,” he said.

• Gonzo taking it day-by-day — Wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez, who suffered a high right ankle sprain against Houston, hopes to be back on the practice field sooner rather than later.

“[Team doctors] are saying four to six [weeks]. But I obviously hope to be on  the short end,” Gonzalez said Monday. “Everything I’m doing is designed around getting back as soon as possible.

“I just don’t have a lot of experience with this. I haven’t had a sprained ankle since my freshman year in high school.”

It would be easy for the former Ohio State standout to become frustrated at some point. Gonzalez missed most of the 2009 season with a knee injury and then missed practice time in training camp last month with a hamstring injury. Now it’s his ankle.

“No season ever goes perfectly. And being injured wasn’t part of the plan. I was hoping to be healthy, help the team out and be on the field doing whatever I could. Having this happen so quickly [at the start of the season] is obviously disappointing,” he said.

“But I’ve been down the rehab road before, so unfortunately I know how to keep my spirits up. So we’ll keep on trucking and hopefully be back as soon as possible. I think I’m a little bit ahead of schedule, probably, from what the trainers and doctors have told me.”

• Injury report — Sitting out Monday’s brief walk-through practice session were offensive tackle Charlie Johnson (foot), weakside linebacker Clint Session (hamstring), safety Bob Sanders (biceps) and Gonzalez.

The first full report of injuries coming out of the Giants game will be made available on Wednesday.

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