Dime Package: Challenges Keep Coming for Comeback Colts

Nick SouthCorrespondent IDecember 2, 2009

HOUSTON - NOVEMBER 29:  Quarterback Matt Schaub #8 of the Houston Texans releases the ball as he is sacked by defensive tackle Eric Foster #68 and defensive end  Robert Mathis #98 at Reliant Stadium on November 29, 2009 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

With the sale of heart medication at an all time high in Indiana, it's time for a weekly look at the Colts last game and the preview of what's coming up.

10. How long can the Colts keep living on the edge?

Who knows. The Colts won their fifth straight game in which they trailed in the fourth quarter. No team has ever done that in the NFL before.

Most fans would love to see a return of the game scores from the early part of the season, when the Colts were winning games by double digit scores. Wins are wins in this league, so it's hard to complain with the results.

There's no denying that the last five games have made many feel that this is a special campaign. Still, you have to wonder just how many lives the Comeback Colts have.

9. What problems have been masked by this winning streak?

The half glass full side might point out that the Colts have been battling through their toughest stretch of the year. No one expected that the Ravens and Patriots' games, sandwiched between a pair of games against Houston, would be easy.

However, it's hard to ignore the fact that the Colts have trailed by 17 points twice in the last three weeks. The offense has looked very inconsistent. With so many young components to the offense, it's easy to understand some growing pains.

If it was a matter of steady growth, that's one thing. But every game seems to have moments of sheer brilliance and absolute frustration. Peyton Manning has thrown two interceptions in each of the last three contests. He hasn't done that since 2001, back in the days when a young Manning would force passes in an attempt to make a play.

Is he doing that now? Doubtful. We took for granted the years that Manning and Marvin Harrison could connect at will, even if the old RCA Dome would have a sudden blackout.

Manning doesn't have that connect with his current crop...yet.

Defensively, it's a similar story. They'll give up tons of yardage and, at times, points as they figure out how to adjust to the offensive game plan thrown at them.

8. What's the difference between them being 11-0 and not being more like 7-4?

In a word, it's got to come down to coaching.

Where this team continues to amaze is in its ability to adjust to any adversity they may face. In the past five games, the Colts have scored 58 fourth quarter points. It's one more than they've scored the entire first half of those same five games.

The defense has also made its fair share of adjustments. Despite giving up 107 points in the five game run, only four touchdowns have been allowed in the second half.

Jim Caldwell's staff has done a spectacular job of making key adjustments at halftime.

7. What players have helped lead the way?

That's just the thing. It's impossible to pinpoint the success of this team on one single player.

Of course Manning is the greatest player on this team. Without him, this team would struggle to score points. However, Manning is just one of many heroes on this team.

Last week against Houston, Clint Session, and Robert Mathis made huge defensive plays. Joseph Addai had one of his best games as a pro, not in terms of yardage, but in terms of controlling the running game and making plays when needed.

Every week, it's easy to point out six to eight guys, at least, that made key plays to spark a comeback win.

Football is the ultimate team game, and the Colts win by playing great team football.

6. How do the Colts currently rank against the other teams in the league?

The Colts are clearly the class of the AFC. While the surging Chargers are on their own impressive streak, the Colts are the best team in the AFC.

Only the NFC's Saints would be ahead of them if I ranked all 32 teams. The Saints' dismantling of the Patriots was nothing short of impressive.

Oddly enough, the Colts and Saints both sit at 11-0 and have done so with very similar resumes. Both teams are loaded with offensive weapons that are capable of making plays when needed. Both have defenses loaded with unknowns that always seem to make big stops when needed. Every Colt fan had a flashback of Melvin Bullitt's fourth down stop against the Patriots when the Saints' Mike McKenzie broke up Tom Brady's fourth down pass to Randy Moss.

The matchup possibilities between the two are very intriguing, but i'm getting ahead of myself.

5. With the division wrapped up already, what's left for the Colts to play for?

It is essential that this team needs to win home field advantage, not just for the bonus of playing in front of the home crowd, but to use the bye to get healthy for the playoff run.

The quest for 16-0 will start buzzing around the league soon. As long as they keep winning, the Colts should keep striving to win every game they can. However, home field is the next goal for Indianapolis.

As far as resting players, we'll save that argument for the moment the home field is locked up.

4. How important is the next game against Tennessee?

Very. Even with the division wrapped up, the Colts do not go home to lose a divisional game to a red hot Titans team, especially at home.

The Colts currently enjoy a three game lead in the race for home field advantage. A loss would not only close the gap, but also bring to the forefront the problems the Colts have had lately.

Also, the Titans are a team with playoff hopes, despite being 5-6. Several teams are battling for the wild card spots in the AFC. With their remaining schedule, it's quite possible the Titans, with a win against the Colts, could run the table and slip into the playoffs. A team finding their identity is a dangerous team to play. The Colts would being doing everyone in the AFC a favor by dealing a set back to the Titans this Sunday.

3. What are the keys to the game?

The Colts have to focus on containing Vince Young and Chris Johnson. Young's mobility in the pocket has always been an issue, but Young has become a more mature passer in his second chance in Tennessee. Young is having a career best year in passing percentage and yardage per attempt.

The Titans have been very creative in play calling to maximize the talents of Young and Johnson. Without a reliable passing game in their first meeting, the Colts held Johnson to just 34 yards.

It also helped that the Colts jumped to a big lead in that game, negating the Titans' running game. The Colts will need to find their offensive spark earlier than usual in this game. The Titans can't win a shootout, and the Colts should do all they can to get the Titans on their heels early.

2. How can the Colts get the offense on track early?

The best game plan against Tennessee is the one they had in the first game against Houston. The Colts came out playing a fast-paced no huddle offense. They ground up impressive yardage levels, but didn't finish drives like they should have.

Last night, the Saints didn't worry about grounding out long drives against New England. They scored and often it was quick. The Colts should do the same to make the Titans a one dimensional offense.

1. Prediction?

Colts 27, Titans 17. The Titans are a great feel good story, but the Cardinals should have ended the Cinderella run last week. The Colts, however, know how to finish. They should do that against Tennessee this week.


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