NFL Team Report - Indianapolis Colts - INSIDE SLANT
Stay with the process.
That is the Indianapolis Colts' mantra heading into Sunday's marquee home-field matchup with the undefeated Seattle Seahawks.
"They've got a quarterback (Russell Wilson) that's a nightmare to contain and handle. They've got a runner (Marshawn Lynch) that's unbelievable," Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said of the Seahawks.
"Their defense is as good as there is in the National Football League. They play fast. They're physical. Secondary is huge. They've got two corners who are 6-3. Kam Chancellor is a big safety and Earl Thomas (is) running around making plays. They got ball players all over the place and they play hard and they play fast and they play with an attitude and they got a swagger. They've won a lot of games and they're 4-0. We got our hands full."
It's up to Pagano and his coaching staff to have Indianapolis' players ready to meet yet another challenge this season. It won't be easy.
"It's our biggest game of the year. I know that's very cliche'. But these guys are definitely good," Colts quarterback Andrew Luck said. "(Cornerback) Richard (Sherman has) incredible ball skills. I think they've got seven interceptions on their team already. Three of the guys on their secondary has two apiece.
"They're all big, physical, fast. They have all the attributes. They're just not fast. They can also catch the ball. They're also great in press (coverage). They do a great job in off (coverage). We've got our work cut out for us. But we're excited about the challenge. As football players, as athletes, that's what you want to do. You want to go face good players, great players."
Indianapolis played its best game of the season two weeks ago in a 27-7 road win over defending NFC champion San Francisco. The Colts meet up with AFC Super Bowl favorite Denver - and former quarterback Peyton Manning -- at Lucas Oil Stadium on Oct. 20.
But this week it's Seattle, the favorite of many observers to be the NFC's representative in this season's Super Bowl. The focus is solely on the surging Seahawks.
"This is another week to improve," defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois said.
He knows Seattle very well after being drafted by the 49ers in 2009 and spending the past four seasons in San Francisco.
"We're playing good (defensively). But we're not where we want to be," said Jean Francois. "We want to be at the top of the league. Not just statistically. But we want to be one of those defenses that can be counted on at the end of the year."
Pagano just wants the Colts to continue the steady play they have displayed over the past two weeks.
"We've got to stick to the process. We've got to stay steady. We can't ride the ebbs and flows, just like you can't ride the ebbs and flows of a game," said Pagano.
"It's just like playing a game. Never too high and never too low. We just try to keep it on the highway. We just try to be consistent. I think everybody's looking for consistency. (Players) want to know that if something bad happens, we lose a ball game, it's the same thing. They're not going to walk in here and all of a sudden Attila the Hun is sitting in front of the meeting room going crazy. We don't hide anything. We point out what we need to point out and then we move on."
The Colts are seeking to build on being 3-1 through the first quarter of the season.
"Love the record. Would love to be 4-0, but we'll take 3-1 every time out. Great start to the first quarter of the season," said Pagano. "I think we've gotten better every week and that's our main goal. Certainly, it's never going to be perfect. We're chasing perfection.
"I like where we're at. I like where this team is at mentally, physically. We've lost some guys (to injuries) but guys prepare around here as starters, so we've had guys that have been able to step in and fill the shoes of the guys we lost."
SERIES HISTORY: 11th regular-season meeting. Colts lead series, 6-4. This will be the first game between the two franchises since Oct. 4, 2009, when Indianapolis registered a 34-17 victory over the Seahawks. The Colts have played Seattle in home games on three previous occasions, with Indianapolis winning two of those matchups. Seattle has won three of the last five overall meetings, including a 28-13 decision at Century Link Field on Dec. 24, 2005. The Seahawks' lone win in Indianapolis occurred on Sept. 14, 1997, registering a 31-3 decision at the RCA Dome.
NFL Team Report - Indianapolis Colts - NOTES, QUOTES
It's Stanford alumni week once again. Four Colts players (quarterback Andrew Luck, tight end Coby Fleener, safety Delano Howell and practice squad wide receiver Griff Whalen) all played at the school. They were teammates with a pair of Seahawks: wide receiver Doug Baldwin and cornerback Richard Sherman. Indianapolis offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton coached at Stanford as an assistant as well.
--Indianapolis has only turned the ball over twice this season, which ranks second in the NFL behind Tennessee (no turnovers through four games). The two turnovers are tied for the least through four games in franchise history (2005, 2006, 2007).
--The Colts have allowed 51 points through the first four games of the season. That is the seventh-best start in franchise history for the lowest point total through the first four games.
--Cornerback Darius Butler believes the Colts' defense continues to show steady improvement.
"I think we've built a lot (of momentum as a defense over the last two weeks)," he said. "I think we're keying off each other's energy. We just continue to get better and better every week. That's our goal, to get better from Week 1 to Week 16 and see where the chips are, see where we stack up and go from there."
BY THE NUMBERS: 4. The Colts have rushed for more than 100 net yards in each of the first four games of the 2013 season for the first time since 1988 (five). Since moving to Indianapolis in 1984, the Colts' longest streak of 100-yard rushing games to open a season is five games (1984, 1988).
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think if you listen to the players, them talking, the trust level, confidence, attitude, discipline, guys doing their job down after down after down. You can see it front to back that guys are, you don't have to do everything. Just do your job and trust that the other guy is going to be where he's supposed to be. Take care of what you need to take care of and then run to the ball and fly around and play with an aggressive mindset and attitude. Now they're getting to the point where they expect to play really good and go out and have great performances. So we'll just keep building on that." -- Colts head coach Chuck Pagano on the improvement of the team's defense over the last two weeks.
NFL Team Report - Indianapolis Colts - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Colts signed WR Griff Whalen to the practice squad and released center Thomas Austin from the practice squad.
Whalen had been released from the active roster on Monday when Indianapolis added fullback Robert Hughes.
--S Delano Howell (toe) was wearing a walking boot on his left foot during Wednesday's practice. Howell did not practice but is hoping to play Sunday against Seattle.
--CB Vontae Davis (foot) saw limited practice time on Wednesday. Davis is expected to be available for the Seattle game on Sunday.
--OG Hugh Thornton (shoulder) had limited practice Wednesday. Thornton should be good to go for the Seahawks game on Sunday.
--OLB Bjoern Werner (foot) is sidelined for the next four to six weeks with a torn plantar fascia on his right foot. He will not play against Seattle on Sunday.
--RB Ahmad Bradshaw (neck) did not practice Wednesday and his status for the Seahawks game has not been determined. Bradshaw was hurt at San Francisco two weeks ago and did not play at Jacksonville last Sunday.
--S LaRon Landry (ankle) did not participate in Wednesday's practice. Landry did not practice or play the last two weeks. His status for the Seattle game has not yet been determined.
--DT Ricky Jean Francois (groin) was held out of Wednesday's practice. He did not play last week against the Jaguars after he was hurt against the 49ers a week earlier. His availability for the Seattle has yet to be determined.
--FB Stanley Havili (ankle) did not practice Wednesday. He is not expected to play against the Seahawks after spraining his ankle last week at Jacksonville.
--C Samson Satele is expected to start Sunday against Seattle. Satele has missed the last two games with an elbow injury that he suffered against Miami.
--With Satele's return to the starting lineup, OG Mike McGlynn will move back to his regular spot at right offensive guard. McGlynn started at center against San Francisco and Jacksonville. He has been the Colts' starting right offensive guard for most of the last two seasons.
--If DT Ricky Jean Francois is unable to play for the second straight week, DT Fili Moala will get the nod. Moala started last week's win against Jacksonville and has been a starter for most of his career with the Colts.
--S Joe Lefeged may be forced back into action on defense if both Delano Howell and LaRon Landry are unable to play this week. Lefeged saw extensive work on defense as a rookie but has spent most of his time as a special teams ace the last two seasons. He has seen limited work on defense this year.
--TE Dominique Jones continues to be listed as the primary backup to starter Coby Fleener. But Jones has been used more in recent games in tandem with FB Stanley Havili as a lead blocker for the Colts' running backs. If Havili is unable to play Sunday against Seattle, the versatile Jones will get even more work as a run blocker.
--OLB Cam Johnson should see his workload increase as he moves up the depth chart due to the injury to rookie OLB Bjoern Werner, who is sidelined from four to six weeks with a torn plantar fascia on his right foot. Johnson was acquired in a trade with San Francisco prior to the start of the regular season.
GAME PLAN: Protect the football offensively. Play smart on both sides of the football. Limit big plays and breakouts defensively.
That's what the Colts want and need to do if they expect to have a chance to beat a very good Seattle team.
The Seahawks are outstanding at forcing turnovers defensively. Indianapolis has committed just two turnovers through the first four games of the season. Something has to give.
Offensively, the Colts have to be able to run the football and control both the tempo and the clock. Seattle's secondary is big and physical, which could limit what Indianapolis' receivers will be able to do.
Keeping Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in the pocket and not allowing him to scramble for first downs or to extend plays behind the line of scrimmage is also crucial for any type of success the Colts hope to have.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Colts QB Andrew Luck vs. Seahawks secondary. Luck has only thrown two interceptions so far this season, including one in last week's win over Jacksonville. The Seattle secondary is stingy and aggressive, picking off seven passes this year.
--Seahawks QB Russell Wilson vs. Colts pass rush. Wilson does a great job of being mobile in the pocket and can keep plays alive. He is also very good at keeping his eyes downfield while scrambling and delivering the big pass play. Indianapolis' defense has played much better the last two weeks in wins over San Francisco and Jacksonville but they will be facing a much different quality of quarterback in Wilson.