Colts get back to normal with route of Giants

Look out AFC, Indianapolis has its swagger back.

One week after frustration and anger permeated the Colts’ locker

room, a looser, more confident bunch returned Monday with jokes,

laughter and a much-needed sense of relief.

”I think we can travel with it,” defensive captain Gary

Brackett said of the recovered bravado, drawing laughter. ”I think

we’ll check that bag and make sure it’s not left anywhere.”

It was a stark contrast from last week when Indy’s embarrassing

34-24 loss at Houston put the unthinkable in play – a possible 0-2

start for the first time since Peyton Manning’s rookie season,

1998.

Not a chance.

If Indy proved anything with Sunday’s 38-14 blowout against the

Giants, it was this: The defending AFC champs can be as good as

they ever have been.

The NFL’s worst running team last season ran for 160 yards on 43

carries against the Giants, the first time Indy has topped 40

rushing attempts since October 2007. Joseph Addai finished with 92

yards, his highest total since November 2008, and Manning was

especially efficient, throwing for 255 yards and three touchdowns

with a passer rating of 145.5.

The offensive line, a big target following Indy’s season-opening

loss, allowed only one sack, created big holes for Addai and Donald

Brown and kept Manning upright most of the night against Pro Bowl

defensive ends Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora.

And Indy (1-1) executed its game plan to perfection.

”Our goal was to take advantage of how they were playing us,”

left tackle Charlie Johnson said. ”We thought we’d get a lot of

nickel and dime packages from them, and we knew we’d have to run

against that. And we wanted to play fast because we think we’re

better when we do that.”

New York (1-1) spent the whole night playing catch-up, after

falling into a 24-0 hole, and played right into the strengths of

the Colts’ defense.

The big cushion allowed Pro Bowl ends Dwight Freeney and Robert

Mathis to tee off on Manning’s brother, Eli, combining for four

sacks and forced three Eli Manning fumbles.

Just like it’s drawn up.

”When our offense jumps up by two or three touchdowns, you know

what time it is,” Mathis said. ”It’s time to eat, and he (the

quarterback) is the food.”

It was Indianapolis’ first victory since the AFC championship.

The Colts lost the Super Bowl, all four preseason games and the

opener in Houston before a week’s worth of sharp practices and a

return to a simple philosophy for the beleaguered defense got them

back on the right track.

”I think we had to get back to the basics,” cornerback Kelvin

Hayden said. ”It seemed like the guys were trying to do a little

more than their own job in the first game. This week, everybody

kind of said ‘Hold your ground and play smart, fast and

physical.”’

It was so frustrating for the Giants that Brandon Jacobs even

tossed his helmet, unintentionally, into the stands.

The Colts are hoping the balanced offense and opportunistic

defense from Sunday night will be the norm from here on out as they

try to become the first Super Bowl loser to make it back to the big

game since Buffalo returned for the fourth straight time after the

1993 season.

Next up is Denver, a team Indy has beaten four straight times

and that could be starting two rookie cornerbacks this weekend.

Nine-time Pro Bowler Champ Bailey left the stadium Sunday on

crutches after hurting his right foot or ankle. Coach Josh

McDaniels said Bailey doesn’t have any broken bones, he didn’t say

how much time Bailey might miss.

The Colts aren’t worried about Denver’s potential problems,

though.

Nope, they just want to keep improving – and demonstrating that

the real Colts showed up in Week 2.

”You can call it a wake-up call or whatever, but the Houston

Texans are good, too. They get paid, too, and they came out with a

good game plan, just like we did last night,” defensive tackle

Daniel Muir said. ”You know, when you get punched in the face,

that’s exactly what you’ve got go to do, fight back, and we got

punched in the face.”