Colts hope to make corrections after abysmal start
Indy defensive end Robert Mathis is ready to hear the critiques.
Linebacker Clint Session just wants to get things fixed this week.
One day after allowing 257 yards rushing and losing a rare season-opener, the Colts were trying to figure out what went wrong in Sunday's 34-24 loss at Houston and what must be done to fix it before the hard-running Giants come to Indy.
For the Colts, this is about as embarrassing as it gets.
''You take it very personal because as the defensive line you're the first line of defense and he (Arian Foster) broke that line quite a bit,'' said Mathis, a two-time Pro Bowler. ''But you've got to be a man and take your lumps. You know it's coming because we didn't play a good game, and we've got to get better.''
The good news is that Indy (0-1) has some experience to rely upon.
In December 2006, Ron Dayne rushed for 153 yards, leading the Texans to their only other win over the Colts. Two weeks before that game, the tag-team tandem of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew led Jacksonville to a 375-yard day in a 44-17 blowout. The Colts' responded to those debacles by demoting linebacker Gilbert Gardner, and then going on to win the second Super Bowl title in franchise history.
The memories of that season is one reason veterans are not yet fretting.
''It's only one game,'' two-time Pro Bowl safety Antoine Bethea said. ''We've got a lot of veterans on this defense, and Sunday night, we've just got to come out and play better.''
Colts fans have heard all this before.
Critics have long contended that Indy is susceptible to power running teams because of a defensive front seven. So last year, the Colts tried to plug those holes by adding bigger bodies to the defensive line.
It helped, but Indy still gave up 2,024 yards rushing, 24th in the league, and 4.3 yards per carry. During the preseason, opponents averaged 4.4 yards per carry and ran for six TDs, numbers that were routinely excused because of Indy's previous preseason experiences.
So if Sunday's performance demonstrated anything, it was this: Indy isn't good enough yet to stop the run.
On Monday, coach Jim Caldwell explained most of the holes Foster exposed were because Colts' players didn't fill the right gaps or missed tackles against a ''good running'' team.
The problem is Houston ranked 30th in the NFL in rushing last season, and it was Foster, an undrafted second-year back, who shredded the Colts for 231 yards. He set a single-game Texans record and broke Barry Sanders' previous record for most yards rushing against the Colts by producing the best opening-day rushing total since O.J. Simpson ran for 250 yards against New England in 1973.
''Right after the game, every one of us wanted to get back and look at the film,'' Session said. ''We said 'We want to see what we were doing wrong.' Look, we didn't play like we should have played and we got our butts kicked.''
The Colts' defense wasn't the only side getting beaten up.
Indy's offensive line, which traditionally is one of the league's best in pass protection, also struggled to keep four-time league MVP Peyton Manning upright.
He was sacked twice and repeatedly knocked to the ground. The Colts called shorter, quicker passes in the second half to keep Manning from taking hits, and he wore a sleeve around his left elbow - something he didn't wear in the first half. Caldwell said he believed the extra padding was intended to keep Manning's non-throwing arm ''warm'' despite having the roof closed on a hot day in Houston.
Indy also is awaiting results from an MRI on Bob Sanders' right elbow.
Sanders, the league's 2007 defensive player of the year, was injured on the Texans' first offensive series when a pass was deflected by Bethea into Sanders' face mask. Sanders left his feet and landed awkwardly on his arm. He missed all but two games last season with knee and biceps injuries and all but six games in 2008 with other injuries. He's now played in 48 career games and missed 49 - a number that could increase if the elbow injury is season-ending.
''Well, that's all speculation right now,'' Caldwell said. ''He has an MRI sometime today, he has not had it as of yet. There will be some type of prognosis as that time.''
Sanders did limited work at Monday's light workout while reporters were present.
Receiver Anthony Gonzalez also left the game early with an undisclosed ankle injury, and Caldwell gave no updated prognosis on Gonzalez, either.
But the more immediate concern is figuring out how to keep Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs in check when the Giants visit Sunday.
''When you lose a game, especially the way we lost, you want to get back out there and prove yourselves,'' defensive captain Gary Brackett said. ''We're not proud of what went on, but we've got to get better and we've got to get better fast.''