When a team loses the number of quality players that the Indianapolis Colts did in Sunday's home game with the Denver Broncos and still comes away with a 38-20 victory, it usually says something about the way that team is constructed.
That was certainly the case for the Colts as several backups stepped up and made major contributions to the win, which gave Indianapolis a 4-0 record to begin the 2007 season.
"We don't take winning for granted and when it was 10-0 (Denver leading), it wasn't really very pretty. But I thought our team kept our poise and I thought we had a lot of guys that had to step up and play, make big contributions. And that's really gratifying," Colts coach Tony Dungy said.
"As you practice and you get your first group ready, you're always telling guys that they have to prepare. And when you know guys do, it makes a big difference. We had (tight end) Bryan Fletcher and (wide receiver) Aaron Moorehead and (running back) Kenton Keith; and (safety) Matt Giordano had to go in for Bob Sanders. Rocky Boiman again (for Rob Morris at strongside linebacker). When they go in and play really well, it gives you a lift. And you realize that you can make some things happen and win with other guys in the lineup. I think that's going to hold us in good stead down the road."
Dungy doesn't expect to know much about the extent of the injuries that occurred against the Broncos until Tuesday or Wednesday at the earliest. He is holding out hope that the injuries won't be of a more serious nature.
"We've got a chance for some guys to be out (for this week's home game with Tampa Bay). All the guys that were hurt (Sunday) have a chance to be out. Rob Morris, Marvin (Harrison), Ben Utecht, Bob Sanders, Joseph (Addai). At this point, I'd have to say they all have a chance to miss some practice time or miss the game," he said. "We'll know a little bit more again after we get the MRI results and get them going. Right now, as coaches planning, we'll plan for all of them to be out and see where we sit on Tuesday. Rob looks to be the worst of all the guys, but don't know yet."
— "It seemed like everyone was dropping like flies. It was kind of a scary game." -- TE Dallas Clark, on the number of key Indianapolis players who left the Denver game with injuries.
— "We've got to pray for those who are injured because we need everybody. It is an uneasy feeling because all of those players are key players to our team. Those who are backing them up are going to step in and play at the level that the coaches and everyone else expects them to play." -- S Matt Giordano, on the backups having to go in and play for the injured starters.
— "We're 4-0, but we lost some guys. This is a grown man's game. Some guys are going to fall. But they will rise back up. Bob will be all right. He'll come back." -- S Antoine Bethea, on the loss of strong safety Bob Sanders to a rib injury against the Broncos.
PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES
WR Marvin Harrison suffered a bruised left knee in the first quarter of Sunday's win over Denver. He played one series with the injury and then was sidelined for the remainder of the game. His status for this week's home game with Tampa Bay won't be known until Wednesday at the earliest.
LB Rob Morris is not expected to be available for this week's game with Tampa Bay. Morris incurred a knee injury in the second quarter of the Broncos game and did not play for the remainder of the game. The full extent of the knee injury won't be disclosed until Wednesday at the earliest.
RB Joseph Addai suffered a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter of the Broncos game. Addai might be able to play this week against Tampa Bay. His availability will be updated sometime Wednesday.
S Bob Sanders suffered a rib injury in the first half of the Denver game. He did not play the final two quarters. Sanders' chances of playing against Tampa Bay this week won't be known until Wednesday at the earliest.
TE Ben Utecht incurred a concussion in the first half of the Denver game. He did not return. His status for this week's game with the Buccaneers will be updated Wednesday.
KR/PR T.J. Rushing suffered a strained hamstring in the second half of the Broncos game. He sat out a portion of the fourth quarter but was able to return late in the game. He remains hopeful of playing this week against Tampa Bay.
REPORT CARD VS. BRONCOS
PASSING OFFENSE: A-plus -- Let's see. QB Peyton Manning completed 20 of 27 passes for 193 yards, three touchdowns and did not have an interception. He threw the ball to eight different receivers and did not get sacked all afternoon. Even when the team's best all-around receiver, Marvin Harrison, went down with a knee injury, the pass offense didn't miss a beat. TE Dallas Clark lined up in three different positions -- tight end, slot and outside receiver -- and backup Aaron Moorehead got additional playing time in Harrison's absence.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A-plus -- RB Joseph Addai carried the football 19 times for a season-high 136 yards and a touchdown. When Addai went down early in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury, backup Kenton Keith stepped up and added 80 yards on 10 carries. Most of Keith's yards came in the fourth quarter as the Colts stuck to their ground game and worked the clock. Indianapolis ran for 226 yards behind Addai, Keith and fullback-turned-running back Luke Lawton.
PASS DEFENSE: B-plus -- Denver QB Jay Cutler hit on 13 of 21 passes for 131 yards and a touchdown. But he was intercepted once and sacked once. He was also pressured on a steady basis for most of the game. The Colts didn't get beat on any long passes, keeping the ball in front of them and allowing short-to-intermediate throws.
RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus -- After a slow start, the Colts' run defense played okay. Not great, mind you. But okay. The Broncos came out with some new formations and schemes that threw the Indianapolis defense for a loop in the early going. RB Travis Henry ran for 131 yards on 26 carries, with 106 of those yards coming in the first two quarters. The Colts slowed the ground game down enough in the second half to help stem the tide.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- One kickoff return for 35 yards to begin the game, but other than that, the Colts kickoff- and punt-return coverage teams did a good job against Denver. Punter Hunter Smith nailed two punts down inside the Broncos' 20-yard line. He also did a nice job holding for PK Adam Vinatieri on a high snap during a field-goal attempt. Vinatieri nailed his lone field-goal try, hitting from 22 yards out.
COACHING: A -- When you have players the caliber of Marvin Harrison, Joseph Addai, Rob Morris and Bob Sanders going down during the course of a game, you better have the backups at those positions prepared and ready to play. That's exactly what happened against Denver. Not many teams could lose that many players, key players to the franchise's success, and keep right on plugging along like nothing was wrong.