Colts Notebook: Nov. 13

If there is a team MVP candidate for the Indianapolis Colts at the midway point of the 2010 season, chances are the winner wouldn't be a player or even the coaching staff. With the number of injuries to key players, it's been up to Colts general manager Chris Polian and the team's personnel department that has helped Indianapolis keep its head above water and in contention in the AFC South.

The Colts will bring a 5-3 record and are tied with the Tennessee Titans for the division lead heading into Sunday's home game with Cincinnati.

Getting to this point hasn't been easy, however. Indianapolis lost two safeties for the year — Jamie Silva (knee injury in training camp) and Melvin Bullitt (hurt his shoulder in the early stages of the regular season).

Starter Bob Sanders was injured in a season-opening loss to Houston and isn't expected back until early December.

The Colts went out and brought back safety Aaron Francisco, who was with the team a year ago but not re-signed after the 2009 season. Francisco was sitting at home in Phoenix after a brief training camp stint with Carolina.

Wide receivers Pierre Garcon (hamstring), Anthony Gonzalez (ankle/knee) and Austin Collie (thumb/hand/concussion) went down and Indianapolis turned to rookie undrafted free agent Blair White.

And with depth thinning at running back — Joseph Addai out with a neck/shoulder injury, Donald Brown nursing a strained hamstring and Mike Hart suffering an ankle injury — undrafted rookie Javarris James returned.

James had been released at the end of training camp and had spent time with New England and Washington before returning to the Colts.

And there's more.

Tight end Dallas Clark (wrist/hand) went down and tight end/special teams ace Jacob Tamme stepped in. Middle linebacker Gary Brackett missed a game with a groin strain and rookie linebacker Pat Angerer got the call. Weak-side linebacker Clint Session (elbow) got hurt and former Colts linebacker Tyjuan Hagler signed and now plays regularly.

While the remainder of the franchise bedrocks (quarterback Peyton Manning, wide receiver Reggie Wayne, defensive end Dwight Freeney, and safety Antoine Bethea) have remained intact so far, there's been a revolving door in terms of players coming and going.

It's been quite an interesting season so far.

"I do think that in every position, whether it's timing with the quarterback, that's what is involved with the passing game is timing and accuracy, those things take time and work. Now, some of the guys that you have seen that have been able to step up and fill in have been working in that vein," coach Jim Caldwell said.

"There are probably two positions where I think that is extremely relevant because you have more players dealing with trying to accomplish a particular technique, and that's the offensive line and the secondary. So, it does take a little time, and that's what we try to get done in practice. Now how much we can get accomplished, that is not quite certain. So, what you do is that you know that it may be somewhat limited so you usually scale back and cut back what you normally do. You do less and in some cases that is what we have to do."

That's exactly what the Colts have done this week as they prepare for the Bengals.

Said Caldwell, "The fact of the matter is even through some difficult times and things we have to do in terms of shuffling, adjusting our practice, so on an so forth, we are still able to patch it together and move forward and win three ballgames in (the second) quarter (of the season).

"So now we go into the start of the third quarter and we are going at it exactly the same way, trying to focus in on one game at a time and then we will add them up at the end of the quarter. We still have all of our goals in front of us and we still have an opportunity and we plan to make the most of it."

SERIES HISTORY: 24th regular-season meeting. Colts lead series, 15-8. Indianapolis hasn't lost to the Bengals in a regular-season game since Sept. 3, 1995, with the Colts dropping a 24-21 overtime decision at the RCA Dome. Indianapolis has won 11 of the previous 15 meetings with the Bengals since the franchise moved from Baltimore prior to the 1984 season. The Colts have won 12 of the last 16 games with Cincinnati, including posting a 35-3 win on Dec. 7, 2008 in the last regular-season matchup of the two franchises. Two of the last eight meetings in the series have been played in Cincinnati. The Colts won the only postseason encounter, taking a 17-0 victory in Baltimore on Dec. 26, 1970. The teams met annually in league play from 1992 to 1999.


— The Colts-Bengals series is sometimes referred to as the "Battle of I-74" since the two cities are only a couple of hours (and 110 miles) apart.

— Indianapolis is seeking its eighth consecutive win at home in November.

— The Colts have posted a 10-1 record under Jim Caldwell at Lucas Oil Stadium.

— Indianapolis has a league-high 12 players on injured reserve, including TE Dallas Clark (wrist/hand), S Melvin Bullitt (shoulder) and WR Anthony Gonzalez (knee).

— Sunday's game will be the first ever for coach Jim Caldwell against Cincinnati. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, meanwhile, has an 0-3 career record against the Colts.

— QB Peyton Manning is 6-0 against the Bengals. Manning has completed 134 of 201 passes for 1,642 yards, 17 touchdowns and three interceptions in six career games with Cincinnati. He has completed 66.7 percent of his passes and has a career 113.7 passer rating against the Bengals.

— WR Reggie Wayne has an NFL-leading 60 receptions this year. Wayne registered his fifth career game with 10 or more receptions in last week's loss to the Eagles. He has two touchdown receptions in his past three games with the Bengals.

— Manning and Wayne have combined for 64 career touchdowns. They can tie Jim Kelly and Andre Reed (65) for the fourth most touchdown passes by a quarterback-wide receiver tandem in NFL history.

— DE Dwight Freeney has registered 4.5 sacks in his last two games against the Bengals. Freeney has 10 tackles, 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in four career games with Cincinnati.

— DE Robert Mathis had 2.5 sacks in his last game with Cincinnati.

— Mathis has had 10 tackles, 3.5 sacks and one forced fumble in three career games with the Bengals.

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 — Consecutive games with a touchdown reception for tight end Jacob Tamme, who is filling in for the injured Dallas Clark.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We just finished up the second quarter (of the season). It was a second quarter where we ended up 3-1. We are getting ready to start the third quarter and we know without question, you can see with a number of teams that are still right in there with that same 5-3, 6-2 and 4-4 status in terms of their record. In the next couple of weeks things are going to start to shake out a little bit more. So, November and December are huge. We just have to get ourselves back to where we are playing consistently well all of the way across the board. We are starting the third quarter this coming weekend." — Coach Jim Caldwell on the AFC playoff race in general and the AFC South playoff race specifically.

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