Minimizing Errors Paying Off For Colts

The Colts' ability to minimize penalties, turnovers and special teams mishaps has played a huge role in their perfect season. On the other hand, the competition has failed to minimize these errors against the Colts, leading to their demise.

Both the Ravens and Jaguars, in weeks one and two, pushed field goals left on their second possessions, preventing them from taking an early lead against the Colts.

In week three, the Browns killed their opening drive against the Colts with a 15-yard taunting penalty on WR Braylon Edwards.  Their first drive of the second quarter also came up short thanks in part to a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on WR Antonio Bryant.

And on Sunday, after their initial scoring drive against the Colts, the Titans' next two and a half quarters of football were marred by an interception, seven team penalties—including a costly taunting penalty on Adam Jones--and a missed field goal...wide left, of course.

Conversely, the Colts have played virtually error free football— culminated by a zero turnover, one penalty performance against the Titans on Sunday.

With all the praise coming the Colts defense's way, some needs to go to the coaches.  Remarkably, the Colts have committed only three defensive penalties resulting in ten yards.  A declined defensive holding call on DB Jason David, an offside call on DE Dwight Freeney and an offside call on DE Josh Thomas were the only three incidents. 

That's right—not one roughing the quarterback or personal foul on the Colts "dirty" defense.  Not one pass interference call on their previously scorched secondary.  Only two offside calls on a defense ranked second in the NFL in sacks.  And only one offensive holding call on the offensive line that has kept MVP Peyton Manning upright the entire season thus far. 

In recent history, the Colts have committed penalties less than their opponents, but this season they have done so at an astounding rate:

Season Opponent Penalties Penalties Committed Ratio
2003 123 92 1.34:1
2004 116 106 1.09:1
2005 31 17 1.82:1

The Colts currently rank first in the NFL among teams who haven't had a bye week in the following categories:  fewest penalties against, fewest penalty yards against, fewest sacks against and fewest give-aways.  They also hold the sixth best turnover ratio in the league.

With arguably the best defensive unit since the Colts moved to Indianapolis, minimizing turnovers becomes even more important to their cause.  The Colts have not lost a fumble this season, after losing three in their first two games last year.   

The table below illustrates the importance of keeping turnovers to a minimum for the Colts, especially once the postseason rolls around. The average number of turnovers per game for the contests the Colts won versus the ones they lost is shown by below season:

Season Regular Season Postseason
Won Lost Won Lost
2003 1.08 1.75 0.5 5
2004 0.83 1.75 1 3
2005 0.5 N/A N/A N/A

The Colts can praise the schedule makers, who have lined up a gallery of turnover prone teams over the next six weeks.  In parentheses is the teams' current turnover ratio.  The Colts play the Houston Texans twice (-7), the 49ers (-4), Rams (-4) and Patriots (-5) over that time span.  In addition, these teams' defenses all currently rank among the bottom half of the NFL. 

Although the Colts offense hasn't been as consistently explosive so far season, they have been very helpful to the defensive cause.  Aside from minimizing their turnovers, the only two they committed did not provide good field position for the opposition.  Additionally, the lack of penalties committed by the offense has put the Colts in better punting situations, allowing Hunter Smith to create a longer field for opposing offenses.

The Colts kicking game has also minimized mistakes.  Mike Vanderjagt is perfect on field goal and extra point attempts.  Kickoff specialist Dave Rayner has increased the Colts kickoff average three yards per kick versus last season.  Hunter Smith's punts have already pinned opponents inside their own 20-yard line nine times this season.

Their 4-0 record is indicative of how the Colts have played this season—clean, precise, disciplined, error free football.  It is this type of play that has been instrumental to the resurrection of the Colts defensive unit.  And it is this type of play that will lead the Colts to capturing the elusive home-field advantage they so deeply desire.

For more information on how the Colts minimize turnovers, Premium Members should visit our new Sportswriter's Blog in our message board community. Click on the Friday, October 7th entry by Ed Thompson to learn what techniques the Colts use to reduce fumbles when they're on offense.

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