The offense has been hot and cold, struggling at times but managing to come up with big drives and big plays when needed the most. And while the defense is playing well, especially over the past several weeks, the "bend-but-don't break" nature of the unit has caused more than a few anxious moments.
"I would say we've been a bit inconsistent, except for in the win-loss column. Every week we've found different ways to win ballgames," Colts coach Jim Caldwell said this week. "I wouldn't say that we're operating on all cylinders right now, but I think that's a good thing because that gives us a lot to work on and get ourselves in a little bit better position to be a highly effective team in the playoffs."
The different ways that Indianapolis has forged its undefeated season have been impressive. Blowouts, close games, having big leads and being forced to hold on at the end, falling behind early and staging late comebacks, or having scant possession time.
No running game? No problem. Opposing defenses playing the pass in short-yardage situations? Doesn't matter. Opposing offenses controlling the clock? That's OK. It's called finding a way to win.
"It's been a very unusual team. They are a very close-knit group of guys that understand how to fight in big games, in particular when things may not be going well for one side of the ball or one phase and the way they stick together, the way they step up and play," Caldwell said. "On and on and on there are just so many guys that have done a tremendous job of stepping in and filling the gap for one another."
In many ways, Indianapolis remains a work in progress on both sides of the ball.
"Our record indicates that we are doing pretty well. There are a lot of teams that are playing well in this league," the Colts coach said. "The way which we measure is each and every game we know we will be challenged. This week is no exception. We get tested every week. The key is how well are you playing at the end."
SERIES HISTORY: 18th regular-season meeting. Colts lead series, 13-4. Indianapolis has won six of the past eight matchups between the teams. The Colts have a 6-2 won-loss record at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium. Indianapolis has an 11-4 record against Jacksonville since the two franchises became part of the AFC South. Fourteen of the previous 17 regular-season meetings have been determined by 10 points or fewer. Twelve of those games have been determined by a touchdown or less.
Indianapolis won the first meeting this year, taking a 14-12 decision at Lucas Oil Stadium in the season opener. Peyton Manning completed 28 of 38 passes for 301 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Reggie Wayne caught 10 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown.
BY THE NUMBERS: 0 — Touchdowns allowed by the Colts defense after an offensive turnover this season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We try to press the issue. We are an aggressive bunch, and I think that permeates our entire team. We are an up-tempo type team. Being fast, smart and physical are words that identify us when we go out and play. The defense embodies that three-word phrase." — Coach Jim Caldwell, on the team's defense.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL: The Colts have had pretty good success in the past playing games on a short week. Coach Jim Caldwell is hopeful they are able to continue that against Jacksonville.
"I just think that short weeks are good because of the fact that they really make you narrow your focus in terms of preparation," he said. "Whereas when you have a little bit more time on your hands, sometimes you're willing to add a couple more plays here or maybe a couple more defensive looks here or maybe a variety of plays in your kicking game.
"When you only have a couple of days to get ready, you really have to narrow it down to the plays that you're actually going to use in the ballgame and you don't have an opportunity to dream up a whole bunch of scenarios. Your preparation is pretty good on short weeks."
Since the Colts haven't played Jacksonville since the opening week of the season, the game plan from that game is basically useless.
"You have to go into it a little bit differently," Caldwell said. "They're doing a few things a little different. So we'll take a fresh new look at them. We started a little bit last week because we knew we would have a short week. They present some problems for you."
GAME PLAN: Stay as healthy as possible. Play hard. And win.
That's the agenda for the Colts as they prepare to head south to face AFC South foe Jacksonville. Offensively, Indianapolis needs to be more consistent in what it does. The Colts have been able to move the football this year but have yet to sustain a complete effort over the course of a game.
Defensively, Indianapolis has to keep an eye peeled for the Jaguars running game and must be able to keep Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard bottled up. The Colts can't allow Garrard to roll out and make plays with his legs. Keep the pressure up, defend the run and force turnovers.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Colts QB Peyton Manning and WR Reggie Wayne vs. Jaguars CB Derek Cox — Cox is a rookie, but that didn't stop him from intercepting Manning in the season opener back in September. However, Wayne caught 10 passes against Cox that day.
Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Colts WLB Clint Session — Jones-Drew has always been a thorn in the side of the Indianapolis defense. His smallish stature and hard-running style makes him extremely difficult to stop. Session is having his best season since being a fourth-round draft pick in 2007. He is a Florida native and has played well against the run this season.
Colts DE Dwight Freeney vs. Jaguars LT Eugene Monroe — Freeney had two tackles, including a sack, in their first meeting earlier this season. He has a team-leading 11.5 sacks and 20 quarterback pressures (second on team) so far on the year. Monroe is a rookie who has played well.
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