Thursday, October 06, 2005


Last week we discussed the Indianapolis offense's slow start. The Colts were averaging an anemic (for Indy) 16 points per game before coming out of it Sunday and hanging 31 on a Tennessee team still in short pants. Before that, however, in their first three games combined, they scored all of 47 points, very nearly the lowest three-game output of the Peyton Manning era. And yet the Colts won all three of those games, thanks to the defense, which for years had struggled to hold teams to just three touchdowns a game.

The Colts offense reverted to form in Week 4, but the defense kept on playing like a mutha. The Indy D (the "In-D"?) surrendered only 10 points to the Titans -- 7 of them on a meaningless touchdown in the final minutes. In four games, Indianapolis has allowed a total of just 26 points. By comparison, last year the Colts gave up 27 or more in just one game seven times. Yes, it could be reasonably argued that they weren't exactly up against '99-Rams-quality offenses in the Ravens, Jaguars, Browns and Titans. But you can only play the teams on your schedule. And while I hardly think these are the '85 Bears here, I don't believe in pissing all over a team's accomplishments when the players do all you can ask of them. Besides, last year the Colts gave up 85 points -- about three touchdowns a game -- in their four games against the Jaguars and Titans.

That number -- 26 points in four games -- is utterly amazing, especially for this franchise. When's the last time a Colts team allowed so few points over four games? Answer: 1971, when Don McCafferty was the coach, the Colts were still in Baltimore, and the team was the defending Super Bowl champion. In Weeks 1-4 of the 1971 season, the Colts gave up just 17 points. Further, in the first five games of that year, they allowed only 24 points, and in the first six they gave up just 34. However, that's not the best Colts showing of the Super Bowl era. In 1968, under Don Shula, they allowed an astonishing 12 points over four games and 22 over six. (That was the team that got waxed by Broadway Joe in Super Bowl III while Johnny U sat on the bench.)

My point in digging up the Old Colt bodies is that the Colts haven't put up defensive numbers like this in more than 30 years. Since those glory days, it's been much (much, much, much) more common for the Colts to allow more than 100 points in a four-game span that to hold teams under, say, 60. In the 2-14 season of 1981 -- the absolute nadir for the franchise -- the team gave up a legendary 153 points in four straight losses (Chargers, 43-14; Browns, 42-28; Dolphins, 27-10; and Jets, 41-14). In 2001, Jim Mora's last year as coach, the Colts never surrendered fewer than 100 points in any four-game stretch. In the first three years, 2002-05, under Tony Dungy, the team has allowed an average of 83.3 points per four-game span.

'Scuse me for shouting, but: Do you understand now how out-of-character it is for a Colts team to hold its opponents to so few points?

Perhaps another chart will help. It's what we do best! Here are the fewest points allowed by the Colts in a span of four games in the Super Bowl era (1966-2005). Only games within a single season were considered, as personnel and schemes turn over from year to year. Also, in cases of overlapping four-game stretches, I've taken the single best four-game span:

MIN 21-9 W
ATL 44-0 W
at GB 16-3 W
1719711-4NYJ 22-0W
CLE 13-14 L
at NE 23-3 W
at BUF 43-0 W
2620051-4at BAL24-7W
JAX 10-3 W
CLE 13-6 W
at TEN 31-10 W
3019706-9BOS 27-3W
MIA 35-0 W
at GB 13-10 W
BUF 17-17 T
at NE 6-0 W
at NYJ 10-6 W
PHX 16-13 W
3319678-11GB 13-10W
at ATL 49-7 W
DET 41-7 W
at SF 26-9 W
34197110-13at MIA14-17L
at OAK 37-14 W
BUF 24-0 W
MIA 14-3 W

By next week, this chart will either be hopelessly out of date or recognized as so prescient that the Elias Sports Bureau will be knocking on my door with wheels of cheese and sacks of cash.

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