2010 Colts Game Preview: Dallas Cowboys at Indianapolis Colts

"America's Team" will be headed to America's heartland Sunday afternoon, when the Cowboys invade Lucas Oil Stadium to take on the Colts.  This will be the first time since Week 10 of 2002 that Dallas has come to Indianapolis, a 20-3 Colts victory.  Marvin Harrison had a big day with 14 catches for 138 yards and 2 TDs, while the Cowboys only completed 11 passes all game.  I'll give you bonus points if you can name the leading rusher for the Cowboys in that game (without looking it up). The two teams last played in 2006, when the Cowboys beat the 9-0 Colts 21-14. Marion Barber took over the 4th quarter, scoring 2 TDs, giving the Cowboys a come-from-behind victory. 

Both teams come into the matchup off of home losses.  We all know what happened to the Colts on Sunday night, and the Cowboys grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory, or more accurately, had the win ripped out of their hands by the Saints (ugh).  Roy Williams was stripped by Malcolm Jenkins at the NO 10 yard line, with the Cowboys up 4 with a little over 3 minutes to go. It sent the Cowboys to 3-8 on the season, and gave Head Coach Jason Garrett his first loss.

After two weeks, and two losses, to teams that are very familiar with the Colts, maybe it's a good thing the Colts play a team they only see once every four years.  Let's see how the teams compare to one another, and find some keys to the game...

Adjusted Stats for both teams:

Statistic Colts Cowboys
Offense Rank Defense Rank Offense Rank Defense Rank
DSR 74.7% 5 68.5% 15 73.5% 9 72.3% 24
ANPY/A 5.828 16 4.766 7 6.704 8 7.186 28
Turnovers 1.81 17 1.56 18 2.20 27 1.30 27
Yds/Drive 35.08 4 29.26 16 33.91 8 30.73 21
ToP/Drive 2:56.0 8 2:49.0 22 2:47.0 12 2:45.0 20
Yds/Play 5.241 16 4.947 10 5.809 6 5.455 19
First Downs/Drive 2.16 2 1.69 17 1.85 8 1.77 20
3rd/4th Down 44.8% 5 36.7% 11 43.7% 7 41.8% 23
Avg Start Pos 27.5 32 30.2 15 29.0 27 31.0 20
3 and Outs 2.94 5 3.99 14 2.94 6 2.99 27
RZ Eff 75.9% 5 54.4% 4 77.6% 2 75.8% 29
Plays/Drive 6.654 1 5.780 24 5.858 10 5.659 16
Penalty Yds / Play 0.614 3 0.809 19 0.855 19 0.629 30
RB Success 46.7% 15 50.6% 30 49.0% 10 44.0% 14
Yds/Carry 3.55 31 4.47 25 3.81 21 4.06 13
Net Punts Yds/Game 39.41 13 41.78 30 45.04 1 37.83 13
Overall 7 15 8 25

Statistical Keys to the Game:

  • This looks to be the week for Peyton Manning and the Colts passing offense to get back on track.  The Cowboys are ranked 28th in ANPY/A defense, and the Colts desperately need something to go well in the passing game. 
  • The Colts should also be able to drive the ball down the field consistently, something they have done all year successfully.  It should continue, and mean good things for the Colts.
  • Despite Jon Kitna playing QB, the Cowboys offense has been pretty good throwing the ball this season (they were 6th when Tony Romo got hurt).  Their WRs may have more talent than any other group in the league, although this season they've rarely shown it.
  • They've also had Turnover issues this season, and it would be nice for the Colts to get back to being on the positive side of the TO margin.  The Cowboys are bad on both sides of the ball in terms of turnovers.
  • When the Cowboys get into the Red Zone, the Colts will once again face a top offense.  They shut down the Chargers last week, but we pointed out beforehand they actually weren't very good in the Red Zone.  Getting Field Goals instead of Touchdowns will be key once again.

Other Keys to the Game:

  • As always, who is back healthy for the Colts.  Bill Polian said Mike Hart, Clint Session, and Gary Brackett should all be back this week, which is great news.  Getting Austin Collie back will also play a big role in getting the passing game going.  I don't think it's a coincidence the passing game has suffered since he's been out of the lineup.
  • Marion Barber looks like he won't be playing on Sunday, which is great news for the Colts defense.  If I had to pick one RB that is the prototypical Colts-buster, it would be him.
  • The motivation level of both teams.  With the way the Cowboys looked in the first 2 games under Jason Garrett, it looked like there was a sliver of hope they could actually play at the level of their talent.  However, after the way they lost last week, they really only have pride to play for, and possibly to get Garrett the full-time gig as Head Coach.  The Colts, on the other hand, still lead their division, and rarely not show up for a game.
  • Manning needs to let his teammates help him out.  I think he's been trying to play too perfect, and I think it is making both him and his teammates tight out there.  Manning feels they have to score on every drive, and others are taking the same attitude. The Colts need to just go out there and play.

Prediction:

I'm going to go back to 2006 for a second.  That Dallas loss was the first in a stretch where the Colts lost 3 of 4 games, ending with that Jacksonville game that was a disaster. The week after that, Manning came out and played really well against a Bengals team that was 8-5, and won 34-16. That looks eerily similar to this current run by the Colts.  Just found it interesting...

The Colts defense has played well in each home game this season, and I think it continues this week.  Manning should be able to clean up the Interception problems that have plagued him the last two weeks, and the Colts will come away with a hard fought win, pulling away with a late score in the 4th quarter. The Colts haven't lost 3 straight games since Weeks 6-8 in 2002.  I just can't see it happening.

Colts 31, Cowboys 20

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