Broncos - Colts Have A Long History

Champ Bailey (Getty Images/Doug Pensinger)

Consider this little nugget: The Indianapolis Colts have held a lead at least once in 61 of the last 65 games. Denver players have been alerted of that fact; with the point being, adversity will hit at some point Sunday and the players will need to take it in stride and keep plugging away.

Consider this little nugget: The Indianapolis Colts have held a lead at least once in 61 of the last 65 games.

"It surprised me they weren't ahead in the other four games," Broncos coach Josh McDaniels quipped.

Denver players have been alerted of that fact; with the point being, adversity will hit at some point Sunday and the players will need to take it in stride and keep plugging away.

However in previous Colts games, Denver has taken it to such an extreme, the life's been sucked out of the team to where comebacks have become something of a pipe dream.

Removing the game on Jan. 2, 2004, when Indianapolis already had clinched a first-round bye (and the Colts first offense actually did score before sitting the remainder), the Broncos have lost the last five meetings dating back to 2003, including playoffs.

In a 41-10 wild-card loss on Jan. 4, 2003, Denver trailed 21-3 with 7:28 remaining in the second quarter and 31-3 at the half. During a Jan. 9, 2005 defeat in another playoff tilt, the Broncos were behind 35-3 at the break. Last Dec. 13, the Colts scored three quick TDs for a 21-0 edge with 7:58 left in the quarter and a late comeback was thwarted once Denver found its offensive and defensive rhythm.

Only two recent games in the series weren't early blowouts. Indianapolis led 14-13 before scoring 21 of the next 28 points in 2007. And the Oct. 29, 2006 battle was a back-and-forth affair.

McDaniels attributes the Colts' quick starts in large part to a tempo and personnel that are difficult to simulate during the week, which then becomes an early-game adjustment that's difficult to handle. Further, when teams do take the lead, "they end up trailing in the game anyway. ... facts are facts."

"A lot of teams try to get accustomed to the speed of the defense," McDaniels said. "And when you're on defense, you're trying to get accustomed to all the little things you're trying to get right -- to stop Peyton, to cover the receivers, to stop the running game, to cover Dallas Clark. There's a lot of different things you have to do right and the tempo and style that they play sometimes takes a little while to get used to -- you just hope it's quick."

Even coach Josh McDaniels couldn't hold back a smile when talking about the timing of injuries to both of his starting cornerbacks suffered last week against Seattle.

"It's an important game to have those guys available," he said.

That's because rolling into town Sunday are the Indianapolis Colts and a certain quarterback you may have seen on a commercial or 12.

The status of Champ Bailey (foot) and Andre' Goodman (thigh) still isn't known. What is set in stone is that if both those players are unavailable, Denver won't have much experience playing behind them.

Rookie Perrish Cox would almost certainly start, and fellow first-year cornerbacks Syd'Quan Thompson and Cassius Vaughn would have to dress and play significant roles.

In that scenario, it will be up to the veterans to keep them on point against one of the most potent NFL passing offenses.

"Everybody has a point in their career where they're asked to step in and help or is given a role. Everybody in this locker room has done that at some point in his career," said cornerback/safety Nate Jones, another veteran candidate to start, depending on how the starting corners' rehabilitations go.

"As far as whether they're capable, they are," Jones added about the trio of rookies. "They're young guys but they have courage. They're fearless and they make plays. They're good students in the classroom and they're coachable. So I know if they're called upon, they'll be ready. And the vets that are here will help them get ready."

Safety Renaldo Hill talked about "overemphasizing communication," should that scenario unfold. Trying to stay ahead of what could happen and anticipating the things that will occur will be part of film study. Checks on the field will be made loudly. Hand signals will be more demonstrative in an attempt to allow everyone to play fast.

"They're ready to play," Hill said about Vaughn, Thompson and Cox. "They hang tough together as a pretty young unit coming in. They may answer some of their own questions within those three without even coming to us because they can see what the other guys saw or how they could do things different and discuss that. But all of them are very talented. They seem very mature. Nothing seems to rattle those guys. At this point, you're kind of amazed because they are so ready to go."

Nevertheless, should the scenario unfold, Denver fans will be undoubtedly flashing back to Jan. 9, 2005, when, in an AFC Wild Card Game on the road. Peyton Manning unmercilessly picked on then-rookie Roc Alexander charged with covering Reggie Wayne while Bailey and Co. tried to limit Marvin Harrison and slot receiver Brandon Stokley. Denver was down 35-3 at halftime and Manning eventually racked up 458 passing yards, the second-most passing yards in a playoff game in NFL history.

Cox has all due respect for Manning, saying there's no bigger challenge for him should he start Sunday. But Cox previously has been with the first team extensively in training camp, so there's a comfort level there. And he picked off his first NFL pass Sunday after Goodman pulled up lame.

"I don't look at anybody differently. I kind of look at everybody on the same level until they prove differently," Cox said. "I don't go by what people say or what's in the newspaper or all that. I just go and ball and help my teammates the best I can."

Even so, he's already learned from Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck the thought process of a pro QB. Hasselbeck targeted Cox on his first snap; he then went after Vaughn on his initial defensive play.

"They went deep on him, first play. I guess that's what you've got to expect, for those things to happen," Cox said.

SERIES HISTORY: 19th meeting. Broncos lead regular-season series, 11-7. Indianapolis has won three straight games, dating back to Oct. 9, 2006, including a 28-16 victory at Lucas Oil Stadium last Dec. 13. Denver lost back-to-back playoff games to the Colts in 2003-04 by a combined 90-34 scoring margin.

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