INDIANAPOLIS – Coach Tony Dungy got two reminders of his past: one over dinner Friday night and another from his team Saturday afternoon.
His Indianapolis Colts used a suffocating run defense that held the Kansas City Chiefs without a first down for more than 40 minutes to help secure a 23-8 victory in the first round of the AFC playoffs at the RCA Dome on Saturday. The Colts will now face Baltimore next Saturday in the second round.
Of course, the words "suffocating run defense" have been used in association with the Colts this season about as often as most people hit the PowerBall lottery.
"I think it's safe to say that nobody in the media picked us to stop Kansas City's running game," Indianapolis linebacker Cato June said after he helped contain the Chiefs to 44 yards on 17 carries including only 32 yards on 13 carries for bruising back Larry Johnson.
That type of defensive effort is also about as uncommon as Dungy and former assistants Herm Edwards and Lovie Smith getting together for dinner these days. Appropriately, that happened Friday night. Edwards is the Kansas City head coach and Smith, who is now the head coach in Chicago, drove in for dinner and the game, taking advantage of the Bears' bye week.
The three, who worked together during Dungy's first year as head coach in Tampa Bay in 1996, went to the downtown P.F. Chang's. Joined by their wives, it was a rare hour away to think about times gone by.
"The wives talked about stuff that wives talk about and we all kind of sat down and reminisced," Dungy said. "It was nice … we're together at a lot of events, like the owners' meetings. But it's rare that we get to sit down like that."
Dungy, Edwards and Smith helped build Tampa Bay's vaunted "Tampa 2" defense, and Dungy brought the Cover 2 scheme to Indianapolis. Unlike the Buccaneers, however, the Colts have been a team dominated by the offense of quarterback Peyton Manning.
But Saturday's game was decidedly un-Manning. He threw three interceptions, including two to Chiefs cornerback Ty Law, who has made a career of intercepting Manning in the playoffs. Both of Law's picks came on plays where Manning threw an out when wide receiver Marvin Harrison was expecting an in.
In most situations, that would have spelled disaster for Indianapolis. This time, the defense saved the offense with a performance straight out of the best of the Buccaneers.
"We didn't really change anything," Dungy said of his defense, which ranked last in the NFL against the run. The Colts, who gave up 173 yards a game and 5.3 yards per carry, were also ravaged for 375 rushing yards by Jacksonville less than a month ago.
To Dungy, the answer was simpler.
"The whole group played faster," he said. "We played with a lot of energy."
That was evident from the first two plays of the game when Johnson was held to no gain and then 2 yards as the Colts swarmed to him. Kansas City ended its first seven possessions in three-and-outs and didn't get a first down until the 3:11 mark of the third quarter. The Chiefs didn't help themselves much by dropping four passes, including three that could have gone for first downs, but there still wasn't much there for Kansas City.
By that point, Manning and the offense had been able to build a 16-0 lead. There was plenty of frustration for Indy's attack, which not only muddled through the three interceptions but was stopped at the Chiefs' 1-yard line in the first half.
Rookie running back Joseph Addai, who took advantage of his first start to gain 122 yards on 25 carries and score the Colts' first touchdown, provided the thread of consistency as Manning struggled. Addai was key on the first TD drive as Manning eschewed the pass for seven consecutive runs, Addai carrying five times for 43 yards and the 6-yard score. He and tight end Dallas Clark were also crucial to the little success in the passing game as they combined for 16 receptions and 129 yards.
After Addai's touchdown, the teams traded scores before Indianapolis came up with two interceptions in the fourth quarter to finish it. It was just like the days in Tampa, when the defense had to rescue the Bucs time and again.
For Dungy, it was a nice stroll down memory lane.