The Sports Xchange

NFL Team Report - Indianapolis Colts - INSIDE SLANT

With Indianapolis heading into a home game against the Kansas City Chiefs, the story for the Colts remains the absence of four-time NFL Most Valuable Player Peyton Manning.

Manning's loss -- due to a Sept. 8 medical procedure on his neck -- has handcuffed the Colts, and not just on offense.

His mere presence behind center and his ability to put Indianapolis in position to make plays on offense helps the defense in how it schemes to stop the opposition.

Opposing offenses play a lot differently when they are forced to try to keep up with Manning's offense than they do when he is not in the lineup.

All of that is true. But now, with no No. 18 to set the tone for the franchise, it's up to other players -- wide receiver Reggie Wayne, tight end Dallas Clark, wide receiver Pierre Garcon, defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis -- to fill the void.

Defensively, the job is made that much tougher with the recent season-ending losses of safety Melvin Bullitt and middle linebacker Gary Brackett to shoulder injuries.

But the job goes on. The season doesn't end just because the Colts have been hit hard -- for the second consecutive year -- by debilitating injuries to key players.

"We have a lot of guys that have been through a lot of tough situations and a lot of adversity," coach Jim Caldwell said. "They've been able to hang in there and come through it. I believe in them. We just have to keep working together until we get it over the hump.

"I also believe in how we do things around here. When you look at it, it's certainly produced a lot of victories."

The Colts have a lot of areas in which they need to continue getting better. Third-down conversions, both on offense and defense, remain issues. Indianapolis is not sustaining drives on offense and is allowing teams to extend drives defensively.

Through the first three games of the season, Indianapolis yielded 43 points, 14.3 points a game, on drives longer than 28 yards.

Over the same timeframe, Colts quarterbacks fumbled five times, lost four and threw an interception. Those five turnovers set up 27 points.

With both the Colts and the Chiefs -- playoff teams a year ago -- looking to turn around their 2011 fortunes, whichever team finds a way to fix its mistakes the quickest will have a chance to get back into postseason contention.


NFL Team Report - Indianapolis Colts - NOTES, QUOTES

LINEUP WATCH: RB Donald Brown and DE Jerry Hughes -- first-round draft choices in 2009 and 2010, respectively -- continue to bide their time on the sidelines. Brown is currently the No. 3 running back on the Colts' roster behind starter Joseph Addai and rookie Delone Carter. Hughes, meanwhile, is getting less playing time due to the training camp additions of DEs Jamaal Anderson and Tyler Brayton.

UNDER THE RADAR: CB Terrence Johnson was under the radar at the start of training camp, but he emerged quickly after a solid camp and continues to work himself into more and more game situations. Johnson split time early with starter Jacob Lacey at the left corner position. His emergence led the Colts to release veteran CB Justin Tryon.


NFL Team Report - Indianapolis Colts - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL


--OG Joe Reitz continues to nurse a sore ankle. Reitz did not practice prior to the Tampa Bay game after he was hurt against Pittsburgh.

--OG Ryan Diem's return to the starting lineup remains on hold. Diem has not played or practice since incurring an ankle injury against Cleveland. He was in a walking boot initially, but he has been rehabbing without it in recent days.

--DT Fili Moala remains hopeful that he will not be sidelined much longer. Moala suffered a high ankle sprain against the Browns and has been sidelined ever since. He has not been wearing a walking boot and is continuing his rehab.

--LB Ernie Sims could return to practice sooner rather than later. At least that's the early indication after he was elevated off the Colts' "Out" list and placed on a much more optimistic "Did not practice" list. Sims hurt his knee early in the second quarter of Indianapolis' season-opening loss at Houston.

--QB Peyton Manning will continue to help out in the press box, working with quarterbacks coach Ron Turner, until he is cleared by doctors to return to the sidelines. Team officials plan to keep Manning on the Colts' active roster for as long as possible.