4:15 PM ET, December 5, 2010
Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN
While it's certain the Indianapolis Colts' league-record run of seven straight 12-win seasons will come to an end, their eight-year streak of playoff appearances is in jeopardy as well.
Indianapolis (6-5) has lost three of four following an ugly 36-14 defeat to San Diego last Sunday. Manning threw four interceptions, marking the fourth time he has had at least that many, and the Colts were held to their lowest point total in a game in which he has taken every snap since last season's opener against Jacksonville.
The injury-plagued Colts missed a chance to take a one-game lead over the Jaguars in the tightly packed AFC South. They are tied with Jacksonville, with Tennessee and Houston also in contention, and know they need to fix their mistakes.
"We try to get to the root of the cause," coach Jim Caldwell said. "We don't necessarily try to sugarcoat things. We have to be able to deal with them directly and solve the problem. I think that's the big thing. It's not all the same thing. It's not all the same exact situation that occurs that causes them. Those are the things that we have to address."
Manning has been picked off seven times the last two weeks to match his worst career two-game total. He's been hampered by a long list of injured teammates who have been out for various lengths of time.
"Offensively, we didn't do a real good job," he said about the loss to San Diego. "I didn't do a real good job. Everybody needs to play better, I need to play better, our execution needs to improve."
Indianapolis played without Austin Collie (concussion) and Joseph Addai (neck, shoulder) against the Chargers while Reggie Wayne was held without a touchdown for the seventh time in nine games. The Colts' running game produced a season-low 24 yards and is averaging 68.0 over the last five games without Addai.
Collie is improving since his concussion Nov. 7 at Philadelphia. Addai has been undergoing practices for conditioning, but there is no timetable for his return.
Outside of a Dec. 19 matchup against Jacksonville, Indianapolis' remaining games are all against losing teams, and Dallas (3-8) currently has the worst record of those opponents. The Cowboys, though, are 2-1 under interim coach Jason Garrett, looking much more competitive than their 1-7 stretch with Wade Phillips in charge.
"We have another great opportunity playing Dallas, who seems like they are turning the curve a little bit," defensive back Jerraud Powers said. "It will be another tough opponent and another fun game, and we will be ready for them."
The Cowboys almost made it 3-0 under Garrett, falling short in a 30-27 loss to New Orleans on Thanksgiving. Dallas is looking to finish strong after going 4-8 in December over the previous four seasons, although it realizes a playoff berth is likely out of reach.
"I think there's always a tangible goal," Garrett said. "For different people it's probably different things. When you're playing and coaching on a football team, you want to put your best foot forward all the time. You want to take great pride in what you do."
Garrett was forced to diffuse a controversy when rookie receiver Dez Bryant did not speak to the media following the loss to the Saints after he failed to record a reception for the first time all season. Bryant leads the Cowboys with six TD catches.
"He's a great competitor," Garrett said. "I thought he handled that situation well throughout the ballgame, didn't seem distracted to me, was excited, was passionate, but was ready to go."
Running back Marion Barber suffered a strained calf in the loss and is day to day. If he can't play, Felix Jones -- already the primary runner -- likely would start and third-stringer Tashard Choice would move up.
Jon Kitna has played very well in Garrett's three games as coach, completing 69.3 percent of his passes for 787 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions. The veteran last faced Indianapolis in 2002, with Cincinnati.
The Cowboys have an 8-6 edge in the series, winning 21-14 four years ago in Manning's first loss in three games versus Dallas. These franchises are hosting the next two Super Bowls, with Dallas the host this season.
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|Avg Points Allowed||28.0||24.2|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||DAL|
|Rush Yds Allowed||DAL|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Dallas leads 2-1|
|Nov 19, 2006||DAL 21, IND 14|
|Nov 17, 2002||DAL 3, @IND 20|