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2023 Game Preview: Buccaneers-Colts, Week 12

The Bucs are hoping to start a successful playoff stretch drive in Week 12 but most contend with a high-scoring Colts offense and a defense good at taking the ball away…Injury updates, series history, statistical leaders and more


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will hit board a plane again this weekend for their fourth road game in the last five weeks, this time in Indianapolis. The 4-6 Buccaneers are coming off a loss in San Francisco but are just one game behind the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South. The 5-5 Colts are coming off their bye week, which followed a two-game winning streak, and are one game out of the last Wild Card spot in the AFC playoff field.

The Colts are coming off a four-win 2022 season that got them the fourth-overall pick in the draft, which they used to draft a potential franchise quarterback in Florida's Anthony Richardson; after a string of veteran turns at the position, the Colts have gone the first-round draft route for the first time since Andrew Luck in 2012. Indianapolis also has a new head coach in former Eagles Offensive Coordinator Shane Steichen, all of which suggested the team might be at the beginning of a rebuild in 2023.

However, even with Richardson going down after making just four starts, the Colts have already won one more game than they did last year and, like the Buccaneers, surely consider themselves legitimate playoff contenders. Savvy veteran Gardner Minshew has taken over for Richardson and is directing the NFL's ninth-highest scoring defense. Highly productive linebacker Zaire Franklin has emerged as the team's new defensive leader, and he plays behind a deep group of impact players on the front line, led by Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner.

"Very disciplined," said Buccaneers Head Coach Todd Bowles of the Colts. "Obviously, we know they have a great offensive line and running backs – both of them are very good. [They have] big receivers other than [Josh] Downs, who's quick and fast and makes a lot of plays himself. They're very aggressive up front on defense – they got off the ball very fast. The linebackers run and hit. The secondary – they all have vision on the ball. If you make a mistake, they're going to make you pay."

That backfield tandem Bowles mentions is Zack Moss, who leads the team with 617 rushing yards and five touchdowns, and Jonathan Taylor, who ran for 2,980 yards in his first two seasons before running into some injury issues last year and at the beginning of this season. The Colts have eased him back into action since his return and last week gave him a season-high 23 carries, indicating he is returning to a central role in their offense. The Colts' defense has picked off 11 passes, including three each by slot corner Kenny Moore and safety Julian Blackmon.

"I'd say they're a high-effort team," said Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield. "Their ability to take the ball away is the strong suit. I think all of their guys in the back end have a knack for finding the ball – whether it's punching it out or getting interceptions. They do a good job in their zone defense of having vision on the quarterback. Any errant throw, if you miss it a little bit, they're going to have eyes on it – they're going to make a play on it. They do that really, really well."

The Colts' defense has allowed the 26th most points per game (24.8) so far, and Mayfield and company will be looking for a more complete performance in Indianapolis after some breakdowns in and around the red zone limited them to 14 points against the 49ers. Mayfield said he believes the offense under first-year coordinator Dave Canales is "close" to becoming fully realized, and an uptick in scoring would go a long way towards the Bucs beginning a successful playoff stretch drive.

"I'd say in the beginning of the year, we were consistently scoring right around that 20 mark, where we left a lot of opportunities out there," he said. "For us, it's finding ways to continue drives, sustain those, and then finish in the red zone – get those touchdowns instead of field goals. That obviously helps the defense, but in terms of the injuries and stuff, it's time of possession, as well. The longer they get to rest on the sideline, maybe some of those injuries don't happen. We just need to play better on offense and score more points when they're there."

As Mayfield notes, the Buccaneers are monitoring injuries to defensive starters Lavonte David, Devin White, Jamel Dean and Carlton Davis, so they may be relying on even more young players in Indianapolis than usual. Last week in San Francisco, seven different rookies saw action on offense for Tampa Bay. If that's the case, the Buccaneers will need those new contributors to step up in order to get back on the winning track in Week 12.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-6) at Indianapolis Colts (5-5)

Sunday, November 26, 1:00 p.m. ET

Lucas Oil Stadium (capacity: 63,000)

Indianapolis, Indiana

Television: CBS (Local WTSP Channel 10)

TV Broadcast Team: Spero Dedes (play-by-play), Adam Archuleta (analyst), Amanda Renner (reporter)

Radio: 98Rock (WXTB, 97.9 FM), Flagship Station

Radio Broadcast Team: Gene Deckerhoff (play-by-play), Dave Moore (analyst), T.J. Rives (sideline)

Spanish Radio: 96.1 Caliente

Spanish Radio Broadcast Team: Carlos Bohorquez (play-by-play), Martin Gramática (analyst)


The Buccaneers have won three of their last four games against Indianapolis to nearly even the all-time series. The Colts still hold an 8-7 edge and are 5-3 in games played in Indy, though the Buccaneers won there in 2021 for their first road win in the head-to-head battle since 1997.

Since realignment and the implementation of a new scheduling format in 2002, the Bucs and Colts have met every four years, as is the case with all AFC opponents. However, the introduction of the 17th game to the schedule in 2021 means more opportunities for interconference play and the Bucs' first game under that umbrella was in Indianapolis that same year. It was, as has been the case quite frequently in this series, a high-scoring affair, with the Bucs rallying from a 10-point halftime deficit to leave with a last-minute 38-31 victory. Leonard Fournette became just the third player in franchise history to score four touchdowns in a single game, getting in three times on the ground and once through the air. The last one was a 28-yard touchdown run with 20 seconds remaining, which was followed by a game-ending interception by Pierre Desir.

The Bucs and Colts had also met in another high-scoring thriller two years earlier, with Tampa Bay taking that one, 38-35, at Raymond James Stadium in 2019. The Bucs scored 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to win it, with Jameis Winston finding Brett Perriman for the 12-yard game-winner with four minutes to go. Winston threw four touchdown passes on the day, including a 61-yarder to Mike Evans. Of the 15 games in the Bucs-Colts series, eight have featured at least one team scoring 30-plus points, including four in which both teams topped that mark.

The Colts' most recent win in the series was in 2015, a 25-12 decision in which Matt Hasselbeck threw a pair of touchdown passes to T.Y. Hilton. Prior to that, the Buccaneers prevailed in a Monday Night Football showcase in 2011, with LeGarrette Blount's 35-yard touchdown run, part of a 127-yard outing, provided the winning points with just over three minutes to play. That was the barest minimum of Monday Night Football revenge for another prime time game eight years earlier that ranks among the unhappiest of Buccaneer evenings. More on that below.

Both teams found great success with Tony Dungy as their head coach. Dungy was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for a career that was split almost evenly between the Buccaneers and the Colts. He got his first head job in Tampa in 1996 and quickly turned around a team that hadn't been in the playoffs since the early '80s, leading the Bucs to four postseason berths in six seasons. Dungy then took over as the head coach in Indianapolis and led that team to seven straight seasons with double-digit wins and a Super Bowl championship following the 2006 season.

The Buccaneers and Colts also impacted each other's drafts twice in a six-year span with two trades that were very similar in shape and scope though in opposite directions. In 1990, the buccaneers traded a first-round pick in the 1992 draft to Indianapolis for quarterback Chris Chandler, which eventually led to the Colts having the first two picks in that draft. In the end, that didn't work out too well for Indy as the two picks, Steve Emtman and Quentin Coryatt, failed to live up to those selections. In 1995, it was the other way around, as the Buccaneers sent quarterback Craig Erickson to Indianapolis in exchange for a first-round pick, this one in the 1996 draft. Tampa Bay got better results with that deal, using the pick on Marcus Jones, who developed into a good pass-rushing defensive end for several years.

And the payback for a prior Monday night game? Well, it will take more than one close win to make that even, as the Colts 38-35 victory at Raymond James Stadium in 2003 still ranks among the toughest losses in franchise history. After Ronde Barber returned an interception off Peyton Manning 29 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, the Bucs seemed to have the game locked down with a 21-point lead and only five minutes remaining. What followed was one of the biggest late-game comebacks in NFL history, which included a 90-yard kickoff return, a successful onside kick and several long connections between Manning and Marvin Harrison. The Colts tied the game at 35 apiece and then won it in overtime on Mike Vanderjagt's 29-yard field goal, but only after Vanderjagt had hit his first try wide right only to get a second chance thanks to an infamous "leaping" penalty thrown against Simeon Rice.


  • Buccaneers Senior Advisor to the General Manager Bruce Arians was the quarterbacks coach in Indianapolis during the first three seasons of Peyton Manning's career (1998-2000). Arians also returned to Indianapolis in 2012 to serve as the offensive coordinator but ended up as the interim head coach while Chuck Pagano was being treated for leukemia. The Colts went 9-3 with Arians at the helm, making the playoffs, and he was named AP NFL Coach of the Year. Arians' second stint in Indy only lasted one year because the Arizona Cardinals came calling with their head job in 2013.
  • Colts wide receiver Michael Pittman, Jr. is the son of former NFL running back Michael Pittman, who won a Super Bowl with the Buccaneers. The elder Pittman spent six of his 11 NFL seasons in Tampa (2002-2007) after signing as an unrestricted free agent in '02. In the Buccaneers' Super Bowl XXXVII victory over the Raiders, Pittman led the team with 124 rushing yards on 29 carries. He ranks sixth on Tampa Bay's all-time rushing yards chart (3,362) and ninth in receptions (284).
  • Tampa Bay kicker Chase McLaughlin spent part of his 2019 rookie season in Indianapolis Colts after being claimed off waivers in December. He later returned to the Colts in 2022 and handled the kicking duties for the final 16 games of that season. In all, he appeared in 20 games with the Colts and made 35 of 42 field goals and all 32 extra point attempts.
  • Colts Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley began his NFL coaching career with the Buccaneers in 2006, joining Jon Gruden's staff as the linebackers coach. He held that job for three seasons before moving on to become the Seahawks' defensive coordinator.
  • Cato June, the Colts' assistant linebackers coach, played linebacker in the NFL for eight years. Two of those were with the Buccaneers in 2007-08, during which he started 28 of 32 games and contributed 141 tackles and two interceptions.
  • Indianapolis kicker Matt Gay was drafted by the Buccaneers in the fifth round in 2019. In his one season with the team he made 27 of 35 field goal attempts and 43 of 48 extra point tries.
  • Colts linebacker Grant Stuard is also a former Tampa Bay draft pick, gaining the title of 'Mr. Irrelevant' in 2021 when he was the final pick in the seventh round. After one season in Tampa, he was traded to Indianapolis in August of 2022 along with a 2023 seventh-round draft pick in exchange for a 2023 sixth-round draft pick.
  • Indianapolis defensive end Genard Avery (currently on injured reserve) spent the 2022 season with the Buccaneers, first on the practice squad, then on the active roster and finally on injured reserve to finish the season. He played in nine games and contributed four tackles, one sack and five QB hits.
  • The Bucs' current coaching staff includes two men who were previously offensive line coaches for the Colts: Offensive Line Coach Joe Gilbert (2012-17, some of those years as the assistant O-line coach) and Assistant Head Coach/Run Game Coordinator Harold Goodwin (2012).
  • Luke Rhodes is now the Colts' long-snapper, but he first entered the league as an undrafted free agent playing linebacker with the Buccaneers in 2016. He was released at the end of the 2016 preseason.


Tampa Bay:

  • Head Coach Todd Bowles
  • Assistant Head Coach/Run Game Coordinator Harold Goodwin
  • Offensive Coordinator Dave Canales
  • Run Game Coordinator/Defensive Line Coach Kacy Rodgers
  • Pass Game Coordinator/Inside Linebackers Coach Larry Foote
  • Special Teams Coordinator Keith Armstrong


  • Head Coach Shane Steichen
  • Offensive Coordinator Jim Bob Cooter
  • Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley
  • Special Teams Coordinator Brian Mason



  • LB SirVocea Dennis (fifth-round draft pick)
  • OLB Yaya Diaby (third-round draft pick)
  • TE Payne Durham (fifth-round draft pick)
  • RB Chase Edmonds (FA)
  • G Matt Feiler (FA)
  • DL Greg Gaines (UFA)
  • CB Josh Hayes (sixth-round draft pick)
  • CB Keenan Isaac (UDFA)
  • S Christian Izien (UDFA)
  • WR Rakim Jarrett (UDFA)
  • DL Calijah Kancey (first-round draft pick)
  • G Cody Mauch (second-round draft pick)
  • QB Baker Mayfield (UFA)
  • K Chase McLaughlin (UFA)
  • S Ryan Neal (FA)
  • WR Trey Palmer (sixth-round draft pick)
  • RB Sean Tucker (UDFA)


  • DT Adetomiwa Adebawore (fourth-round draft pick)
  • CB JuJu Brents (second-round draft pick)
  • DT Taven Bryan (UFA)
  • WR Josh Downs (third-round draft pick)
  • DE Samson Ebukam (UFA)
  • T Blake Freeland (fourth-round draft pick)
  • K Matt Gay (UFA)
  • S Ronnie Harrison (FA)
  • CB Jaylon Jones (seventh-round draft pick)
  • LB Isaiah Land (W-DAL)
  • TE Will Mallory (fifth-round draft pick)
  • WR Isaiah McKenzie (FA)
  • QB Gardner Minshew (UFA)
  • QB Anthony Richardson (first-round draft pick…currently on injured reserve)
  • G Josh Sills (W-PHI)
  • CB Ameer Speed (W-NE)



  • Todd Bowles enters his second season as the Bucs' head coach with a new offensive coordinator on his staff. Former Seahawks Quarterbacks Coach Dave Canales takes over for Byron Leftwich, who spent four seasons in that role, the first three under Head Coach Bruce Arians. Canales helped quarterback Geno Smith go from journeyman to the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year in 2022 and has roots in the Kyle Shanahan/Sean McVay systems.
  • The Buccaneers made a number of other changes to Bowles' staff after the 2022 season, bringing in George Edwards (a former Vikings defensive coordinator) to coach outside linebackers, Brad Idzik to tutor wide receivers, and Skip Peete to take over the running backs room. David Raih and Jordan Somerville also joined the team as senior offensive analyst and assistant quarterbacks coach, respectively. With the arrival of Edwards, defensive Pass Game Coordinator Larry Foote switched from the outside linebacker room to the inside linebacker group. Thaddeus Lewis, who spent the previous two seasons as an assistant wide receivers coach, was promoted to quarterbacks coach.
  • After winning a Super Bowl and two division titles over the past three years, the Buccaneers saw an era come to an end when quarterback Tom Brady announced his retirement in late January. To move on at the game's most critical position, the Buccaneers brought in former number-one overall draft pick Baker Mayfield to compete with 2021 second-round selection Kyle Trask. Former Ram John Wolford was also added for experienced depth in the quarterback room. Mayfield was named the opening-day starter by Bowles between the second and third preseason games in August.
  • After largely "keeping the band together" for the 2021-22 seasons after their Super Bowl LV victory, the Buccaneers parted ways with a number of prominent players in 2023. Donovan Smith, who occupied the Bucs' starting left tackle spot for eight seasons, was released in March, as were tight end Cameron Brate, running back Leonard Fournette and kicker Ryan Succop. Safety Mike Edwards, quarterback Blaine Gabbert, cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting, safety Keanu Neal, defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches, wide receiver Breshad Perriman and tackle Josh Wells all found new homes in free agency while defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, wide receiver Julio Jones, outside linebacker Carl Nassib, tight end Kyle Rudolph and safety Logan Ryan were not re-signed.


  • After finishing the 2022 season with former Colts player Jeff Saturday as the head coach following the dismissal of Frank Reich in Week 10, the Colts chose to go another direction after the season ended. They landed on Shane Steichen, who had been the offensive coordinator in Philadelphia for the previous two seasons and was fresh off helping the Eagles get to the Super Bowl. Under Steichen's direction, the Eagles' offense ranked first in the NFL in rushing yards per game and also threw the fewest interceptions from 2021-22.
  • The Colts retained Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley, who had just arrived in 2022 after previous DC stints with the Seahawks, Chargers and Raiders, plus a four-season run as the Jaguars' head coach. On the offensive side of the ball, Steichen built a relatively young coaching staff, in part because the Eagles blocked him from bringing some of his fellow coaches with him to Indianapolis. The new offensive coordinator, Jim Bob Cooter, does have a good amount of NFL experience, most recently as the passing game coordinator in 2022. Cooter and Steichen crossed paths in Philly in 2021 when Cooter spent a season there as a consultant. Cooter was previously the offensive coordinator for the Lions for three seasons.
  • The Colts also brought in Cam Turner from the Cardinals to serve as quarterbacks coach, in part because he previously had a hand in the development of mobile Cam Newton and Kyler Murray. The Colts then overhauled their quarterback room, among other moves drafting a very mobile quarterback, Florida's Anthony Richardson, with the fourth-overall pick. Indianapolis removed 26 seasons of NFL quarterbacking from that group, releasing Matt Ryan in March and Nick Foles in May. Gardner Minshew followed Steichen from Philadelphia to Indianapolis to give the team some veteran experience behind Richardson, and then had to turn to Minshew as the starter when Richardson suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in Week Five.
  • Linebacker Shaquille Leonard, a Pro Bowler in each of his first four seasons, suffered through multiple injuries in 2022 and had two back surgeries, limiting him to just three appearances during the season and making him a bit of a question mark heading into 2023. Leonard was able to recover enough to be on the field to begin the regular season, and started he nine games, but sixth-year linebacker Zaire Franklin took over as the team's leading tackler. In fact, Franklin's 117 stops led all NFL players through Week 10 (the Colts had a bye in Week 11). On Monday, the Colts shocked the rest of the league by waiving Leonard.



DNP: Did not participate in practice

LP: Limited participation in practice

FP: Full participation in practice

NL: Not listed


  • LB Lavonte David (groin) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.
  • CB Carlton Davis (hip) – WEDS: LP; THURS: LP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Questionable.
  • CB Jamel Dean (ankle/foot) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.
  • DL Mike Greene (calf) – WEDS: NL; THURS: NL; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Questionable.
  • DL Logan Hall (illness) – WEDS: NL; THURS: NL; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Questionable.
  • WR Chris Godwin (knee/elbow) – WEDS: LP; THURS: LP; FRI: LP. Game Status: Not listed.
  • C Robert Hainsey (knee) – WEDS: LP; THURS: LP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.
  • S Ryan Neal (thumb) – WEDS: FP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.
  • LB Devin White (foot) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: LP. Game Status: Questionable.
  • T Tristan Wirfs (ankle) – WEDS: FP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.


  • CB JuJu Brents (quadriceps) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.
  • C Ryan Kelly (concussion) – WEDS: LP; THURS: FP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out.
  • TE Drew Ogletree (foot) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: DNP. Game Status: Out
  • LB Grant Stuard (illness) – WEDS: DNP; THURS: DNP; FRI: LP. Game Status: Questionable.
  • S Rodney Thomas (knee) – WEDS: LP; THURS: FP; FRI: FP. Game Status: Not listed.


Domed stadium. Outside weather: High of 40, low of 27, 49% chance of rain/snow, 78% humidity, winds out of the SW at 10 mph.


Head referee: Clete Blakeman (16th season, 14th as referee)


  • Favorite: Colts (-2.5)
  • Over/Under: 44.5



Points Scored: K Chase McLauglin, 68

Touchdowns: WR Mike Evans, 7

Passing Yards: QB Baker Mayfield, 2,389

Passer Rating: QB Baker Mayfield, 91.5

Rushing Yards: RB Rachaad White, 459

Receptions: WR Chris Godwin, 50

Receiving Yards: WR Mike Evans, 780

Interceptions: Dee Delaney/S Christian Izien, 2

Sacks: DL Vita Vea, 5.5

Tackles: LB Lavonte David, 90


Points Scored: K Matt Gay, 76

Touchdowns: RB Zack Moss, 6

Passing Yards: QB Gardner Minshew, 1,721

Passer Rating: QB Anthony Richardson, 87.2

Rushing Yards: RB Zack Moss, 617

Receptions: WR Michael Pittman, 66

Receiving Yards: WR Michael Pittman, 677

Interceptions: S Julian Blackmon/CB Kenny Moore, 3

Sacks: DE Dayo Odeyingbo, 6.0

Tackles: LB Zaire Franklin, 117



Scoring Offense: 23rd (19.2 ppg)

Total Offense: 22nd (304.7 ypg)

Rushing Offense: 32nd (76.9 ypg)

Passing Offense: 14th (227.8 ypg)

First Downs Per Game: 24th (18.1)

Third-Down Pct.: 15th (40.6%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: 5th (5.70%)

Red Zone TD Pct.: t-28th (46.4%)

Scoring Defense: 9th (20.0 ppg)

Total Defense: 26th (360.7 ypg)

Rushing Defense: 6th (90.0 ypg)

Passing Defense: 31st (270.7 ypg)

First Downs Allowed Per Game: 22nd (20.1)

Third-Down Pct. Allowed: 30th (46.7%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt: 13th (7.97%)

Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: 1st (34.4%)

Turnover Margin: t-5th (+6)


Scoring Offense: 9th (24.2 ppg)

Total Offense: 14th (336.1 ypg)

Rushing Offense: 10th (118.0 ypg)

Passing Offense: 17th (218.1 ypg)

First Downs Per Game: 22nd (18.4)

Third-Down Pct.: 16th (39.2%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt Allowed: 14th (6.47%)

Red Zone TD Pct.: t-6th (60.0%)

Scoring Defense: 26th (24.8 ppg)

Total Defense: 25th (358.5 ypg)

Rushing Defense: 25th (129.7 ypg)

Passing Defense: t-18th (228.8 ypg)

First Downs Allowed Per Game: 27th (20.7)

Third-Down Pct. Allowed: 14th (38.4%)

Sacks Per Pass Attempt: 10th (8.65%)

Red Zone TD Pct. Allowed: 19th (54.8%)

Turnover Margin: t-13th (+1)


  • Wide receiver Mike Evans recorded his seventh touchdown reception of the season against San Francisco last Sunday, giving him 88 in his career and putting him into a tie with Hall of Fame wide receiver Don Maynard for 15th place in NFL history. One more would give him sole possession of that 15th spot and move him to within two of Hall of Famer Isaac Bruce (91) in 14th place. The Raiders' Davante Adams is tied with Bruce in that spot but may have added to his own total by the time Evans catches Bruce.
  • Wide receiver Chris Godwin grabbed his first touchdown catch in Buffalo in Week Eight, which allowed him to tie Ring of Honor member Jimmie Giles for third in team history in terms of total TDs scored and tie Cameron Brate for third in team history in touchdown receptions. Godwin currently has 34 touchdowns on his resume (33 receiving and one rushing), while Giles has 34, all receiving, and Brate has 33, all receiving. His next TD would break those ties.
  • Linebacker Lavonte David has a team-leading 90 tackles this season, which has pushed his career total to 1,434, good for second most in franchise history. David needs 10 more tackles to reach 100 for the ninth time in his career. The only Buccaneer who has done that more often is Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks. That would also make him just the third NFL player to record at least 10 100-tackle seasons since 2000. The only other players to do that since the 2000 season are London Fletcher (14 times) and Bobby Wagner (11).
  • Outside linebacker Yaya Diaby picked up two sacks in San Francisco and now has 4.0 on the season. He needs two more to tie Gaines Adams (6.0 in 2007) for the third most sacks by a rookie in Buccaneers annals.


  • Head Coach Todd Bowles on the lack of turnovers over the last few weeks as compared to earlier in the season: "We've got to get them. They come in bunches and they go in bunches. We're still trying to punch the ball out, we're still trying to get picks. People are taking better care of the football. Those are telltale signs for games. In order for us to win and win handily, we've got to get turnovers."
  • Offensive Coordinator Dave Canales on facing Indianapolis Colts LB Zaire Franklin: "No hesitation – he runs downhill. He diagnoses earlier. We talked about a different type of MIKE linebacker last week with Fred Warner, who's going to sit back a little bit, take it in, and make his decision – play off his combo [blocks]. Zaire, he diagnoses and boom, he's like a rocket. That's going to really have to heighten our combo [blocks] for the offensive line in the run game or the play-action game to just be aware of him trying to break those combos earlier. We've got to be ready for that – a different style of MIKE linebacker. Like you said, [he is] a tackling machine, so take care of the rock. As we get through the second level, get that second hand and let's lock it up."
  • WR Chris Godwin on his pre-game routine: "There's been a lot of work that I've been doing over my career, but especially the last three or four years. Whether it's clutch situations or just the game in general, I think a lot of it has been focused around just being present. Meditation has helped me a lot with that. I feel like there's a lot of noise that happens surrounding the game – obviously, it's the most popular game in our country. There's so much surrounding it, so a lot of times it can be easy to get distracted by the outside noise, whether it's the pressure of the moment or a bunch of different things. For me, meditation has been something that's really helped me lock in and be in the moment. That helps me in those critical situations. When I go out there, I'm not doing anything out of the ordinary, I'm just doing what I've trained to do, by allowing myself to be centered [and] be present allows me to be focused in that moment."
  • QB Baker Mayfield on how he likes the growth of the play-calling in the run game over the season: "There's been, overall, a lot of growth in the offense in the run game. Whether it's receivers [and] tight ends blocking, the [running] backs hitting it and learning how these guys are blocking, schemes…Yeah, the variety of the run game keeps the defense off balance a little bit. [We are] just trying to find ways to give similar formation looks, personnel looks and run different packages out of it. That always helps. We're getting better and better each week at that and we just need to continue to grow."
  • LB SirVocea Dennis on what it has been like learning from LB Lavonte David: "Hopefully, he is a Hall of Famer, so that just makes me smile, and prepare a little bit more, a little harder, and just pick his brain more. He's a great player, as you've seen throughout these 12 years, and now you would think he would slow down, but he's not. It's just amazing to see and learn from him."

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