Colts to christen new Lucas Oil Stadium stadium vs. Bills

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts are still trying to get comfortable in their new environment.

Peyton Manning hasn't dressed for a game, the starting offense still hasn't scored a touchdown in the preseason, and the team hasn't played in Indy yet.

Even the $720 million Lucas Oil Stadium doesn't feel quite like home yet -- something that will start to change Sunday night when the Colts host Buffalo in the first NFL game under the new retractable roof dome.

"We enjoyed playing in the RCA Dome," coach Tony Dungy said. "It was good for us. We knew that facility very well, and it was nice and loud for us, so we had that going. But it was also about a lot of good players playing well, and that's what we have to have at the new place."

Sunday's game will be the Colts' opening act after three straight weeks on the road.

But this hardly feels like a homecoming.

Dungy spent Tuesday morning taking players on a stadium tour so they knew where to park, how to get to the locker room and to dispense with any temptation of spending game day taking in the updated amenities.

Players, coaches and team officials have given the city's latest masterpiece rave reviews. Now comes the tough part: Turning a shiny, new building into a real home-field advantage.

"I think it's going to be a great time for us to get started on a new year, a fresh year," said Bob Sanders, last year's NFL defensive player of the year. "Guys are coming back. I think it's just all around great for this city and this state to bring a new stadium here and have us start doing bigger things."

Of course, Sanders was referring to the Colts' regular-season success.

Preseason games have a been different story in Indy. The NFL's winningest team since 1999 is just 3-14 in preseason games since September 2004.

And despite a victory at Atlanta last weekend, this August has been more of the same.

The defense, which just got Sanders and three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney back on the field this week, has been susceptible to the run with opponents rushing for more than 176 yards per game.

The offense, which will be without Manning for the fourth straight week, has largely been inconsistent. That's something Manning's replacement, Jim Sorgi, wants to change in what should be his longest outing of the preseason.

"The first couple of games you only get about 15 plays. Last week we got 25," Sorgi said. "So far, it's gone pretty good except for getting field goals instead of touchdowns."

Buffalo has other concerns.

Starting quarterback Trent Edwards' efficient performance last week led the Bills to a 24-21 victory over Pittsburgh, but he won't play Sunday after bruising his right knee in practice Tuesday.

The Bills instead will probably turn to J.P. Losman, considered Buffalo's quarterback of the future after being taken in the first round in 2004. Since then, he's won the starting job, lost it, regained it and lost it again, prompting him to request a trade in the offseason.

"It was very difficult and it is very difficult to get motivated, but with the help of friends, family, and my agent, we just keep pressing on," Losman said. "You have to keep looking at that light. You have to keep saying something could happen, and you have to be ready for it."

Plus, Buffalo is missing Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters, who has missed four weeks in a contract holdout.

Not enough? Receiver Roscoe Parrish was held out of practice last week, and receiver James Hardy has been limited because of a sore hamstring. Neither will play against the Colts. Hardy is a Fort Wayne, Ind., native who played at Indiana University.

Defensively, the Bills look different. They've added three key players -- defensive tackle Marcus Stroud, linebacker Kawika Mitchell and defensive tackle Spencer Johnson -- while linebacker Paul Posluszny and safety Ko Simpson have returned from season-ending injuries last year.

So far, the Bills believe the changes have helped.

"We got better as an offense," Bills offensive coordinator Turk Schonert said. "When we came in here that was our goal, was to get better as an individual and as an offensive unit, and we've done that."

Will it be enough to tarnish the Colts' christening?

"I think our guys will be charged up about playing in Lucas Oil," Dungy said. "And I think they'll do a good job, the same way."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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