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4. Rest, rest and more rest. Somewhat lost amid all the talk of rest, rust and momentum over the past month is that when it comes to rest, Caldwell has been very, very consistent in his approach and it’s an approach the players clearly appreciate. The Colts under Dungy never had a brutally tough training camp, but under Caldwell this season it was lighter than before, with fewer afternoon practices and fewer heavy-running special teams practices. “Back on March 16 of last year, I had our first team meeting all together, collectively, as a team,” Caldwell recalled this week. “I told them then we wanted to enter the regular season fresh, hungry and well prepared – those were the three things. I promised them that we would enter that first game with those types of characteristics, and I believe we did. Going into the second season that was one of our goals, as well. Our guys, I think, understand our vision for that. I really believe in speed, particularly at the time of the year where you may be able to gain a step or two. It’s not guaranteed, but I’d rather lack a little bit in preparation and pick up a step or two in speed, because you can make up for a mistake or two here and there.” Remember all that talk of locker room mutiny following the decision to pull starters and not pursue 16-0? That’s not where coaches lose locker rooms. Coaches lose locker rooms by wearing players down, making decisions that endanger their careers or lose meaningful games and not listening to players. Caldwell may not fit the true definition of “Players Coach,” but there’s no question he listens to them, and there’s no question that them being rested is a major priority. It also may be a major reason they’re a step away from the Super Bowl.
3. Catching the breaks. Records don’t always tell the story of teams’ seasons, but if the Colts do make the Super Bowl, a pretty strong argument could be made that no team in NFL history ever has had an easier road to get there. If the Colts make it, they will have beaten the Nos. 5 and 6 seeds in their conference (the Jets and the Ravens, respectively) to get there. Since the NFL started allowing six teams from each conference into the playoffs, only the Seahawks in 2005 have advanced to the postseason by beating the Nos. 5 and 6 seeds to get there. The Colts also would be the first team to advance to the Super Bowl without having to play a team in the postseason with at least 10 victories since the 1989 Denver Broncos.
2. The key guy. The more you analyze this match-up, the more it looks like WR Pierre Garcon is a key player for the Colts. He showed his guts and heart Saturday night, not only playing with the uncertainty surrounding his family in Haiti, but chasing down Ravens S Ed Reed and forcing a fumble that essentially took away any chance the Ravens had at momentum in the second half. But on Sunday, Garcon will be key for more fundamental reasons. The Colts need to hit big plays against the Jets’ attacking, blitzing defense, and with CB Darrelle Revis checking Wayne on one side, you figure the Jets will take away TE Dallas Clark if they can. That could make Garcon, who has big-time size and as much deep speed as any Colts receiver since Marvin Harrison in his prime, a key offensively for the Colts.
1. OK, the real key guy. Obviously, any discussion of key guys for the Colts actually has to start with QB Peyton Manning, and while that’s true every week, it’s especially true this week. Manning always is key, but he’s particularly key when the Colts are playing attacking, blitzing defenses because of his ability to read the blitz at the line and take advantage of the matchups that blitzes always present to get big plays. An average quarterback typically will make a critical mistake or two a game against a blitzing defense such as the Jets. The defense counts on that, and is therefore willing to give up a big play or two. In recent years, Manning has learned to be patient while awaiting the big play against such defenses, and as often as not, the Colts have put up huge numbers against teams that take the approach.
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COLTS NEEDN’T REGRET NOT ELIMINATING THE JETS. HERE.
Reviewing Colts President Bill Polian’s weekly radio show . . .
* No apologies necessary. Here.
* Caldwell deserved Coach of the Year Honor. Here.
* Fans critical to victory over Baltimore. Here.
* Extraordinary season. Here.
Quoting the Indianapolis Colts . . .
* Head Coach Jim Caldwell and QB Peyton Manning. Here.
* WR Reggie Wayne and MLB Gary Brackett. Here.
* DE Dwight Freeney, WR Austin Collie and CB Kelvin Hayden. Here.
MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. ON THE HEALTH OF THE COLTS AND THE RB SITUATION. HERE
POPULAR OR NOT, COLTS EARNED RIGHT TO CHOOSE LATE-SEASON APPROACH. HERE.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS OWNER JIM IRSAY SUPPORTED DECISION AGAINST JETS. HERE.
AN UNBEATEN SEASON THAT WASN’T: A FINAL LOOK AT AN UNRESOLVABLE CONFLICT. HERE
FREENEY: PRO BOWL NEVER GETS OLD. HERE
TE DALLAS CLARK, QB PEYTON MANNING AMONG SIX PRO BOWLERS FOR COLTS. HERE.
DOES PEYTON MANNING GET TOO MUCH RESPECT? HERE
POLIANS’ CONTRACTS EXTENDED. HERE
COLTS FANS OWE RB JOSEPH ADDAI AN APOLOGY. HERE
*** CATCH UP WITH ALL THINGS COLTS ON INDY FOOTBALL REPORT. HERE
*** READ JOHN OEHSER’S INDIANA PACERS COVERAGE. HERE.
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www.indyfootballreport.com . . . John’s Colts website