INDIANAPOLIS – A topic that was a year-end discussion point in at least five different seasons is not open for debate, at all.
The 10-5 Colts have clinched all they can with one game left in the season. Indianapolis has secured the AFC’s fifth playoff seed regardless of Sunday’s outcome against Houston.
So, should players play or be rested? The answer is easy, do not even ask.
“This team, or its head coach for that matter, doesn’t know what it means to sit back and rest or look ahead,” said General Manager Ryan Grigson. “This is a team who goes out to the middle of the ring and no matter the odds or how weary they may be, they go blow-for-blow until the bell rings and wills itself to be the last man standing.”
The approach by Indianapolis differs from that of the past. The Colts rested players near the end of successful seasons in 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2009.
In 2004, starters exited early in Denver once the team’s seeding was determined.
After a 13-0 start in 2005, one where home-field advantage was clinched at that point, most of the regulars came out early in season-ending games against Seattle and Arizona.
In 2007, the same was true in the finale against Tennessee while in 2008, the Titans rested a number of starters in the last game since they clinched the division crown earlier. The Colts assumed an early lead that day and soon followed suit as well.
In 2009, Indianapolis was 14-0 and played starters into the third period of a December 27 home outing against the Jets. A number of front-liners came out with the Colts winning, 15-10. The Jets rallied for a 29-15 win. The Colts played starters only about one quarter the next week in Buffalo, then rested the bulk of the starters for the upcoming post-season.
The decision to rest players that year was unpopular because of the team’s unbeaten record. Indianapolis zipped through two playoff games and reached Super Bowl XLIV.
A topic no one thought could apply to this year’s team does, but the “resting” approach is not on the radar screen.
“Absolutely,” said Chuck Pagano on if he would play key players this week if they are healthy. “It’s just not our DNA (to rest). From day one, we set goals for ourselves, amongst a lot of other things. Just watching what this team has done over the course of the last 12 weeks and the entire season, it’s just not in our DNA. It’s not in our make-up.
“These kids deserve it. Their families deserve it. Our fans and this city deserves our best every game, regardless of the situation, regardless of the circumstances. They’re going to roll the ball out there. It’s our job to go out there and try and win a football game. That’s what we’re going to do.”
The play-versus-rest debate is one Houston Head Coach Gary Kubiak feels has come and gone.
“I think that’s kind of moved on in football,” said Kubiak. “I think everybody’s got maybe certain players that may have injuries they have been fighting through or stuff that you have to pay special attention to. The bottom line is you only have 53 active players and 46 are going to suit up. You just have to go play and keep pushing it through the weeks.
Pagano is returning to the sidelines Sunday for the first time since week three. In watching the team fight through its schedule while he fought leukemia, he loved what he saw. He will lead his charges on Sunday with one goal – winning again.
“We’re going to approach it just like we approached the first three and the way they approached last 12,” said Pagano. “Take it one play at a time, one game at a time. It’s a 16-game regular season. This is the last one on the schedule.
“We’d love to win 11 games. That’s our goal. That’s our focus – it’s the Texans and getting (victory) number 11.”