Colts Have Rare 10-Day Span Before Key Home Game Against Jacksonville
INDIANAPOLIS – Now, at last, the Colts can rest.
And although Head Coach Jim Caldwell said a nationally-televised, prime-time victory Thursday obviously clinched nothing – and although the season will still be defined by the coming weeks – he said it's also true that the Colts now have a chance at something rare in an NFL December.
A bit of time off.
A brief opunity to recharge.
A chance, maybe, to get healthy – healthier, anyway.
The Colts, after playing on just three days rest last week, now have 10 days off before playing host to the Jacksonville Jaguars on December 19.
That game is expected to have significant meaning in the AFC South chase.
And to Caldwell, that rest is a good thing.
"The 10 days, it not only gives us a chance to heal properly," Caldwell said Friday, a day after the Colts moved to within a half-game of first place in the AFC South with a 30-28 victory over the Tennessee Titans at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn.
"It gives us a chance to focus in on Jacksonville. We get a couple of more days of preparation, and with that, we can spread our work out more.
"With that, we can hopefully go into the game with a little bit of a pep in our step."
The Colts (7-6), who have made the playoffs an NFL-best eight consecutive seasons, can win a seventh AFC South title in eight seasons by winning their last three games. The Jaguars (7-5) play host to Oakland Sunday.
"It still boils down to the fact that we still control our own destiny," Caldwell said. "It's how we play is what counts. Right now, we don't have to ask anybody for any help. I think we're in a good position in that regard."
Colts players will get Friday, Saturday and Sunday off before beginning preparations for Jacksonville, although Caldwell said, "Coaches are a different breed."
"They don't know what time off is," Caldwell said, smiling. "Guys are still coming in the office, trying to get a little bit of a head start and finishing up some things in.
"We'll start to work on Jacksonville now, but the implementation of the game plan won't really start until Monday."
As for players, Caldwell said rest is critical.
The Colts not only played on three days rest this past week, they have placed 15 players on injured reserve this season. On Thursday, they played without running backs Joseph Addai and Mike Hart, linebacker Clint Session, wide receiver Austin Collie and cornerback Kelvin Hayden.
While the injured reserve players – a list that includes tight end Dallas Clark, safeties Bob Sanders and Melvin Bullitt, defensive back Jerraud Powers and wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez – are out for the season, Caldwell said the hope is the Colts may get "one or two" of the other aforementioned players back before Jacksonville.
Offensive linemen Charlie Johnson and Jamey Richard also left Thursday's game, with five offensive linemen dressed at the end of the game.
"A little respite is not bad," Caldwell said. "I think it's good for them from a physical standpoint, and it's also good from a mental standpoint, because now they can kind of take a pause for a moment and look down the road a little bit in preparation for this next ballgame.
"It's always nice when you've won the game to go into this stretch. If it's the other way around, it's not such a good stretch. You're always wondering, 'Should we be working? What should we be doing?' Those things come into play. Fortunately, we're not in that situation."
The Colts, after losing three consecutive games and four of the last five, took a 21-0 lead late in the first half against Tennessee, with kicker Adam Vinatieri converting three second-half field goals – including a 47-yarder with 2:55 remaining – to allow Indianapolis to secure the victory.
Peyton Manning, the Colts' 10-time Pro Bowl quarterback, completed 25 of 35 passes for 319 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. The two touchdowns came in the first half to wide receiver Pierre Garcon.
Garcon caught six passes for 93 yards, and wide receiver Reggie Wayne caught four passes for 106 yards, including passes of 46 and 50 yards to set up scores.
Consistency, Caldwell said, remains the objective.
"It's just something we have to continue to work on, but it's not just one thing," Caldwell said. "What we have to do is do the things that we normally do: don't beat ourselves, No. 1, with penalties. We had a few too many (Thursday). Those are things that will stall you.
"We have to tackle better from a defensive standpoint, so there are a lot of little things. There's a sign that hangs in our locker room: 'Take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves.' Consistency is one of those bigger things.
"What we have to do is make sure we focus in on the little things, the basic fundamentals."
The Colts on Thursday also forced two turnovers – a fumble recovery by linebacker Tyjuan Hagler and a fumble recovery of a muffed punt – that led directly to 14 first-half points. During the recent three-game losing streak, the Colts had committed 12 turnovers, forcing none.
"I like to think that for the most part, teams find ways to win the close ones," Caldwell said. "Regardless of how it happens, I'm not one that believes in luck. There's the old Branch Rickey saying, 'Luck is the residue of design,' or, 'Luck is where opportunity meets preparation.' I'm a big believer in those things.
"I just think we prepare and prepare well and at some point in time, things are going to go our way. We just have to keep fighting and get to the point where we're very, very consistent. Then, we'll get some of those bounces. We got a couple of them (Thursday)."
Being in position to create such opportunities will be crucial in the coming weeks, Caldwell said, with each of the three games likely to be close games that can turn on one or two plays.
"I think every game is going to be one where you have to turn the tide in your favor," he said.