Caldwell said Colts Benefited from Three-Day Break After Victory over Jacksonville
INDIANAPOLIS – As Jim Caldwell saw it, a couple of good things happened late last week.
Caldwell, in his first season as the Colts' head coach, said not only did the Colts get a big-time focused effort in a victory over Jacksonville, but as significant was that they got it on a Thursday night rather than a Sunday.
So, yes, staying unbeaten was great, Caldwell said.
But it also earned them some extra time off.
"These three days were very good for us," Caldwell said Monday as the AFC South champion Colts (14-0) began preparing to play the New York Jets (7-7) at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday at 4:15 p.m.
"I think some guys were able to gain some health benefits from it."
The Colts, after rallying five times to beat the Jaguars, 35-31, had Friday, Saturday and Sunday off, then returned to practice on Monday.
"Guys are back and ready to go to work," Colts defensive end Robert Mathis said Monday.
They will have Tuesday off before beginning full preparations for the Jets Wednesday.
"It's good at this point to have three days to just get away – to mentally get away from the grind, but physically just getting off your feet and relaxing," Colts left tackle Charlie Johnson said. "You come back on Monday and feel refreshed and ready to finish the last two weeks and however else long we play."
The victory over Jacksonville pushed the Colts' NFL record regular-season winning streak to 23 games, and although the Colts didn't play over the weekend, they did become the NFL's last remaining unbeaten team. That happened on Saturday night, when the previously-unbeaten New Orleans Saints (13-1) lost to the Dallas Cowboys, 24-17.
That left the Colts as one of three teams in NFL history to start a season 14-0. The others were Miami in 1972, when finished a 14-game regular-season unbeaten before winning three postseason games, and the 2007 New England Patriots, which finished 16-0 before losing the Super Bowl.
"I'm kind of upset New Orleans lost," Colts middle linebacker and defensive captain Gary Brackett said. "The locker room will be a little more crowded now, [with people] seeing what we're going to do.
"But I think it's a good problem to have."
Caldwell said on Monday it was too early in the week to say exactly how the Colts will approach Sunday's game against the Jets in terms of playing time.
"I can tell you our preparation is going to be the same," Caldwell said. "I'm not going to know exactly where we are from a health standpoint probably until toward the end of the week. Like most weeks, it just takes a while through the course of practicing so you'll have idea what to expect – if you can utilize them for the game."
Whereas last week Caldwell said early in the week all healthy players would likely play throughout the game, on Monday he said, "Right now, I couldn't tell you.
"I wouldn't know exactly what it's going to be, if a guy is going to play a few series or the entire game," he said. "I couldn't tell you. We'll look at every situation the same. For a guy to be excluded from the game, it will be a health issue. That's kind of what we're looking at."
The Colts, who two weeks ago clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, beat the Jaguars on the road Thursday in a game that meant nothing to Indianapolis' playoff seeding. The Jaguars entered the game in control of their playoff destiny.
The Jets will enter Sunday's game with playoff hopes, but they needed several teams – including Baltimore and Denver at 8-6 – to lose at least once in the final two weeks.
As one of two unbeaten teams a week ago, there was national attention on the Colts as they prepared for Jacksonville, with ESPN and the NFL Network sending personnel to the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center last Tuesday. Their focus, as was the focus of much of the media, was exactly how the Colts would approach playing time against Jacksonville, and whether finishing unbeaten was a priority.
While Brackett said that could increase this week, Colts players said they're not concerning themselves much with the issue of who will play and for how long.
"Guys will do what coach asks them to do," Colts cornerback Kelvin Hayden said. "If the coach feels like we need rest, that's fine. If not, just go out there and continue to do your job. You can say your two cents, but that's the head guy. It is what it is. His best interest is you and the team. If he thinks it's best for the team to rest and get ready for the playoffs, that's fine.
"If he wants you to go out there and continue to work and get better, that's fine, too."
Hayden said the perspective of players on finishing the regular season unbeaten runs along those same lines.
"It's good to know we're an elite team, but we're not into that," Hayden said. "We're just taking it as another week of work. We're going out and trying to do our job."