INDIANAPOLIS –As a rookie, Antoine Bethea played on a team won 12 times in the regular season and four times in the playoffs.
What made the 2006 post-season special was that the club reversed uneven play late in the year with a dominant defensive performance when it counted the most.
Indianapolis has lulled at times this year, but the past two games have been very good outings by the defense.
The timing of the 23-7 win at Kansas City gave Bethea pause when asked where it ranked compared to others in 2013.
"It was a big win just being that this is December football, coming into a hostile environment, playing in the elements," said Bethea. "It ranks for this season at the top, along with Seattle, with Denver. This one might be a little more just because it was December.
"At the end of the day, all the wins we put at the top. A win is a win, baby, we'll take them any way we can."
Bethea's 81st regular-season win came against an 11-3 Chiefs team battling for a division crown and coming off piling up 45 and 56 points in consecutive wins.
Kansas City moved to a quick 7-0 lead, then Indianapolis regrouped to pitch shutout ball for the last 56 minutes of the game. The Colts allowed only 233 net yards on 11 subsequent possessions, forcing five three-and-outs.
"Just going into the game, we knew what we needed to do. That first drive, it was just a bad drive for us," said Bethea. "There was no panic on the sidelines. We just got together like normal to know what we needed to do. It was what we should have done on that first drive as well."
Antoine Bethea Regular-Season Win Total
-Division winner; *-Division winner, SB Champion
That mindset fits the marathon approach Indianapolis has taken this year. A quick defensive start to the season saw the Colts bolt to 6-2, earning huge wins over San Francisco, Denver and Seattle. Those three teams are a combined 34-10.
There were down times against St. Louis, Arizona and Cincinnati, but the club has battled back each time to reach 10 wins.
"Consistency. It's the main thing in the NFL, being consistent, not going up and down," said Bethea on how this team has done it over an arduous course. "We've done that at some points in the year, but being consistent all over – special teams, offense, defense (is what it takes). When it's time to make plays, make plays when it comes your way."
Some players never sample the type of success Bethea has. He is playing on a fifth division winner. He has played in two Super Bowls. Once he played on 13- and 14-game winners, twice on 12-game winners.
After being on a 2-14 team in 2011, Bethea has helped lead a revival in Indianapolis, and he sees a pattern involved for organizations that have sustained success.
"It's the same formula. There's a formula why teams are good and why they win games," said Bethea. "It starts from the top with good coaching, players who believe in the system, just playing hard and making plays.
"You have to have leaders and young players who follow those leaders. If you look at any team that has a lot of wins, you're going to see that same formula."
Bethea says December wins are crucial because it is "very important riding into the playoffs playing well," and he takes particular pride knowing the Colts have recast the roster almost totally and have not dropped consecutive games in the process.
"It makes you feel good," said Bethea. "It shows what this organization is all about.
"Having not lost back-to-back games in two years and having 10-plus wins, it shows what we're about and what type of people we have in the organization. I love being a part of it."