Colts Begin Preparations for Super Bowl XLIV
INDIANAPOLIS – The approach is to keep things simple. And that's anything but.
Because while the idea may be to keep life as uncluttered and organized as possible in the coming days, Colts guard Ryan Lilja said he knows from experience doing so while getting ready for a trip to the Super Bowl is much harder than it may sound.
Friends you haven't heard from in years and even some you may never have heard from at all . . .
All are factors in the lead-in to the Super Bowl, and Lilja said managing the outside issues in the coming days and weeks is critical.
"You try to make it as business as usual as possible," Lilja said Monday, a day after the Colts qualified for Super Bowl XLIV with a 30-17 victory over the New York Jets in the AFC Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"You want to make it as normal as possible. You try to go through your normal routine."
The Colts (16-2), who won their second AFC Championship in four seasons, will play the New Orleans Saints (15-3) in the Super Bowl at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., Sunday, February 7.
That gives the Colts a little less than two weeks to prepare.
Jim Caldwell, a Colts assistant for seven seasons – including 2006, after which the Colts beat the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI – said on Monday the Colts will practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week. They will leave for South Florida Monday.
This week will be spent not only practicing, but installing the game plan for the Saints, Caldwell said.
"We're going to go into it and try to get our guys prepared as quickly as we possibly can," Caldwell said. "That's our intent. We're going to prepare this week exactly like we would be playing them on Sunday."
Of making the game, Caldwell said, "Obviously, we're certainly pleased. Our guys have played extremely well, and the staff has done a tremendous job. We're glad to be in this position."
One reason for installing the game plan this week is the hectic nature of the two weeks. Not only does next week feature more media time than usual – including a Tuesday Media Day that draws media from around the nation and the world – but this week is spent making arrangements for family and friends attending the game.
"It can become a madhouse," Colts center Jeff Saturday, one of 25 players remaining in the roster from the Super Bowl championship team.
The key to dealing with the situation, Saturday and Lilja each said, is to get arrangements taken care of early – preferably early this week – then have next week to focus on the game.
The Colts will have an organizational meeting to deal with such issues Tuesday, Caldwell said.
"We try to relieve a lot of the anxiety for them with the organizational meeting," Caldwell said. "We lay it all out for them, ticket issues and rooms, etc. All the things that everybody is probably asking questions about (Monday), we'll answer for them (Tuesday). We'll get those things out of the way, and be able to get focused in on our next opponent as quickly as we possibly can.
"This game draws quite a bit of attention. I can attest to that. I think I looked on my phone and there were 200 and something emails and 150 text messages, which I haven't even started to go through yet. So, I can imagine what it's like for anybody involved in this game."
One factor making the week a bit more familiar is that the Colts will stay in the same hotel and practice at the same facility – that of the Miami Dolphins – as they did three Januarys ago.
"We've been through the same routine, same practice facility," Caldwell said. "There are 25 guys who have been through this before. It does indeed help, but it doesn't give you any guarantees."
The Saints, who won their first 13 games of the season, beat the Minnesota Vikings, 31-28, in overtime in New Orleans in the NFC Championship Game Sunday. They won the NFC South title and are making their first Super Bowl appearance.
The Saints, who last made the playoffs in 2006, finished first in the NFL in passing offense, first in overall offense and sixth in rushing. They also led the NFL in points scored. They were 25th in the NFL in total defense, 26th against the pass and 21st against the run. They were 21st in points allowed.
"They present a lot of problems," Caldwell said. "They have a lot of weapons. We really have to go to work. They can run the ball. They can throw it with the best of them. They put a lot of points on the board, so they're tough to handle.
"Teams, when they get to this point, don't have too many holes. They certainly don't."
Said Saturday, "It's going to be a tough game. I don't know much about them, but they're a great football team. It will be a heck of a challenge."
The Colts advanced to their fourth Super Bowl in franchise history – their second of the Indianapolis era – by rallying from an 11-point first-half deficit. Quarterback Peyton Manning completed 26 of 39 passes for 377 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Manning threw touchdown passes on three of four possessions in a span covering the second, third and fourth quarters to turn a 17-6 deficit into a 27-17 Colts lead. The Jets finished the regular season as the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense.
"You think that he may level out, but he never does," Caldwell said. "He never gets complacent, Every year, it seems like he takes it to another plateau."
Said Saturday, who has been the Colts center the last 11 seasons, "He impressed me last night. He made some incredible throws. The thing that I've become accustomed to and come to appreciate is how calm he is. His presence of not pushing or pressing is what I appreciate."