Colts Coach Addresses Team's Super Bowl Opponent for First Time Monday
INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts are still two weeks away from playing in Super Bowl XLIV, but discussion surrounding the NFL's biggest game of the year already has begun.
For the first time since the 1993 post-season, both the AFC and NFC's No. 1 seeds will meet in the Super Bowl. The New Orleans Saints began the season 13-0, second this season only to the Colts' 14-0 start.
In his day-after press conference with the media following the team's 30-17 victory Sunday over the New York Jets in the AFC Championship Game, Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell spoke highly of the Saints and their style of football.
"They present a lot of problems, obviously," Caldwell said. "They have a number of weapons. Drew Brees is certainly a talented quarterback, extremely accurate guy, who spreads the ball around quite a bit. With the weapons he has, he can give you some problems."
Brees set an NFL record this season with a 70.6 completion percentage and also led the league in passing touchdowns with 34. This post-season he has completed 40 of 60 passes for 444 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions.
With Brees under center, five Saints caught more than 45 passes this season, including wide receiver Marques Colston who caught 70.
And with running backs Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell in the backfield, New Orleans also boasts a versatile running game, which helped contribute to the team's top-ranked offense (403.8 yards per game) during the regular season.
"We're really going to have to go to work," Caldwell said. "They can run the ball. They can throw it with the best of them. They've put a lot of points on the board, so they're tough to handle."
On defense, the Colts coach said the Saints play a lot of different sets and have "great personnel to back it up."
With a strong kicking game, led by placekicker Garrett Hartley, who is 2-of-2 this post-season, including last week's NFC Championship winner in overtime, the Saints are strong in all three phases of the game, Caldwell said.
"Teams, when they get to this point, they don't have too many holes, and they certainly don't."
Caldwell said it has been hard to ignore New Orleans' success this season.
He said they are a talented team who, like the Colts, fought through the difficulties of being a frontrunner and still advanced to the Super Bowl.
Caldwell added that he has a great appreciation for what the city of New Orleans has gone through in recent years and used to frequent the area on recruiting trips when he was a coach at Southern Illinois University.
"I understand a bit about the culture. They have a lot of pride. We don't want to stamp any of that out. We hope that continues, but what we want to do is win this ballgame," he said.
With almost half the roster remaining from the Colts' Super Bowl victory in 2006, a lot of players know exactly what to expect over the next two weeks leading up to Super Bowl XLIV.
But for those who do not, Caldwell said the team's young players would have no problem finding veteran teammates to turn to for advice.
The list includes Peyton Manning, Jeff Saturday, Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis and Gary Brackett to name a few.
"The same guys who have done it from day one," Caldwell said.
"Some of them are more vocal than others. But every single one of those guys sets a great tone, just in terms of what they offer, advice, mindset, things of that nature. They'll all be huge down the stretch."
And with the team headed back to Miami, the site of the team's Super Bowl victory just three years ago, Caldwell said it does nothing but help from a familiarity standpoint.
"We're staying in the same hotel. We've been through the routine, same practice facility. There are 25 guys that are on our team that have actually been through this before. So, that does indeed help, but it doesn't give you any guarantees," he said.
COLTS-JETS MOST-WATCHED AFC TITLE GAME IN 24 YEARS
Indianapolis' 30-17 win over the Jets Sunday drew 46.9 million television viewers, making it the most-watched AFC Championship Game in more than 24 years.
In all, the NFL's conference championship weekend drew an average 52.9 million viewers, a 34 percent increase from last season, making it the most-watched championship weekend in 28 years.
Caldwell said following Sunday's win he joined his family for dinner and watched the Minnesota-New Orleans game himself, joking he enjoyed himself for a couple of hours.
But by Monday morning he was back at work, helping the coaching staff assemble a game plan as quickly as possible.
In his press conference, the Colts coach was asked if it had sunk in yet that his team was going to the Super Bowl.
"It has," he said. "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."