INDIANAPOLIS — What is it about Thursday games and the Indianapolis Colts?
Since 2006, the Colts are a perfect 9-0 in games played on Thursdays, in matchups that have been both blowouts and barnburners — and everything in-between.
On the other side of the coin is the Colts' recent lack of success against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Since 2006, the Steelers have won four of five games against the Colts, including blowout victories the past two seasons (51-34 in 2014 and 45-10 in 2015).
So something has to give this Thursday, when the Colts welcome the Steelers to Lucas Oil Stadium for a Thanksgiving Night showdown.
While the Colts' past success on Thursdays really has no bearing on this upcoming game, general manager Ryan Grigson told host Bob Lamey on this week's "Colts Roundtable Live" that, "We need every edge we can get versus this opponent."
"I mean, it's no secret. We have to match that team's physicality," Grigson said. "This team's taken us to the woodshed when we've played them the last two times. So here's a chance at home, because we've played them on the road twice, here's a chance at home to match their physicality and show them that we're not going to be pushed around at Lucas Oil (Stadium)."
Grigson and Lamey spoke at Monday's practice, before the team announced quarterback Andrew Luck had been placed in the league's concussion protocol. With or without Luck, however, Indianapolis, a winner of two straight and just a game out of first place in the AFC South Division, needs to keep its foot on the pedal to continue to have a shot down the stretch.
"We have played with the best teams in the NFL, and played physical football for 60 minutes," Grigson said. "We've shown we can do that, and we've got to do that to give ourselves a chance Thanksgiving night, in our back yard, at home. So the opportunity there is there again, just like it was last week, like it was up in Lambeau. And, again, it's no different. We've got to treat it, like coach said, every week like it's our last game."
Here's some other highlights from Monday's show, including some questions fielded from fans by Grigson (due to time constraints in the short week, head coach Chuck Pagano's segment was his postgame interview after Sunday's win over the Tennessee Titans):————————————Colts general manager Ryan GrigsonOn fans getting their money's worth on Sunday, seeing a win as well as the 2006 Super Bowl XLI 10-year reunion ceremony:
They really did. It was a great day to be a Colts fan, obviously. When you have a team like the 2006 team that, they even self-admittedly say, wasn't even their best team, but I think that kind of accentuates that it's a team game, that they all came together and realized that they had to be as one to go out there and fulfill their dreams and to do what they wanted to do. And it's a great story; Jim (Irsay) has talked about that team so many times, and just what Coach Pagano did all week, I thought, was great, how he instilled with the team, the best way to honor this team, the 2006 team that's there and all those guys that were there on that sideline, was to play Colts football, and to win the football game. And, you know, we really did — we came out like a house afire and, you know, we won the game. And it's 11 in a row, and it was a hard-fought game, and we won. So it was a real good day to be a Colt.**
Just like a division game, you get a 21-point lead, and it's not safe. Not in this league; somebody's always going to come back on you:* Well you know, it's funny, because Gary Brackett spoke to the team, and what a great job he did, and there were so many parallels you could draw, and just how he came up and just all the odds he faced to do what he did. The one thing that kind of fits in what you're asking me is the last thing he talked about was the team that goes the longest, the hardest, is usually the team that wins in this league. And despite the lulls and kind of the ebbs and flows of that game, we end up winning because we went the hardest and the longest, and it's an old Tom Moore quote, and I knew he actually imitated Tom in his voice, but I was with Tom Moore as a player with the Lions — he was offensive coordinator there — so I remember him, as well. So that was great. What Gary did, I thought, was great for this team and gave us an extra shot in the rear going into that game.You're .500 for the first time. You've got a two-game winning streak for the first time. Are the Colts peaking at the right time? You know, I can't say that. Again, I feel like we're in such a game-by-game mode right now. It's hard to tell. I feel like, you know, we have so much potential still that's unlocked — in all three phases; on both sides of the ball. I feel like we've got young players that haven't quite hit their stride yet — you know, they're still gaining awareness and getting better. So I couldn't say that. But I will say this: that you'd rather start peaking now than in the first half of the season.Thanksgiving night, it's always a big night. You're playing this time. The Colts have had a history of playing well on Thursday nights. I know it doesn't help per se, but does it give you an edge a little bit when this team does well on a Thursday night? You know, we need every edge we can get versus this opponent. I mean, it's no secret. We have to match that team's physicality. I mean, this team's taken us to the woodshed when we've played them the last two times. So here's a chance at home, because we've played them on the road twice, here's a chance at home to match their physicality and show them that we're not going to be pushed around at Lucas Oil (Stadium). So I think it's another great opportunity for this team, because we have played with the best teams in the NFL, and played physical football for 60 minutes. We've shown we can do that, and we've got to do that to give ourselves a chance Thanksgiving night, in our back yard, at home. So the opportunity there is there again, just like it was last week, like it was up in Lambeau. And, again, it's no different. We've got to treat it, like coach said, every week like it's our last game.As the GM, do you have any special feelings about playing on Sunday night, Monday night, Thursday night — big spotlight games? Just to be honest with you, I like the night games. I don't know if it's because I grew up in Indiana and I love Friday night football with the lights, I don't know if it's because I have to be up extremely early every morning, but I'm not a morning person, per se. I have most of my energy at night, but the problem is, as you get older, that starts waning, your energy at night. But there's something about playing at night that, there's just that energy, the crowd seems to be louder, seems to be more in it. I don't know — I just like the night games. That's just my personal opinion.*
Inbox question, asking about Clayton Geathers' ability to play safety and linebacker, and if that changes the way the team might target guys in the draft and free agency?** Grigson: "Well, you know, I think that the way that Clayton has played — quietly — great plays on 4th and 1, he's gotten much better even in coverage — he's doing so many things for us. There's always so many stories about players that are negative or what they're not doing, and here's a player, I think, that each week is proving his worth and doing such a great job. And the fact that he has versatility is something that we look for in all our draft picks and whomever. I think what we'll have to do is see how this year finishes out; there's still a lot of football left to be played. We're still gathering that pool of players in free agency and in the draft, so we'll look at it. He's got a lot of different things that he brings to the table. There are a lot of great WILL linebackers in the history of this game that had a safety background, so I think there's something to be said for that, but again, we'll see how things play out."Inbox question, asking what happened against the Titans that slowed the team down in the second half? Grigson: "You know, I think we all wish we knew the answer to those things. There's something that my old college coach used to say, and I think it rings true here, is, 'In a football game, there's ebbs and flows.' So if you're trending towards a blowout and playing great, but then you make a key big error — you know, have a big penalty or a drop or something — that can change the shift in momentum. And I think anybody that's been involved in sports for a long time or watches this game for a long time (knows), there truly are ebbs and flows. I think it's very hard to put together a complete four quarters, just as long as I've been in this, to where it's perfect, you know? Yes, we would've liked to (have) scored a ton of points — and we had the potential to do that — but we still accomplished our goal, which was winning that football game. So I don't know if its metaphysical, or what is is, but I think there's something to be said that there really are ebbs and flows in a football game.Follow-up question: is it just the National Football League? It seems like every game now is coming down to the fourth quarter and the last five minutes: Grigson: "I think it's great — obviously it's great for the fans; it's not for my blood pressure; it's not for Chuck's or yours, Bobby. Yeah we've got to keep you calm, to a degree. But again, that was a division opponent that, I mean, they're playing really good football. You're talking about their offense in the NFL, and to hold them to what we did in that second half, still, I think, speaks a lot to how our defense is coming. Do we need to get better? Heck yes. I don't think we're near our potential on either side of the ball."Inbox question, asking who he thinks is the Colts' defensive Most Valuable Player so far? Grigson: "You know, I'm not ready to say something like that. I think that with the handful of players that have actually been able to be healthy all year, you'd have to draw from those guys first on that side of the ball. I think consistency is the key, and again, that's something for the fans and the voters and so forth. I just think that our playmakers need to make plays, and do it consistently — and to be available. And the guys, Coach (Pagano) and I the entire offseason, it's not changed, we keep looking for guys that are going to be available, and ones that have a mindset. That's what we're looking for."Follow-up question: and that's what you got Sunday — the mindset in the fourth quarter. Clayton Geathers makes the play on 4th and 1, but there were plays made by almost everybody during that time: Grigson: "Without a doubt. And, again, the veterans, I think, do a good job of making sure that a lot of the young players have that look in their eye — and they maintain that look in their eye. Because, again, when you start slipping or you start wandering or things like that — getting tired and so forth — I think that's when a big play by the other team's going to happen. And so it's got to be self-discipline, and you've got to fight … that's another thing I thought that Brackett said that I thought was really insightful about how making sure that every play counts. And that's coming from a guy that a walk-on; and that's the beautiful thing about a guy like that, because those self-made players, they know how to approach this game, and they don't take anything for granted — so we have to get even our most talented guys to have that approach, you know what I'm saying? Because a lot of times they haven't had to work as hard. So that was a great insight, because, if you'e out there and you make that habitual, to focus like that, then you're going to be awake and not be asleep at the wheel doing your job."Inbox question, asking if he thinks Robert Mathis is starting to come around and regain his sack form? Grigson: "You know, Robert has made some impactful plays for us this year; a lot of them have been coming recently. I think he's finally healthy — I think he'll say that, that he's finally feeling his best physically — and we're doing our best to put him in a position, based on his age and health, to make plays. We just want to put him and give him the right platform to do his best, and that's what we're trying to do. And I think we're finally finding that sweet spot."Follow-up question: and that Mathis sack early in Sunday's game started the snowball effect in the first half, I thought: Grigson: "No doubt. And he's also one of those guys, I think — this is kind of a strange thing to say — but I think that he is someone that, when you work as hard as he does and you play as hard as he does, guys that hustle, good things that happen, I just think there's something to that, and I think that him scooping and scoring and things like that, that's not going to happen a lot of times to a slug or someone that takes plays off and things like that. You know, they're not going to be there for that opportunity. So I think that's something I think Robert does; he's kind of a big-play magnet sometimes."Inbox question, asking if every game remaining is still like a playoff game for the Colts: Grigson: "You know, we treat every game the same, and that's what coach really, really emphasizes. And the thing is, too, is the reality here is we don't control our own destiny. We've got no time to not have our nose to the grindstone — coach always talks about four quarters, don't judge, don't even look at the scoreboard — that's how we found success in 2012, when everyone left us for dead from the get-go. So I think we have to have that approach, and just hopefully, when we look up, we're in the tournament."Inbox question, asking where he sees improvement in cornerback Rashaan Melvin: Grigson: "You know, he's become more consistent with each week. He's obviously, what, a fifth-year player — it's not like he's truly a young, young player or first- or second-year player, for that matter. And a lot of times in this league it's about timing, and I think that he even spoke on he's never felt he's had a fair shake because he's been injured or hasn't been on the right team when he's had this or that, or just when he's starting to play well this will happen, or that will happen. It kind of shows you that with Rashaan, how the process with college and pro, it's intermingled here at the Colts. He was someone that was on a Top-30 visit for us, someone prior to the draft that we brought in on a visit, we wanted to draft him late, ended up not — he went as a CFA to Tampa; I ribbed him about it when he first got here; you know, he should've came here — but he's someone that's got the size, he's got the speed, but he's got the mindset, and he's got the grit. And it's when you look at someone like him, if you really knew his background, you'll know why he plays the way he does and why he's as tough as he is — you know, Chicago tough. And he's a guy that's been through a lot, did without a lot growing up, and I think that's why he plays the way he does."Follow-up question: Melvin had 11 tackles, two passes knocked down against the Titans... so he had a pretty good day:
Grigson: "Here's a guy — I'll add this — here's a guy that, when we found him we were in a dire need of corners, and the problem was it was after the final cutdown had already been and so forth and we had a decent position with the waiver claims because of our 8-8 record, it was a decent one as opposed to years in the past with a better record. He was wearing No. 5 down at Miami, you know? I mean, he was a late add-on at camp; that means all the good corner numbers are gone. But he's a guy you saw on special teams the low 4.4 showed up, the high effort and competitiveness showed up. There wasn't a ton of reps at corner, but when he was in there, he showed the right urgency and the right play speed to be a guy to be a potential guy, and I think he's just one of those guys that making the most of his opportunity, because they don't last long in this league."