Mathis Named AFC Defensive Player-of-the-Month
INDIANAPOLIS – Robert Mathis is not one to draw attention to himself.
The Colts defensive end typically prefers to let his play on the field do most the talking.
In November, his play spoke volumes.
So much, in fact, that on Thursday the NFL announced Mathis had been named the AFC Defensive Player-of-the-Month for his standout performance over the past five weeks.
Mathis registered 4.5 sacks last month, tying the most by an AFC player. In addition, the Colts defensive end recorded 16 tackles, two forced fumbles and one pass defensed, helping his team go 5-0 over the stretch.
"I can certainly say he deserves it," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said. "He's a guy that as hard as you see him play on gameday, he practices the same way. He goes 100 miles per hour. I think he embodies everything that we talk about with Colts football."
Marked as undersized coming out of college, Caldwell said Mathis has developed into a dominant player through effort, strength and sheer willpower.
"He's been an integral part of the success we've had around here," Caldwell said. "I was happy to see him get some recognition."
Mathis, who has been named the AFC Player-of-the-Week twice before, said it was a "blessing" to receive the November honor.
"I'm thankful for it," Mathis said. "You can't do it without the man upstairs. It's just hard work paying off. I'm just thankful for guys giving me some notoriety. I appreciate it."
For the season, Mathis is tied for second in the NFL in forced fumbles with five and ranks fifth in the league with 9.5 sacks, tying teammate Dwight Freeney.
His biggest performance of the month came in the Colts' 35-34 victory over New England, when the pass-rush specialist finished with eight tackles and two sacks.
The seventh-year veteran, who led the Colts in sacks last season (11.5) and made his first Pro Bowl appearance, said he is happy to receive the award, but more happy his team is playing so well.
"It means a lot to be on a good team, and just to be able to hold your own is a blessing," Mathis said. "But it's not the only goal. We want to get down to Miami (host of this year's Super Bowl). That's pretty much the only goal that we set for ourselves."
TALLYING THEM UP AT THE END
While success has been abundant, Caldwell has been able to keep the Colts from looking ahead this season and instead has centered their entire focus on the game ahead each week.
Last week, the Colts clinched the AFC South title, a team goal from the beginning of the season.
This week, the team has a chance to extend its regular-season winning streak to 21 games, tying New England's all-time record. But while Caldwell is aware of the mark, the coach said he does not have much interest in it.
"It wasn't something we placed in front of the team during pre-season that we talked about in terms of team goals," Caldwell said. "I think that Branch Rickey said, 'Luck is the residue of design.' I think winning is a residue of hard work. If you can concentrate on your hard work and focus in on what you do on a daily basis, those things come.
"That's why I like the term, 'We'd like to tally them up at the end,' because we try to focus in on our performance more than the results," Caldwell said. "The results will come. If you are doing things the right way and take care of the little things, the big things will take care of themselves."
That strategy has been the Colts' theory for years, and one their players have embraced, as well.
"You really don't look into anything like (the streak)," tight end Dallas Clark said. "You don't try and think about it or make it an emphasis since it wasn't a goal at the start of the season. You just try and improve each week and get better, then all that other stuff takes care of itself."
FREENEY, HAYDEN PROGRESSING
The Colts could be welcoming back two veteran starters this Sunday against Tennessee to help bolster the unit.
Caldwell said there is a possibility Freeney and cornerback Kelvin Hayden could play this weekend, depending "on what happens during the course of the week."
Hayden was listed on the injury report as fully participating in practice Wednesday and Thursday, while Freeney returned to practice fully on Thursday after missing Wednesday's session.
"We hope for no setbacks or things of that nature," the Colts coach said. "Hopefully, we can count on their services."
After watching rookies Jerraud Powers and Jacob Lacey the past few weeks, Hayden said the duo has done "a tremendous job" in his absence.
"They are doing all the things you could ask a player to do," he said. "They've been effective, as well. It's been great to see those guys take on the challenge, and I'm behind them all the way."
The Colts released Thursday's injury report with the following players listed as full participation in practice: RB-Joseph Addai (knee), DBs-Antoine Bethea (not injury related-rested), Kelvin Hayden (knee), Tim Jennings (ankle) and Jerraud Powers (knee), LBs-Gary Brackett (foot) and Ramon Humber (calf), OGs-Kyle DeVan (shin) and Jamey Richard (shoulder), DEs-Dwight Freeney (abdomen) and Robert Mathis (neck), QB-Peyton Manning (glute), TE-Tom Santi (hand), C-Jeff Saturday (calf), OT-Tony Ugoh (knee) and WR-Reggie Wayne (foot).
Listed as did not participate in practice were RB-Donald Brown (chest), DE-Keyunta Dawson (knee), DB-Aaron Francisco (ankle), WR-Anthony Gonzalez (knee), OT-Charlie Johnson (foot), QB-Jim Sorgi (right shoulder) and K-Adam Vinatieri (right knee).