Colts Face Tough Turnaround With Thursday Game at Jacksonville
INDIANAPOLIS – Facing two potential playoff teams in a five-day span presents a difficult challenge for the Colts, but one the team believes it is prepared for.
While the team's focus centered on preparing for Denver last week, the coaching staff also began doing some preliminary preparation for Jacksonville due to the time crunch.
But Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said the short turnaround this week is a much heavier burden on the players than the coaches.
"Players have the very difficult task of getting their bodies ready," Caldwell said. "Everything is moved up. We started on this game last week in terms of taking a peek into what they do, so you had to kind of think ahead. From a standpoint of jamming all of your preparation into a couple of days, it does require a little bit of extra time."
The turnaround is made a bit easier this week due to the Colts' familiarity with their long-time division opponent, the Jaguars.
"We have our work cut out for us," center Jeff Saturday said. "The good thing is we know each other, so there are not going to be a lot of surprises. It'll come down to which team executes better and takes care of the football."
Thursday's game will be the second meeting between Indianapolis and Jacksonville this season, as the Colts edged out the Jaguars at home in the regular-season opener, 14-12.
Caldwell said he is expecting a slightly different Jacksonville team than the one the Colts faced in September.
"It's been so long since we've played them…teams tend to change during that time, so it's a bit different," he said.
But the biggest challenge of all is the one the players face in being physically ready for Sunday's AFC South battle.
"Guys are used to Tuesday being a day off and relaxing," cornerback Kelvin Hayden said. Said defensive end Dwight Freeney, "From a physical standpoint, the body is still banged up from the last game."
But despite the wear-and-tear to some players, the Colts said they are looking forward to playing Thursday, short turnaround or not.
"We want to win the game," Saturday said. "We are going down there to get a win and beat our division opponent. There are no goal changes. We want to keep winning, stay in rhythm and keep playing good football."
REVOLVING DOOR ON DEFENSE
The Colts defense continues to rank among the best in the league, surrendering just 16.7 points per game, second-fewest in the NFL.
But the unit's success this season cannot be attributed to just one player. Or two, for that matter.
Although the defense has suffered several setbacks this year – including season-ending injuries to Bob Sanders, Marlin Jackson and Tyjuan Hagler – the group continues to stymie opponents as different players continue to make significant contributions every week.
"That just goes to show you how deep we were at the beginning of the year," linebacker Gary Brackett said. "Every week it has been someone different stepping up. (Jacob) Lacey did a good job stepping in, Jerraud Powers, Philip Wheeler, you could go on and on naming guys that have stepped up and had a great season."
Brackett said there is a lot to be a proud of this year, but one accomplishment stands out particular in his mind.
"The one stat that is remarkable is that after a turnover, we have not allowed a touchdown (all season)," he said. "That is just a testament to the guys up front rushing the passer, filling the gaps, our secondary playing stout and our linebackers flying around and hitting."
Caldwell said this year's defense ranks amongst the best he has seen during his time in Indianapolis.
"I can tell you this particular defense is playing awfully well right now," the Colts coach said.
NOT CHANGING NOW
The Colts, and Caldwell in particular, repeatedly have been asked this week if the team will play Week 14 at Jacksonville any differently than the 13 games that preceded it.
The answer, simply, is "no."
On Monday, Caldwell said the Colts would treat Thursday's game just like every other contest they have played in this season.
"We are going to go out and play like we've done the previous 13," he said. "Our focus is going to be narrow. The only thing that will deter anyone from playing time is a health issue. We are going to play ball and approach things the way we do every week. All I'm going to deal with is this game coming up. I'm not looking beyond this game."
On Tuesday, Caldwell reiterated his stance when questioned again.
"We are just going to treat it like the 13 previous games we've played," he said.
When asked what "healthy" means in reference to the status of his players Thursday, Caldwell replied, "Same as it does every other week."
NFL NETWORK TO REPLAY SUNDAY'S VICTORY
In case you missed Sunday's game, or just want to watch Indianapolis' historic victory one more time, the NFL Network will broadcast the Colts' 28-16 win over Denver Tuesday night at 8:00 p.m. EST.
The game will be encored on the network's "NFL Replay" show, described as "an abridged yet enhanced version" of the game in a 90-minute format.
Last Sunday, the Colts' win over the Broncos improved their regular-season record this season to 13-0, clinching homefield advantage throughout the playoffs and extending their regular-season winning streak to 22 games, a new NFL record.
The Colts issued Tuesday's injury report with the following players listed as full participation in practice: RBs-Joseph Addai (knee) and Chad Simpson (back), LBs-Gary Brackett (foot) and Clint Session (calf), DEs-Raheem Brock (back) and Keyunta Dawson (knee), DBs-Melvin Bullitt (shoulder), Kelvin Hayden (knee), Tim Jennings (ankle) and Jacob Lacey (biceps), OGs-Kyle DeVan (shin) and Jamey Richard (shoulder), OTs-Ryan Diem (hamstring) and Tony Ugoh (hip), WRs-Pierre Garcon (knee) and Reggie Wayne (foot), QB-Peyton Manning (glute), DT-Daniel Muir (hamstring) and TE-Tom Santi (hand).
Listed as did not participate in practice were: DBs-Antoine Bethea (foot), Aaron Francisco (ankle) and Jerraud Powers (hamstring), RB-Donald Brown (chest), DT-Eric Foster (back), DEs-Dwight Freeney (abdomen) and Robert Mathis (quad), WR-Anthony Gonzalez (knee), OT-Charlie Johnson (foot) and K-Adam Vinatieri (right knee).