Despite the Hype, Colts See Sunday's Game Just Like Any Other
INDIANAPOLIS – With all the extra attention surrounding Sunday's Indianapolis-New England game, Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne said he sometimes feels like the contest is being hyped up by outsiders as the "halfway Super Bowl."
But Wayne downplayed Sunday's showdown and insisted the Colts are treating the game just like any other.
"It is the same," Wayne told reporters Wednesday. "Same two teams fighting it out just like every other year. Nothing more, nothing less."
Rather than be consumed by the rivalry, Wayne said the Colts are viewing Sunday as a big game for the same reason they view every game as a big one.
Because it is, "The next one."
Wayne said the team is more focused right now on itself, rather than their opponent. One area the Colts wide receiver said he would like to see improvement in is the offense's ability to finish drives.
Against Houston last Sunday, nine of the Colts' 10 drives moved into Texans' territory, but only two resulted in touchdowns.
"I saw a lot of field goals and not enough touchdowns," Wayne said. "And not just last week, every week. Even when we were winning by large margins, there were still a lot of points we felt we left out there."
Despite having one of the best offenses in the league, and leading the NFL in passing offense, several Colts offensive players said they know they can play better.
Wayne, who ranks in the top-five in the NFL in every major receiving category, said Sunday provides an opportunity for the team's offense to bounce back and get back into the end zone with frequency, as it did earlier in the season.
"It is a chance for us to prove we are who they thought we were," he said.
THE LONE CONSTANT
No position has been struck harder this season with injuries than the Colts' secondary.
Despite many hardships, the unit continues to rank among the best in the NFL. The Colts are allowing the ninth-fewest passing yards in the league and are surrendering just 13.5 points per game, the fewest in the NFL.
While the personnel in the Colts' starting secondary has changed week-to-week, safety Antoine Bethea has remained as the back four's lone constant.
The fourth-year veteran is the only member of the secondary to start all eight games and also is leading the Colts in tackles (71) and interceptions (two).
Bethea said that while the players around him might change, the Colts' performance has not.
"I have to play the way I play and have confidence," he said. "Jerraud (Powers), Jacob (Lacey), (Melvin) Bullitt, they play their style of ball. And my play is not going to change either.
"I go out there and try and be the vocal leader in the secondary and try and make sure we play to the best of our abilities," he said.
And so far, Bethea has done just that.
"He has great work habits and is a real sure tackler," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said of Bethea. "He just continues to get better each and every year. I would say there's no question about it, he's playing extremely well."
This week, Bethea and the secondary will face one of its most difficult tests of the season in going against Pro Bowl wide receivers Randy Moss and Wes Welker.
"They know us, we know them, so it's going to be a hard-fought battle," Bethea said. "We are going to give each other our best shots, and it is going to be a fun game."
FOLLOW OUR LEAD
Colts rookies were cautioned by their head coach this week about dealing with the outside attention surrounding Sunday's game, which would include double the reporters, a few more cameras and boom microphones, and plenty of questions.
So Caldwell gave his rookies a valuable piece of advice.
"I told them what they should do is watch the veterans. They've been here before, they've done it before, and they've been at this juncture – watch their lead and you'll be okay," Caldwell said.
Colts rookie defensive back Jerraud Powers said his teammates have advised him to treat Sunday's game as "another challenge."
"Just having watched in college and being a fan of football, you know it's always going to be a tough, hard-nosed game," he said.
After watching film of the Patriots, Powers said New England is built much like the Colts on offense, a plethora of playmakers and a great quarterback delivering them the ball.
"(Patriots quarterback Tom Brady) is one of the best in the league," Powers said. "But me going against Peyton (Manning) in practice has helped a lot since Peyton is obviously one of the best, too.
"The main thing is not giving up the big play and trying to make big plays when they come to you. When it is time to make a play, make it, and stay on top of your fundamentals."
The Colts issued Thursday's injury report with DE-Dwight Freeney (not injury related-rested) listed as full participation in practice. WR-Anthony Gonzalez (knee), DB-Kelvin Hayden (knee), QB-Jim Sorgi (right shoulder) and K-Adam Vinatieri (right knee) were listed as did not participate in practice.