INDIANAPOLIS –The goal remains the same. After nine weeks of competition, the Colts enter Sunday's game scratching for victory. It is the only goal that matters.
The Jacksonville game tomorrow marks the third divisional game this year, bringing to a close the first round of meeting each AFC South foe. After Sunday's game, the Colts will embark on a bye weekend to refine, prepare and relax a bit before playing the final six games of the season.
This year's bye date comes in week 11 of the season, and is the latest open weekend the Colts have had in the past 10 seasons. During that stretch from 2002-10, the Colts' bye week has been in week eight or earlier. The team has been adept at competing strongly before the bye week, putting together a 7-2 record in those outings. The Colts aim to improve that record in the clash against the Jaguars.
Teams utilize the bye week to work on different areas they want to stress in the remaining games. It also provides a brief respite from competition, and players are urged to rest a bit as well. Counting preseason games, the players have competed for 14 straight weeks. It is a duration that takes a toll mentally and physically.
The only thought at the moment, however, is getting a win against Jacksonville.
"That would be nice," tight end Jacob Tamme said of getting a win heading into the bye week. "It would be nice to have something positive to go on into that bye week. Jacksonville (and Indianapolis) is always a good, physical, tough football game. This is my fourth year and we've had a lot of grind-it-out, barn-burners with those guys, so I expect nothing different this time."
The Colts' success in the games prior to the bye week dates back to 2002, when they went on the road to beat Houston, 23-3, in week three. Following the bye week the Colts would win their next two games. Beating Cincinnati and Baltimore helped the team to a 4-1 start, and Indianapolis went on to finish the season at 10-6. The Colts made the playoffs as a Wild Card participant.
In 2003, the Colts were 5-0 and were hosting Carolina in the game prior to the bye. Coming off an emotional and physically-draining win at Tampa Bay where the team rallied from a 35-14 deficit with four minutes left in regulation to a 38-35 overtime win, the team prepared to meet the undefeated Panthers. The contest went into overtime before Carolina emerged with a 23-20 victory. It marked only the second time Indianapolis played consecutive overtime games. The Colts marched on, posting a 12-4 mark and advancing to AFC Championship game.
The Colts finished off a 4-1 start to the season in 2004 with a 35-14 victory over Oakland in the week before the bye. The Colts would capture their second straight AFC South title with a 12-4 record. The team was undefeated in the months of November and December and advanced to the Divisional Playoffs.
The 2005 season saw the Colts not have their bye until week eight, but that did not affect them. They won at Houston, 38-20, heading into the open week. Indianapolis emerged from the bye week with six more victories to start the season 13-0 before advancing to the Divisional Playoffs.
During the Colts' Super Bowl championship year of 2006, they beat Tennessee, 14-13, in week five and reached the opened weekend undefeated. It was a see-saw contest where the team maintained focus and rallied from a 10-point deficit. All of the club's scoring came in the second half. Indianapolis won four straight after the bye, struggled a bit near the end of the season, then won four playoff games to capture a World Championship.
After a perfect month of September, the Colts beat Tampa Bay, 33-14, on the first weekend of October in 2007. The bye in week six was beneficial for the team. Indianapolis won the two games following the open week and wound up with a 13-3 mark and a fifth straight divisional crown.
Indianapolis had the earliest bye week of any team in 2008, with the open weekend coming after the third game. The Colts were 1-1 and faced Jacksonville at home prior to the bye. A typical Indianapolis-Jacksonville clash saw six lead changes, including two in the final two minutes. Indianapolis tallied on a running back Joseph Addai touchdown with 1:07 left to take the lead, but the Jaguars booted a long field goal in the waning seconds to decide the game. Indianapolis followed the break with two wins. After consecutive losses following that, the club won nine straight games to finish second in the division at 12-4.
With the bye coming in week six of the 2009 season, the Colts went on the road to beat Tennessee, 31-9. The club continued its winning streak after the open weekend. Indianapolis reached 14-0, captured the AFC Championship and advanced to Super Bowl XLIV.
Last year, the Colts' bye week came after a 4-2 start to the season. The game prior to the break was a 27-24 road win at Washington. Indianapolis fought injuries throughout the year, won its last four games and took the AFC South crown.
This year the schedule-maker put the Colts in the final bye week of the season, joining New Orleans, Pittsburgh and Houston. Sunday's game marks the final chance for a win until Carolina comes to Lucas Oil Stadium on November 27.