Colts Won't Change Approach Entering Final Month, Caldwell Says
INDIANAPOLIS – As Jim Caldwell sees it, there's still no reason to change much.
Tying an NFL record doesn't alter that view.
Caldwell, in his first season as the Colts' head coach, said although the Colts moved closer to a major regular-season goal Sunday – and although they tied a league record for consecutive regular-season victories by doing so – the team's day-to-day approach and attitude won't change.
And he said while securing the best record in the AFC hasn't been something the team has discussed much, being so close to it means one thing.
The Colts so far this season have done a lot right.
The idea now, Caldwell said, is to keep doing them the same way.
"If that's happening to you, that means you've been able to certainly win some games along the way and do the things that are necessary to get you to that point," Caldwell said Monday, a day after a 27-17 victory over AFC South rival Tennessee at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis.
"Our guys have been really focused and, I think, looking at things in the proper way. They haven't taken an overall core view of anything."
Caldwell, speaking at his weekly next-day news conference at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, he said that will hold true this weekend, even considering the game's ramifications.
The Colts (12-0), who a week ago clinched a sixth AFC South title in seven years, can clinch a first-round postseason bye and the conference's top seed – which would mean home-field advantage throughout the playoffs – with a victory over the Denver Broncos (8-4) at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday at 1 p.m.
"This game would not be any different," Caldwell said. "We have to look at this game and go at it the same way we have every other game that we've played, meaning we have to focus in on our practice, how we prepare and our preparation and let that take care of itself."
A victory would give the Colts the top seed because the two AFC teams at 9-3 – San Diego and Cincinnati – will play on December 20. That means if the Colts win Sunday either Cincinnati or San Diego could tie the Colts for the AFC's best record, but not both.
The Colts with a victory over Denver would assure themselves a head-to-head tiebreaker advantage over San Diego and Cincinnati, therefore clinching the top seed.
The Colts have held the No. 1 seed once before this decade. That was in 2005, when they finished 14-2. They clinched the seed in the 13th game of that season.
"That does indeed happen for you as long as you keep winning," Caldwell said. "That's the key: if you win, it seems to take care of itself in that regard, that you don't necessarily need anyone's help. I think what it really boils down to is you have to control the things that you can control.
"That's what we try to do week to week."
The Colts' victory came in yet another productive game from running back Joseph Addai, who played extensively with rookie Donald Brown out with a chest injury.
Addai, a 2007 Pro Bowl selection, has rushed for 662 yards and nine touchdown on 181 carries, while catching 43 passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns. He also threw a game-winning touchdown pass against San Francisco on November 1.
"He's been doing a tremendous job," Caldwell said of Addai, who rushed for 79 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries against Tennessee. "Looking at his efforts yesterday, I think he did a great job. Joe made some very nice cuts. He got some very important yards for us.
"In the red zone, we have to be able to run the ball and run it effectively. In situations where we needed to run it, he's been able to do those things. He is very, very efficient and very effective. He doesn't have the gaudy numbers, but what he's been able to do for us has been very good."
The Colts with the victory over Tennessee not only remained one of two unbeaten teams in the NFL along with New Orleans – a 33-30 winner over Washington Sunday – they tied the NFL regular-season record for consecutive regular-season victories with 21.
The 2006-08 New England Patriots also won 21 consecutive regular-season games, but Caldwell said as was the case before tying the record, the focus Sunday will be elsewhere. Focus, he said, has been a strength of the Colts this season, as has the ability to be aware of what's important.
"I think for the most part, they've been pretty good at keeping the basic routine that we've always had," Caldwell said. "I think like anything else, we all need reminders from time to time, but it's not anything that has be forced, or any kind of drudgery."
Caldwell also said certain things will continue to not be a focus. One is extending the regular-season winning streak, and another is pursing an unbeaten season. Caldwell said the issues aren't primary objectives, but said neither will the Colts enter any game – whatever their record happens to be – with winning not the primary goal.
"I'm not certain if you ever benefit from a loss," Caldwell said when asked if the team could benefit in the postseason from losing in the regular season. "Our goal is to certainly go out and play every game and play as hard as we possibly can to put ourselves in the best position to win it. What comes as a result of those efforts is we'd like to look at the finished product.
"The ultimate goal is to win it all. Robert Browning said, 'A man's reach should always exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?' That's in our line of thinking as well."