Bye Week Approach Has Players Confident Entering Divisional Playoff Game Versus Ravens
INDIANAPOLIS – Reggie Wayne's message was clear.
Wayne, the Colts' four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver, said Wednesday while there are no guarantees in any NFL postseason, the team feels very, very good entering the playoffs. He said preparation under first-year Head Coach Jim Caldwell has been good – great, even.
But Wayne said the next step is the most imant.
That's because come game time performance must match preparation.
"Just make sure you show up," Wayne said with a smile as the Colts (14-2) prepared to play the Baltimore Ravens (10-7) in an AFC Divisional Playoff game at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis Saturday at 8:15 p.m.
"That's the main thing: don't go out there and look like you haven't played the game in six months. As long as you can go out there and play football, play all four quarters, somewhere in there you'll have an opportunity to win the game."
The Colts, who this season won a sixth AFC South title in the last seven years, have made the postseason each of the last eight seasons, the longest such streak in the NFL. They have had successes during that span, reaching the AFC Championship Game following the 2003 and 2006 seasons, and they have had disappointments, losing their first playoff game in 2002, 2005, 2007 and last season.
The Colts, 7-6 in eight previous postseasons this decade, four times in their Indianapolis history have entered the postseason with a bye week – 1987, 1999, 2005 and last season.
They lost the Divisional Playoff game each season – to Cleveland in 1987, Tennessee in 1999, Pittsburgh in 2005 and San Diego in 2007 – but Wayne and tight end Dallas Clark each spoke Wednesday of the advantages of having a bye, particularly this season.
That's because of what happened last week.
Because what happened last week, Clark and Wayne each said, was that the Colts had perhaps their best week of practices of the season, an intense three-day week in which starters often worked against starters, a relatively rare happening in the NFL.
"That's the best way to get full reaction, full speed, that tempo that you're looking for – to go one versus ones," Clark said.
Clark said in a very real sense last week was about getting "mentally and physically prepared" for this week, with this week in turn about game preparations.
"I don't know how much different it was," Clark said. "I do know we had a great week of practice. It was intense and we got a lot of good work done. This week, we're just keeping to the same schedule we've had all year. We're just getting ready for that situation."
Wayne on Wednesday called last week "fun."
"It was ones against one, but one thing about it was it was fun," Wayne said. "We had fun last week. Guys were flying around. We had three great practices. We got a nice sweat going. We practiced early and got out of the building. We got some good, quality work done. Guys were flying around and guys who had been kind of banged up in the weeks prior were practicing and it was good to see those guys out there.
"We felt like we just wanted to work on some things we needed to work on that we weren't doing well throughout the year. We were able to capitalize on those things."
Wayne, as he did last week, said it was similar to training camp. And he said that was a good thing.
"Whenever you're in training camp, everybody's flying around and everybody's happy," Wayne said. "I really felt like last week it helped us out a lot. Hopefully, we can turn that over this game this weekend and use it to our advantage."
Dwight Freeney, a five-time Pro Bowl defensive end and the Colts' all-time sacks leader, said the ones-versus-one work is something the team did more throughout this season than past seasons, and that considering the talent of the Colts' on offense, there could be no better preparation for the defense.
"The advantage is huge," Freeney said. "There is no better offense than our offense in my mind. Going against our offense will prepare us for any other offense that we play. If we're able to stop our offense, we should be in a lot better shape going against anybody else. It's the same thing on the defensive side because there are certain things we do as a defense a lot better than a lot of other teams' defenses do. If they are able to block us, then they should be able to handle other teams.
"It really got the competitive juices flowing during that bye week. We are going out there and practicing hard. The only difference between a game and a hard practice for the defense is the finishing of a tackle. We are going full speed. We are running and we are fighting."
Caldwell said the bye-week approach was simply a matter of making certain "we were as sharp as we could be."
"We just want to make certain that we have the focus and concentration needed to perform well," Caldwell said. "That's key. Ultimately, the goal is to win, above all else. But we are trying to take care of those little things, and hopefully at some point it will pay off for us.
"We always do a little bit every week," Caldwell added of practicing first-team offense against first-team defense. "I think that's important. We have a period, even today, that we'll go some ones versus ones. But last week we did a lot. All of the periods were based upon almost an early training camp kind of atmosphere in that regard.
"We were able to get a lot of work done, maybe the three best practices we've had in a long time."