Colts Two Days from AFC Championship Game Against New York Jets
INDIANAPOLIS – Two days away, Jim Caldwell is seeing things simply. As always.
Caldwell, in his first season as the Colts' head coach, has talked often this season of how he approaches game and game-week preparation by narrowing focus, emphasizing detail and reality, staying consistent and eliminating distractions.
Two days before the AFC Championship Game, that didn't change.
"Our guys have worked extremely hard," Caldwell said Friday morning, a little more than 48 hours before the AFC South Champion Colts (15-2) will play host to the New York Jets (11-7) in the AFC Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis Sunday at 3 p.m.
"They're preparing well . . . I feel good right now. We've had two real good practices. I'm not certain any coach wouldn't (feel good) at this time. You know me: I'm a big believer in self-fulfilling prophecy. (There's) the old Chinese proverb: 'Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.'
"I believe in what we do."
The Colts, who are playing Sunday to go the Super Bowl for a second time in four seasons and a fourth time in franchise history, practiced late Friday morning.
Mostly this week, the talk from the Colts and Caldwell was about the moment at hand.
The Colts, a playoff team the past eight seasons, are 1-1 in AFC Championship Games this decade, and this will be their first in which they have not played the New England Patriots. They lost to the Patriots, 24-14, in Foxboro, Mass., in the title game following the 2003 season.
The Colts, who also lost the AFC title game in Pittsburgh, 20-16, following the 1995 season, won the championship game the only other time it was held in Indianapolis.
That was following the 2006 season, when they beat New England, 38-34.
"It's all about getting to this point," Colts four-time Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday, who has started 15 post-season games in 11 seasons with the Colts. "Now is the fun time. This is what you build up for. You win the 14 games during the regular season to get to this point.
"You get one playoff game under your belt and hopefully we're going for our second one on Sunday."
Caldwell, who spent seven years as a Colts assistant before becoming the first rookie head coach to win his first 14 games this season, was asked on Friday about his message to the team Sunday.
He said it will be simple, and consistent.
"It's not going to be real complicated, and it's not going to be real lofty in terms of our ideas," Caldwell said. "What we try to do is give them a message early in the week, Wednesday morning, and that message usually is sort of summed with three words.
"You talk about those three things and we'll send them out on the field and go work like we always do."
Asked the three words, Caldwell said, "Those are team-issue topics."
Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney said the essence of the message was basic.
"I think the biggest thing was that you know what? You've got one more game until we get to the big one," Freeney said. "Let's just do things how we've always done it. Obviously, yeah, this game is a big game, AFC Championship.
"But if we keep on doing the things that we do on a consistent basis, we should be fine."
That has been the Colts' approach this week and throughout the season, focusing on themselves and not the opponent.
Caldwell said the Colts' focus "is on us."
"I have to deal with what we do and what we focus in on," Caldwell said. "We're just trying to get ourselves better prepared, better equipped, (be) a better team than we were last week. That is the thing we have to do; we have to keep getting better."
And with two days remaining before the title game, Caldwell said simple approach is all that's necessary. During his Friday meeting with the media, he was asked about many topics – Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, the Colts' running game and his succession to the head coaching position among them.
Caldwell answered them all, but said his focus was far more . . . well, simple, and his feeling on Friday was "just like any of our other games that we've played."
"We try to narrow it down to that," he said. "I know this is your (the media's) job. You guys have to look at things and try to expound upon situations and try to make them a bit grand in terms of how you describe the things. For us, for me, we try to narrow this thing down as small as we possibly can and really look at the things that matter. All of the other stuff doesn't matter. It doesn't matter how I reflect on my past and my 30-some years of coaching before. That doesn't matter.
"What matters is what we do right now in preparation for winning this game. So we narrow it down as tight as we possibly can, and I try not to deviate from that."