Reaction After 35-31 Victory over Jacksonville was 'Business-Like,' Caldwell Says
INDIANAPOLIS – There's not much Jim Caldwell would change.
Caldwell, in his first season as the Colts' head coach, said while being one of two remaining unbeaten teams in the NFL certainly has increased the focus on the Colts, the reality is that position has come because of success.
Besides, he said, the way the Colts approach each week outside questions haven't been a distraction.
"I kind of like where we are," Caldwell said Friday morning, hours after the Colts' dramatic, come-from-behind 35-31 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium.
"I think oftentimes complexities arise from doing well. We'll take those."
The Colts (14-0), playing in a nationally-televised game against a team in playoff contention, rallied five times from three-point deficits against Jacksonville (7-7), taking their final lead on a 65-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Peyton Manning to Reggie Wayne with 5:23 remaining.
The Colts then stopped the Jaguars twice, once when defensive tackle Eric Foster sacked Jaguars quarterback David Garrard on third down, then again after the Jaguars forced a punt just before the two-minute warning.
Rookie cornerback Jacob Lacey intercepted Garrard at the Colts 11 with :56 remaining to secure the victory.
"It (the post-game reaction) was pretty business-like," Caldwell said Friday at his weekly next-day news conference at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. "I think they were certainly happy, and they certainly felt good about what they were able to accomplish. That's a heck of a football team we played. They played extremely well. There were nine lead changes. It was a shootout at the OK Corral. It was one of those games where you don't know who's going to win it. It depends on who has the ball last. We found a way to get it done.
"They were certainly pleased with how we finished the game, but I do think they believe – much like we do – that we still have a lot of work to do. We're showing signs of improvement in some areas.
"I think that's key."
With Manning completing 23 of 30 passes for 308 yards and four touchdowns with an interception, the Colts scored on four of their first five possessions, including a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by running back Chad Simpson.
Defensively, the Colts allowed scores on five of the first six possessions, but four fourth-quarter Jacksonville possessions ended in three punts and the game-clinching interception.
"We didn't do as good a job as we're capable of doing," Caldwell said. "We didn't play as well from a gap-control standpoint. We didn't tackle nearly as well. That is going to happen sometimes. We certainly wouldn't like it to happen that way.
"It did, but they (the Colts' defense) stiffened in the fourth quarter. They did a nice job in terms of making sure they (the Jaguars) didn't get into the end zone. They (the Colts' defense) did a great job all-around in terms of hustle and effort. Our defense, one week we have maybe one of the best performances I've seen around here in a long time and then the next week we don't play quite as well.
"That gives us something to work on and something to improve upon for next week."
The Colts, who a week before clinched home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, answered questions throughout this past week – a shorter week of preparation than normal – about how many starters would play and for how long.
The Colts, as Caldwell said would be the case throughout the week, played all healthy starters, and that included defensive end Dwight Freeney, defensive end Robert Mathis, defensive tackle Eric Foster and left offensive tackle Charlie Johnson.
All four had missed time in practice this week.
Caldwell said while the decision on how to approach the Jacksonville game was by necessity made quickly following a victory over Denver last Sunday, the Colts have more time to address the issue this week. They play host to the New York Jets in nine days, on December 27.
And Caldwell said the plan is to take some of that time to make the decision.
"Last week was a little different," Caldwell said. "I had to make it a little quicker, because I had less time. It was a short week. We have a little more time this week.
"As a matter of fact, we'll try to enjoy the weekend, kind of assess where we are, take a look at our injury situation that won't completely clear itself up for a few days. When it does, we'll kind of look at that and make a decision."
The Colts, who two weeks ago clinched the AFC South for a sixth time in seven seasons, with the Jacksonville victory extended their NFL record winning streak to 23 consecutive games. They also won a 115th game this decade, which also extended their NFL record.
The fourth-quarter comeback was their seventh of the season, and while that also is an NFL record, Caldwell said Friday – as he said throughout the season – that the focus isn't on records, streaks or history.
He said that remains true even with outsiders discussing and asking questions about finishing the regular season unbeaten.
"Obviously, it's a great conversation for those who love our s, and it should be," Caldwell said. "But it doesn't necessarily mean that it engulfs and encompasses everything that we think about. Obviously, we know the most important thing is getting the best possible condition you can be in to do well in the playoffs.
"That's what we think about. We'll adjust and move along game by game like we've done all year. We'll make an assessment about how we're going to play our next game sometime in the future."