Jim Irsay: "We Have To Be Able To Be A Tougher Team"

Intro: For the fifth time in the Indianapolis era, the Colts reached the AFC Championship. How does Colts Owner Jim Irsay view the Colts 2014 season after falling in the AFC Championship to the New England Patriots?

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass – Jim Irsay tried to take a bigger picture look, but he couldn't get there completely.

Not yet, at least.

That time will come but in the basement of Gillette Stadium, the emptiness of knowing that the Colts season had culminated a game away from the Super Bowl was the immediate emotion.

"It's a really tough loss, obviously," Irsay said after the Colts season-ending loss in New England

"We had high expectations coming in here and the way the game went was extremely disappointing. I've seen it with championship games that go that way, through history. This one did, unfortunately."

As a man that has been a part of the NFL for around a half century, Irsay knew the magnitude of Sunday night.

These sorts of chances are not easy to come by, even if many people on the outside didn't believe the Colts would reach such heights this season.

Competing at the highest level consistently is something Irsay said the Colts must get to in order to keep their playoff progression arching towards the top.

"We are going to take it all in," Irsay said of offseason evaluations. "We are disappointed, also happy that we advanced to the Final Four, that we got to the AFC Championship game.

"The Denver win was incredible on the road. That's not discounted, although it's hard to feel the appreciation of that but it's there when you take in the whole season, starting 0-2, coming back from that. We knew this was a measuring stick that we wanted to get over and we didn't. It's disappointing."

Sunday marked the Colts fifth AFC Championship appearance in the Indianapolis era.

The two times they've advanced all the way to the Super Bowl came in home AFC Title games.

Irsay doesn't want to fall into the trap though of saying the Colts need to have home field throughout the playoffs in order to reach the game's pinnacle.

"What's missing is when you get to this championship level, we have to be able to be a tougher team," the Colts Owner said late on Sunday night.

"We have to be able to stop the run. We can't turn it over. I think what's missing is trying to continue to bring in the team that I talked about, which is a really tough defensive team and can run the ball and surround Andrew (Luck) with that."

Games like Denver in the Divisional Round of the playoffs is the makeup for what Irsay believes this Colts team is on the verge of becoming.

The Colts made another giant leap in 2014 and now it's back to the grindstone to make the ultimate climb this time next year.

"We are close," Irsay said. "It feels so deflating. It feels like you're miles away, but you're not.

"I think you have to take the whole season--how tough it is to win 11 games, how tough it is to win playoff games and get to the AFC Championship game. We aren't as far away as it looks. Trust me on that. I know that."

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