Colts Seek to Keep Momentum of 5-0 Start After 2009 Bye Week
INDIANAPOLIS – As Joseph Addai sees it, it is a simple process.
Addai, a Colts running back in his fourth NFL season, said the way to not lose momentum following a mid-season bye week is to take advantage of one of the Colts' strengths. That strength?
A solid core of veteran leaders.
Peyton Manning. Reggie Wayne. Jeff Saturday. Dwight Freeney. Gary Brackett.
All of those players and several others around the Colts have more than five years NFL experience, and all have entered multiple bye weeks on unbeaten teams. All have been around the Colts when they have kept winning streaks going following a mid-season weekend off, so the way Addai sees it, it is pretty simple:
Watch the veterans. And do what they do.
"The biggest thing is just to watch the older guys," Addai said Monday afternoon as the AFC South-leading Colts (5-0) prepared to play the St. Louis Rams (0-6) at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Mo., Sunday at 1 p.m.
"Obviously, they've been doing it for a long time, so you kind of get the feel of everybody in the locker room. Even on a bye week – where you can get in some trouble and you have a lot of free time – you kind of watch the older guys and watch how they do it."
The Colts, one of two remaining unbeaten teams in the AFC, won their first two games by a total of six points – 14-12 at home against AFC South rival Jacksonville and 27-23 at 2008 AFC East Champion Miami, but they won the last three games before the bye in dominant fashion.
The Colts first won, 31-10, at defending NFC Champion Arizona, then beat Seattle at Lucas Oil Stadium, 34-17, in a game in which Indianapolis led 34-3 in the fourth quarter.
On the Sunday night before the bye, Indianapolis beat the defending AFC South champion Tennessee Titans, 31-9.
The Colts in this decade previously entered bye weeks with records of 7-0 (2005), 5-0 (2006) and 5-0 (2007).
"I think that's always an issue," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said of maintaining momentum after a bye. "We had some spirited work last week . . . so we think we were able to still function and keep our timing last week. Now, the real key will be what we do this week, obviously. That's always a concern and always something you look for when you come back.
"We don't want to lose any of that. If we lost anything, we want to regain it before kickoff."
The Tennessee victory gave the Colts a three-game lead in the AFC South entering the bye, a lead Jacksonville (3-3) and Houston (3-3) each cut to two-and-a-half games Sunday. The Jaguars beat St. Louis, 23-20, in overtime and Houston won at Cincinnati, 28-17.
But players said this past weekend was less about football and more about resting and preparing for the final 11 games of the regular season.
"To actually get some free time is always good," said cornerback Kelvin Hayden, who – like many Colts players Monday – talked of getting away from football and spending time with family during the bye.
Hayden, who missed the last three games before the bye with a hamstring injury, said he expects to play this week.
"Sunday's a go," he said.
Hayden, like Caldwell and many Colts players Monday, said he didn't watch the Jaguars' victory over the Rams Sunday, saying that film study for the game Sunday will begin this week.
"We just want to go out there and do our job, play the way we play and continue to move forward," Hayden said. "We have a great group of leaders. They keep the young guys on track. I know when you get a weekend off you can kind of linger away from football.
"It's just a mindset more than anything. It's a mindset of how you want to control things. I feel as a team we have great leaders and great coaches who get these guys back in the mindset of taking it week by week and day by day and continuing to get better. That's one thing I think we'll do."
Said Colts three-time Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday, "It doesn't change – our outlook on the season. Nothing has changed for us."
Saturday said while preparation for St. Louis didn't begin until Monday – and won't begin on a full-scale level until the players return Wednesday from their weekly Tuesday off day – maintaining focus was a priority last week.
"We tried to get better last week when we practiced," Saturday said. "It was one versus ones, and we were working on ourselves and talking about the things we needed to improve as a team. Each guy looked at themselves individually, and now we'll bring it back together.
"That's really how you continue to get better as a team."
GAME BALLS FROM TENNESSEE GAME: WR-Austin Collie earned the offensive game ball from the club's victory at Tennessee on October 11. DB-Antoine Bethea was voted by teammates as the recipient for the defensive game ball, while DB-Tim Jennings earned the honor for special teams.