WR Reggie Wayne Says Colts Must "Figure Out a Way Not to Have This Feeling"
Jeff Saturday looked quickly to the future.
A four-time Pro Bowl center and one of the Colts' veteran leaders, Saturday said although a loss to the New Orleans in Super Bowl XLIV was disappointing and unexpected, the reality was the Saints outplayed Indianapolis at crucial moments Sunday.
Saturday said the other reality is this:
The Colts can return from the disappointment. And he believes they will.
"Obviously, you don't want it to happen," Saturday said in the wake of a 31-17 loss to the Saints at Sun Life Stadium Sunday night. "But I think we're a mature enough team to realize you've got to overcome things like that.
"It's unfortunate that it happened, but we've got to overcome it."
Among Colts players that was the theme in the wake of Sunday's game:
Yes, there was disappointment – intense disappointment – but the Colts have been one of the NFL's most resilient, consistent and successful teams over the past decade, making the postseason 10 of the past 11 seasons, including an NFL-best eight in succession.
"We've got to bounce back and get another shot at it," Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne said. "That's to be determined. We've just got to step up. We've got to stay together. We've got to stay tight as a group. We've got to figure out a way to bounce back. That's the way the game goes. You win some, you lose some."
Wayne, who made the Pro Bowl for a fourth consecutive season, said the traits that have helped the Colts to six AFC South titles in seven seasons – and two Super Bowl appearances in four seasons – could help the Colts next season.
"I just feel we have the caliber of team that will stick together and figure out a way to not have this feeling," Wayne said. "Hopefully, we will keep it going."
Said Colts defensive end Robert Mathis, "To get all the way here, and then fall short, that is very frustrating. We can't hang our heads. We have got to keep our heads up."
And while disappointment was the primary emotion Sunday, Colts players said they also could see the beginnings of understanding the significance of their accomplishments this season.
The Colts not only won their first 14 games of the season, they earned homefield advantage throughout the playoffs for a second time in five seasons. They beat the Baltimore Ravens, 20-3, in an AFC Divisional Playoff, them beat the New York Jets, 30-17, in the AFC Championship Game the following week.
Until Sunday, the Colts did not lose a game this season with postseason implications. They lost at Buffalo and at home to the New York Jets in December after they had clinched home-advantage throughout the postseason.
"We had a great year," Bethea said. "Nothing to hold our head down about at 14-2. A lot of guys stepped in, a lot of guys made some big plays and we can build on this in the future."
Said Colts middle linebacker and defensive captain Gary Brackett, "We did some good things this year. Obviously, we are disappointed with the end result. We just have to go and get better going into next year."
The Colts, who have won 12 or more regular-season games an NFL record seven consecutive seasons, also set the NFL record for consecutive regular-season victories with 23, and finished the decade of the 2000s with 115 victories, the NFL record for most victories in a decade.
"It was a pretty incredible season," Colts offensive tackle Ryan Diem said.
Saturday said even trailing by seven late in the fourth quarter, the Colts were confident, having rallied an NFL-record seven times in the fourth quarter this season to win games. But a 74-yard interception return by Saints cornerback Tracyer all-but ended the Colts' hopes.
"All of us expected to drive the ball down and score a touchdown," Saturday said. "We've done it all season. We have the talent. They just made the plays."
Soon afterward, some Colts players were focused on improving.
"We're going to go back and look at the film and try to get better for next year," said Colts running back Joseph Addai, who rushed for 77 yards on 17 carries against the Saints.
"It's disappointing, because we set the mission to come out as Super Bowl champions and we fell one game short," Colts cornerback Kelvin Hayden said. "We didn't finish the task.
"We had a great season as a team. We fought adversity week in and week out. We had a great year."
Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell in the moments after the game spoke of using the game as "fuel" for the future, a sentiment with which players agreed.
"We have to use it as fuel for next year," second-year wide receiver Pierre Garcon said. "It is part of the game…We have to work and use it as motivation for next year."