'Next Man Up' Becomes Reality Yet Again in Colts' 27-13 Victory over Denver
INDIANAPOLIS – They have heard the mantra often enough it's more than a mantra.
Which is why when a player such as Blair White or Jeff Linkenbach – undrafted and relatively unknown rookies – become a major reason for victories, Gary Brackett is hardly surprised.
Dan Muir's not surprised, either.
Muir, a starting defensive tackle acquired off waivers in 2008, said unknown players and backups around the Colts make the sort of contribution the aforementioned players made during a 27-13 victory over Denver Sunday because doing so is expected.
It may not be routine, Muir said, but it's not unusual, either.
"Next Man Up" is the mantra the Colts use to describe a player playing for an injured starter, and it's a philosophy that's discussed with players immediately upon joining the organization.
"The first time I heard it might have been the first day I got here," Muir said Monday, a day after White, Linkenbach and Glenn – a trio of backups pressed into starting roles – each made an imant contribution as the Colts held off the Broncos for their second consecutive victory.
"You think about it, because it's the way this organization is put together."
The Colts in recent seasons have had major contributions from backups on several occasions, and got them again Sunday from:
• White, a free-agent rookie from Michigan State who was activated over the weekend with wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Anthony Gonzalez unavailable because of hamstring and ankle injuries. He caught three passes for 27 yards, with his nine-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter giving Indianapolis a 20-10 lead.
• Linkenbach, a free-agent rookie from Cincinnati who started in place of left tackle Charlie Johnson, who was inactive with a foot injury. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning threw for 325 yards and three touchdowns and was not sacked.
• Glenn, a second-year veteran who made the team last year after being released by Washington. He played in place of linebacker Kavell Conner, who sustained an injury playing for Clint Session, who missed the game with a hamstring injury.
"We start the season out telling each and every guy that's on our team – whether you're practice squad or whether you're on the 53(-man roster) and in some sort of backup role – that you have to prepare as if you're going to play every single week," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said. "That's something we talk about and something and try to stress as much as we possibly can.
"We have several examples to support that as well."
That the Colts have a few more examples after the Denver game isn't surprising, Brackett said. He made the team as an undrafted free agent in 2003, and played as a reserve his first two seasons.
"One thing my coach, Mike Murphy, always tells me is, 'You're an ankle sprain away from being a starter,'' Brackett said. "Since that's the case, you have to prepare like you're the starter. Really, in a game, you never know what's going to happen. Once a guy gets injured, you're up. Whatever position it is, you have to be ready to go. Guys are going a good job preparing themselves all week.
"When we go out there on game day, when situations happen, guys have been able to step in and make some quality plays for us,"
Said Muir, "If you're here, you have to be ready at any point to play. That's something the organization does a good job letting the coaches know and the coaches let the player know. You have to be ready. You're only an injury away. It's unfortunate that injuries happen, but as a player you have to be ready to play at all times."
The contributions of Glenn, White and Linkenbach came on day on which the Colts held the Broncos to six points on five possessions inside the Colts' 20. Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton completed 37 of 57 passes – the most passes ever completed against the Indianapolis Colts – for 476 yards and one touchdown with one interception, but the Colts held Denver on downs three times inside the red zone.
"The key is scoring," Caldwell said. "If you can keep them from scoring points, obviously you're going to end up in pretty good shape. You have a chance to win, at least. But you're not happy at all, obviously, anytime anybody can gain an inordinate amount of yards against you.
"How it's done more so than anything else is the thing we have to correct. A lot of it was due to missed tackles. There are a lot of good receivers in this league and a lot of good quarterbacks. Their timing is impeccable, and oftentimes they're going to put it in a place where you can't get to it. The thing you have to do is keep it in front of you and get them down on the ground.
"The real key is, 'Let's keep them contained,' which we didn't do a great job of. That's something we have to look at it and get corrected."
The victory over the Broncos moved the Colts into three-way tie with the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans atop the AFC South. Each team has a 2-1 record, with Houston losing to Dallas and Tennessee beating the New York Giants Sunday. The Colts visit Jacksonville Sunday.
"What we try to do is really focus in on ourselves more so than anything else," Caldwell said. "Our challenge is obviously getting ready for Jacksonville. All of the ancillary things we sort of leave to other people to talk about and discuss. We try to talk about the things we can control.
"It really boils down to us and what we do. I try to reduce things to the lowest common denominator. I throw all of the other stuff out and the lowest common denominator for us is preparation to win and winning. Those are the things we try to focus in on more than anything else.
"The other things take care of themselves if you're playing well – and they take care of themselves if you don't play well."