A Day After Dramatic Victory Caldwell Says Colts Must Focus on Baltimore
INDIANAPOLIS – The current situation could not be more ideal.
But Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said while that is true, he also said the key word in the statement is "current." Because while the Colts remain unbeaten, and while they have won 18 consecutive regular-season games, and while they won a dramatic, memorable game Sunday night, this much is also true:
They have clinched nothing.
Many games remain.
And as was the case last week, the next game is still the most imant.
"We can't be in any better spot, that's a given," Caldwell said Monday, a day after the AFC South-leading Colts (9-0) rallied from a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit for a 35-34 victory over the AFC East-leading New England Patriots (6-3) at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"The fact of the matter is there's still a lot of work to be done. If you take a peek in the rearview mirror there are some teams that are behind us, but not far behind us, particularly within our division."
The Colts, one of two unbeaten teams in the NFL with New Orleans, remain two games ahead of Cincinnati (7-2) in the AFC, and moved three games ahead of Denver (6-3), Pittsburgh (6-3) and New England. They lead the AFC South by four games over Jacksonville (5-4) and Houston (5-4).
Houston was idle this past week while Jacksonville beat the New York Jets for its third victory in the last four games.
The Colts will visit Baltimore (4-4) Sunday.
"You can see everybody in our division has gotten pretty hot lately," Caldwell said. "So, we better make certain that we stay on our toes and continue to try and get better. That's really important because they're trying to close that gap.
"The other part of that is all we have to do is look down the road to next Sunday and see who we're playing. That will crystallize your focus, as well. It's an outstanding team in Baltimore. It's going to be a tough battle."
Caldwell, speaking at his weekly next-day press conference, joked that the Colts gave the NBC nationally-televised audience Sunday a reason to watch to the end.
"I think our guys tried to keep our viewership entertained, and they did a tremendous job of that," he said.
The Colts trailed 24-7 in the first half and 31-14 early in the fourth quarter, but rallied with three fourth-quarter touchdowns, the last of which came on a one-yard slant from quarterback Peyton Manning to wide receiver Reggie Wayne with 13 seconds remaining.
"You have a lot of great players that play this game that were part of the game last night, and they all put on a great show," Caldwell said. "For us, not everything was perfect, but I think it did show poise, confidence, patience and sticktoitiveness that was important in getting the win."
The game marked the third time since 2003 the Colts had rallied from a deficit of 17 or more points in the fourth quarter to win. They rallied from a 21-point deficit to beat Tampa, 38-35, in 2003, and rallied from a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat Houston, 31-27, last season.
The Colts rallied four times from deficits of 10 or points to win last season.
But Caldwell said while the victory over the Patriots ranked with the previous victories, the game was important for the Colts' younger players who had not experienced such a game.
"It ranks right there with some of the shootouts we've had," Caldwell said. "This one was a memorable one, really probably important to us for our younger guys. Oftentimes, I've used as example illustrations dealing with those two games [Houston and Tampa Bay].
"In one case, I did show some film clips from, actually the Houston game, to talk about what it takes at the end of the ballgame. . . . They saw it, but a lot of young guys weren't part of it. The guys that have been around here were (part of it). So, it's always great when you have a tangible sort of experience that they can refer to, that you can also use as an example.
"Now they can draw upon that experience on how to conduct yourself during tough times and when things look a little bleak, but never lose faith, just keep plugging, no complaining, no pointing fingers; 'Let's keep trying to get it done.' It was a great effort by our guys."
Caldwell also spoke extensively Monday of the calm and poise necessary to win in such a situation, and said that was what he emphasized after Sunday's game. The Colts were off Monday, their usual schedule following a victory in November and December.
"We just talked about some of the things we discussed during the course of the week, what it was going to take, that it was going to be a heavyweight fight, it was; that it would take 60 minutes and be a grind, it was; that we had to capitalize on some of the opportunities they presented to us, I think we did, and we had to finish, and I think we did that, as well," Caldwell said. "I also told them that I was very proud of them and the way they fought. Thus, they get a Victory Monday."
JACKSON NAMED COLTS' ED BLOCK RECIPIENT
Caldwell announced on Monday that defensive back Marlin Jackson was chosen by his Colts teammates as the team's 2009 recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award.
The award is an annual recognition for courageous play by an individual, and Jackson is one of 32 National Football League players cited for the award. The players of each member club nominate an individual annually, and those chosen are honored at a banquet in Baltimore each March.
"Marlin had gone through a situation where he had obviously repaired his ACL, and through hard work and dedication and discipline came back in a very short period of time," Caldwell said. "He hurt it in the middle of (last) season and was back for training camp (this year). He has done a tremendous job with his leadership and presence, not only on our team, but in our community, as well. We want to honor him for being (the Colts) recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award."