Colts Face Yet Another Must-Win Scenario At Oakland Sunday
INDIANAPOLIS – Another week, another crucial game.
Jim Caldwell, in his second season as the Colts' head coach, said that not only has been reality the last two weeks, it remains as such – even after one of the team's biggest victories of the season.
Yes, Caldwell said, beating Jacksonville at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday was big.
And yes, it put the Colts in slightly better post-season position.
But Caldwell said just as the Colts needed to win their most recent two games against Tennessee and Jacksonville to remain in realistic contention for an NFL-record tying ninth consecutive post-season appearance, they must win their next two games as well.
"Obviously our scenario has not changed," Caldwell said Monday, a day after a 34-24 home victory over the Jaguars (8-6) moved the Colts into a first-place tie in AFC South with crucial tiebreaker advantage.
"Even with a couple of victories under our belt in the last quarter, we still are basically in the same position. We're going to have to win the next one.
"It's make it, take it."
The Colts (8-6), who dropped to 6-6 following an overtime loss at home to Dallas two weeks ago – the final game of a three-game losing streak – entered the following week's game at Tennessee knowing they likely would need victories in the final four games to win the AFC South.
The Colts, who have won the AFC South six of the past seven seasons, beat the Tennessee Titans, 30-28, then this past Sunday took a 14-3 lead against Jacksonville en route to a second consecutive victory.
The Colts now can clinch the division with victories in their final two games. They will visit the Oakland Raiders (7-7) Sunday followed by a home game against the Titans (6-8) January 2.
The Colts, after entering the game ranked 32nd in the NFL in rushing offense and 28th against the run, out-rushed the Jaguars, 155-67. Colts running back Donald Brown rushed for a career-high 129 yards on 14 carries, and had runs of 49 and 43 yards.
The 43-yarder was a touchdown that gave Indianapolis a 21-10 third-quarter lead.
"Our offensive line did a tremendous job up front handling their front," Caldwell said. "The backs found a few areas to run. They used good vision and they were able to tack some yards on."
The Jaguars are the NFL's third-ranked rushing team, and Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew – the NFL's second-leading rusher with 1,324 yards and five touchdowns on 299 carries – had rushed for more than 100 yards in six consecutive games.
Jones-Drew rushed for 46 yards on 15 carries Sunday.
"Guys played with a lot of energy and we were very, very sound in terms of our gap control," Caldwell said. "I think we ran around to the ball extremely well. We used our speed to our advantage and our quickness to our advantage against a team that runs the ball extremely well.
"We tackled well. I think those things were quite evident and very, very imant for us to stop a very powerful running attack that had been chewing up a bunch of yards the previous six weeks. They did a nice job – collectively.
"You don't stop that kind of running game unless you have a collective effort."
The Raiders on Sunday beat the Broncos, 39-23, rushing for 264 yards and three touchdowns on 41 carries. Oakland is the NFL's second-ranked rushing offense, with Darren McFadden having rushed for 1,112 yards and seven touchdowns.
"You have to start from scratch, because from a schematic standpoint, they're a little different team," Caldwell said. "He's a different style back. Week in and week out, you're going to run into a little different style. He's averaging 5.2 yards per carry, so that tells you right there (that) there are a lot of big runs in there."
Caldwell on Monday also addressed the status of wide receiver Austin Collie.
Collie, a second-year veteran, sustained a concussion late in the first half and did not return. Collie said Collie was "moving in the right direction" when he saw him following the game.
"We lean totally on the response we get from those who are in charge of that particular area," Caldwell said of Collie's status moving forward. "It was not a comforting thing to see him lying out there on the field, obviously. But when I got out there and he was moving his legs and responding, it made me feel a little bit better."
Collie, who caught eight passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns Sunday, has caught 58 passes for 649 yards and eight touchdowns this season.
"Our medical professionals are as good as they come, and they take all of the necessary precautions," Caldwell said. "They do everything the right way. They're very, very conservative in that regard. The most important thing is health."