INDIANAPOLIS – Every NFL team distills a year's worth of work into 16 games a season.
With each game lasting about three hours, a year's work is whittled drastically to approximately 48 hours of production.
Indianapolis gets three of its remaining 12 hours of action this Sunday at Baltimore. The only thing that matters for Indianapolis is winning.
Winning has been the only barometer for the Colts for years. With the post-season not coming into play for the team for the first time since 2001, players have been asked about the team being relegated to a spoiler role.
There is no such role on the club's radar screen. The team plays to win for itself, its organization, its city and its fans beyond the local boundaries.
There is no artificial motivation needed as the team works for its three hours on Sunday.
"I think oftentimes people look for external ways to motivate a team, but it's still for us. It's still about winning," said Head Coach Jim Caldwell. "It doesn't have anything to do with anybody else or any other circumstances. It's just about doing what we do and doing it better, and to get ourselves in a position to win, plain and simple."
Entering the season, Indianapolis made the playoffs for nine consecutive seasons, a duration that tied the NFL record achieved one other time by Tom Landry's Dallas Cowboys. Though the Colts cannot extend the record it shares with Dallas, the record could not have been tied if there were any focus other than to win.
Caldwell contributed to seven of those playoff seasons as an assistant to Tony Dungy. He extended the streak to tie Landry in the past two years as Colts head coach. Caldwell knows winning is what matters.
"That's kind of the way we've always kept our focus, it's more on us, doing our job and doing the job right as opposed as some contrived motivational angle," said Caldwell. "It's about getting a victory."
Veteran defensive captain Gary Brackett has toiled in Indianapolis since 2003, when he made the team as an undrafted free agent. Brackett has a great deal of sweat equity in the Colts' program. He says the team focuses on itself and each player is intent on proving, or improving, his own performance.
"We don't look at other teams and who we can spoil," said Brackett. "We just worry about ourselves, how we can improve ourselves and how we can win. If we spoil someone else's chances, so be it. At the end of the day, we focus on ourselves and handle our business."
With 12 of 48 possible hours still remaining, Brackett says the significant amount of time left on the clock is reason for players to continue playing at a maximum performance level.
"There is a lot to focus on and to improve. Ultimately, guys are playing for their jobs," said Brackett. "Those are always the most dangerous teams. Guys want to put film out there and be secure in their position for next season. That's the most important thing, not what's going on in the league (with other teams)."
Tight end Jacob Tamme has given no peek to what other teams are doing and what their remaining games mean. He cares only what remaining games mean for Indianapolis.
"I honestly don't know what we can spoil," said Tamme. "The fact that I don't know what 'it' (the chance to play spoilers for remaining opponents) is shows how much I care for that (worrying about other teams). I want to win for us. I don't really buy into the spoiler stuff in our situation. I think it's about playing for ourselves."
Quarterback Dan Orlovsky has played in 17 games in his seven years in the NFL. Playing time is precious and competition is special. He knows the value of four games and is aware of the challenge in meeting Baltimore on Sunday.
"A lot teams in this league and head coaches break the season down in quarters," said Orlovsky. "We have a quarter left. We have a chance to go 1-0 in this quarter. That'll be a big focus of ours this week, trying to go to a place that's tough to play and play a team that's really good and probably going to be in it for a long haul in January and February. It will be another good challenge for us."
Caldwell has endured the rigors of this season along with his players. It has been difficult for all involved, but he presides over a team that has a firm resolve to fight through 16 games.
"It's obviously not an easy thing, but I think the good thing is that we have a number of guys with certainly great character and great leadership qualities, in particular some of our older guys," said Caldwell. "They understand what it takes and that it's certainly not going to get done by complaining and things of that nature. It still takes hard work, and you've just got to continue to focus in on what we can control, and that is how we prepare for each and every game. I think that's the biggest thing. I think we have, in each of our rooms, guys that have been through some tough times and can certainly keep all the young guys headed in the right direction and focused.
"One of the things is they'll fight you. They'll fight you right up until the bitter end, and the only thing that we can do is basically go out and prepare extremely well. The fight and the determination and the drive that they have all the way up until the final whistle is uncharacteristic (with some teams), particularly in this day and age. I certainly am proud of that aspect of it. We've just got to continue to get better and see if we can find a way to get us a victory."