Colts Wouldn't Trade Postseason Position, Caldwell Says
INDIANAPOLIS – Looking ahead, Jim Caldwell likes what he sees.
And actually, Caldwell – in his first season as the Colts' head coach – said there's a lot to like about how the Colts stood Monday, one day after the 2009 regular-season finale and 12 days from their first postseason game.
The Colts, Caldwell said, are getting healthier.
They have this week to get better.
And they have a chance to get more prepared – mentally and physically – for the postseason.
Given that the Colts are entering the postseason having achieved their regular-season goals, Caldwell said all in all, the situation is positive.
"We are right where we want to be," Caldwell said Monday, a day after the Colts lost their regular-season finale, 30-7, to the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y.
"I think if anybody would have said (in the beginning of the season) come January 4 this would be your station in life in terms of your record for the team, we'd all feel pretty good about that."
The Colts (14-2), who clinched the AFC's No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with three games remaining in the regular season, played many of their healthy starters for about a quarter Sunday, after which the score was tied, 7-7.
The Bills outgained the Colts, 355-58, and outscored them 23-0 thereafter, but Caldwell and Colts players each said afterward the focus had moved immediately to the postseason.
The Colts, the AFC South champions six of the last seven seasons and a playoff team the past eight seasons, will play host to an AFC Divisional Playoff game on Saturday, January 16 at 8:15 p.m. The game will be televised on CBS.
If the Baltimore Ravens (9-7) beat the New England Patriots (10-6) in New England in an AFC Wild Card game Sunday at 1 p.m., the Colts will play the Ravens in the divisional round. Indianapolis beat Baltimore, 17-15, in Baltimore on November 22.
If the Patriots win, the Colts will play the winner of the New York Jets-Cincinnati Bengals Wild Card game, which will be played Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
The Jets (9-7) beat the Colts, 29-15, last week in a game the Colts led, 15-10, until removing several front-line players late in the third quarter. The Colts lost to the Bengals, 38-7, in the preseason finale.
"What we try to do this week is familiarize ourselves with all the possibilities," Caldwell said. "Two of them we've played already this season. We played the Bengals the last preseason game, so we do have some familiarity with them and what they do.
"We'll (coaches) be ready to make certain we study them (Bengals) and study them hard just in case we play them. We have a lot of work to do in those areas."
Colts players were off Monday and will be off Tuesday before practicing the final three days of the week. They will be off this weekend.
"We try to formulate a mock game plan," Caldwell said. "In terms of our practice, we'll go out and really concentrate on ourselves and get ourselves in a little bit better position to make sure that we are functioning properly in all areas. We'll have a lot of offense versus our defense in practice, with the plan to get better and sharper. We want some speed in the game in terms of our practices."
Caldwell said much of the key to the regular-season success this season has been an ability to focus and prepare no matter the situation. He said that will be critical, too, in the postseason, a time with greater urgency.
"Every single week we've prepared for an opponent, our team has been excited about the opunity and performed well," he said. "That's what we hang our hat on. Those are the things we believe in. You have to play well. There is finality to the playoffs."
The Colts on Sunday played the Bills without running back Joseph Addai (shoulder), wide receiver Pierre Garcon (hand), safety Melvin Bullitt (shoulder), defensive end Keyunta Dawson (knee), offensive tackle Ryan Diem (elbow), defensive end Dwight Freeney (abdomen), defensive tackle Antonio Johnson (shoulder), offensive tackle Charlie Johnson (foot), defensive end Robert Mathis (quad), cornerback Jerraud Powers (hamstring), tight end Gijon Robinson (knee), linebacker Clint Session (knee), running back Chad Simpson (concussion) and kicker Adam Vinatieri (right knee). Caldwell said all players are expected to return for the postseason.
"That's what we anticipate," Caldwell said. "Right now everything is moving in the right direction. I think the health of our team is trending in the right direction. We feel good about it at this point."
And while Caldwell and others around the Colts have spent the past two weeks answering questions about playing time and late-season approach, Caldwell said the big picture is that only teams in the postseason are posed such questions.
"When you go through those things, that shows you had a pretty good season up until that point," Caldwell said. "I'll never grow tired of that. I hope you have an opportunity to ask me that line of questions until I finish coaching years down the road. This is an exciting time. This is what we've been playing for.
"If you have an opportunity to play in the playoffs, you have an opportunity to win it all. That's what we are here for."