With AFC South Clinched, Caldwell said Focus "More on Performance than Results"
INDIANAPOLIS – To Jim Caldwell, there is no reason to change a thing.
Because in a very real sense, nothing has changed.
Caldwell, in his first season as the Colts' head coach, said Monday while the Colts have accomplished their first seasonal goal, they "still have a lot to play for yet," which he said means little will change Sunday when Indianapolis plays one of the NFL's hottest teams.
Yes, Caldwell said, the Colts are AFC South champions. And yes, they lead the AFC by three games with five remaining. But playoff positioning is not set.
And besides, he said, the Colts still have a lot of room to improve.
"We're not pulling in the reins by any stretch of the imagination," Caldwell said Monday, a day after the Colts rallied from a 17-point first-half deficit for a 35-27 victory over the Houston Texans that clinched a sixth AFC South title in the past seven seasons.
"We still have to forge ahead and continue to get better. We have to make improvements, identify our weaknesses and try to improve upon those. The imant thing is you continue to improve throughout the season.
"We're certainly still in the business of doing that."
The Colts (11-0), one of two remaining unbeaten teams in the NFL with New Orleans, on Sunday extended their franchise-record regular-season winning streak to 20 games, one shy of the NFL record.
The New England Patriots won 21 consecutive games from 2006-08.
They also enhanced their standing in the AFC. They currently lead the conference by three games over San Diego (8-3) and Cincinnati (8-3), with New England (7-3) playing New Orleans Monday night.
The Colts will play host to the Tennessee Titans Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. After losing their first six games, the Titans have won their last five.
"We aren't comfortable," Caldwell said Monday at his weekly next-day press conference at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. "We try to concentrate more on the performance than we do on the results. Our performance is such we know there's room for improvement.
"The other things are going to take care of themselves."
The Colts actually clinched the division about three hours after beating Houston. That was when the San Francisco 49ers beat Jacksonville (6-5) by a score of 20-3 in San Francisco.
"We were actually in flight," Caldwell said. "We got word of the final score of the Jacksonville-San Francisco game and announced it on the airplane. We had a brief celebration. Our team knows there still is a lot of work to do.
"There was not unmitigated pleasure on the plane. Nevertheless, they (players) enjoyed themselves. They understand it's quite an accomplishment, but we still have a few more things to get done."
Caldwell said because the conference is in no way clinched, it is too early to discuss extensively whether or not the team would rest players late in the season if the team's playoff seeding is decided. Asked when he began considering the scenario, he said, "Not today."
"I'll address that if we get there," Caldwell said. "That's kind of how I like to approach it. We'll assess our team at that point in time and make a determination on what suits us best, and how can we best get ourselves in position to do extremely well in the post-season. Once we get there, we'll assess that situation."
Caldwell, the first coach in NFL history to win his first 11 games as a head coach, said he has not thought much about that, or about the Colts' season-opening winning streak.
"I don't think anyone can realistically tell you they knew it would turn out this way as difficult as this league is," Caldwell said. "I didn't dream of it. I think we've done what we've set out to do, and that is take one game at a time. We focus on the next game and do our best to win it."
As such, Caldwell also said despite the Colts' unbeaten record, finishing that way will not necessarily be a focus through the final five weeks of the regular season.
"It's really not that important," he said. "You've seen a lot of great records during regular season. What really counts in this league is one ultimate goal. That is to win it all. Once you get to the playoffs, you have to do something with that opportunity.
"Going undefeated during the regular season has never been a high priority."