Questions and Answers with Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell
Questions and answers with Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell . . .
Question: A 35-31 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday moved the Colts to 14-0. What stood out to you about that game that maybe no one else is discussing?
Answer: Every week, out of the three phases, we've found different combinations to win. The week before (against Denver), the defense played a tremendous game and our kicking game was solid in our coverage units. In this particular game (against Jacksonville), obviously our offense really did a tremendous job of scoring touchdowns and not settling for field goals, then also our return game was significantly different. So, those two areas were different. Last week, we talked about how we sputtered on offense. This week, there wasn't much sputtering, even though they did make us punt it three times in the fourth quarter. When it really came down to it, we were able to get that significant drive that made a difference. I just think there are little themes. Every game is different. Every game has its own personality. That one was a special teams return game, because our coverage teams did not do a very good job. They played poorly and gave them great field position all too often. But our return game made up for it and certainly our offensive did a tremendous job.
Q: You broke it down in terms of offense, defense and special teams, but there seems to be something this season that goes beyond the units. As you said, it's just a case where no matter what's gone on during the game, the team finds a way to make a play at the end. On Thursday, for instance, the defense struggled for a while, then shut the Jaguars out in the fourth quarter . . .
A: We know how to finish, collectively. That's on special teams and on our defense. On Thursday, the defense finished that thing off. We didn't have to be concerned about punting the ball. I think there was 2:16 remaining – two something – when we punted the ball to them. We had a fourth down, but we didn't have to try to go for it on fourth down because we believe our defense is going to get this thing done. It's their job. They know how to do it. We practice it all the time. At some point in time, somebody's got to make a play. Either it's one of our pass rushers coming off the edge to knock a ball loose or it's somebody making an interception – whatever it takes to get that done. We have the ability to finish. I'm going to use that as sort of a rallying cry this week because of the fact that I do think conditioning plays a part. The finish is a matter of conditioning. The finish is a matter of poise, and the finish is a matter of determination. All of those things I think we have.
Q: And it's more than just quarterback Peyton Manning getting it done, isn't it?
A: Besides Peyton, you can run down all of those games and just kind of pinpoint different things that occurred – different people doing a great job that were very, very key in terms of our success. A lot of people have stepped up.
Q: The Colts are 14-0, a game better than their previous franchise-record start of 13-0 in 2005. They haven't won big, but they have won . . .
A: I was reading through the clips, I think just last week. And in one clip they had all the scores from the weekend. I just went through and started checking the difference in the winners and losers. The great majority of those 16 games that were played – there was one or two that were out of hand, but the rest of them were all seven or less. Eighty-five percent of them were seven or less, and because of the fact that the talent level is so close that it's about not beating yourself, about being smart, but also being able to execute in crunch time. That's the real key, and those are some of the things I think we excel at that make a difference.
Q: Where does that come from? That's not something you leave to chance, I wouldn't think . . .
A: We talk about it. We emphasize it. It's an old adage that you achieve what you emphasize. We work on the last four plays of games. We work on two-minute drives. We work on four-minute offense. We work on all of those things. And on defense. All of those things serve us well, and we do all of those things on a weekly basis. I think our guys are very, very confident in those situations.
Q: So often this season, the Colts have benefited from a crucial late-game error by an opponent and so seldom does it seem they make one that costs them a game . . .
A: It almost happened to us on Thursday night. On our last drive before punting the ball to them, we had 1st-and-10 and we have a false start that stops the clock and backs us up five yards. We have 1st-and-15. It changes the whole dynamic of what we wanted to do. We could have pounded that thing out, make them use their timeouts and then try to eat the clock out. That's a totally different scenario than what occurred. Once we got backed up, now we're looking at a longer-yardage situation that could have proved to be disastrous.
Q: Sounds like it might be a teaching point this week . . .
A: No question.
Q: Talk a bit about running back Joseph Addai's season. He's so much more than his rushing yardage totals, isn't he?
A: I think when you look at what he's done strictly from a statistical standpoint, you could be misled. Joseph has had some huge runs that may have only been five or six yards, but what he has done in terms of conversions, to getting some extra yards – if you really go back and analyze it, they have been huge. Not only that, he has been also very effective in terms of catching out of the backfield, or when we line him up and spread him out and line him up at wide receiver. On Thursday, he had a couple of key catches for us. What he does for us in terms of blocking responsibilities also is very imant. He's a solid pass protector. He doesn't miss assignments. He's a very, very smart football player. Joe's football IQ is off the charts. Not only that, he has this unbelievable desire to excel and to be precise and to not make mistakes and to know what his responsibilities are. Joe takes great pride in that aspect. He's a very, very dedicated individual who does a great job in preparation.
Q: How have you been able to avoid 11-0, 12-0, 13-0 becoming part of the daily workings? And has it gotten more difficult to not let it be a factor?
A: Not really, because I don't do anything differently than what I've done – the way I've talked to the players about, 'Hey, let's do things exactly the same way. Let's approach this game the same way.' I did the same thing with my week. I don't necessarily take a lot of (media) requests. I'm trying to make certain that I may do one or two here or there, but I don't do an outlandish amount. I try to stay away from all the programming and things on the pre-game shows if I can – unless it's required by the league. I limit all of that. I think that in itself kind of keeps you on the things that are the most important. The most important thing is we tend to do business in terms of the preparation, getting ready and making certain we can do our job on game day.
Q: How do you explain the consistency year in and year out?
A: I would say because of the culture that has been established around here for a long time that there's one thing that's very interesting about our team. It's something I've mentioned before, but it's not just lip service. It's actually a very unusual trait that I noticed very early on – that our standards are so high around here. Obviously, the goal is to win it all. They don't rest until they get to that point. Up until then, they handle it with such grace that they don't get overly excited about some of the big wins we've had. They handle it professionally, more of a business-like attitude. Our guys around here sometimes have to go overboard in not feeling like a win feels like a loss. Sometimes, they may not perform very well on one side of the ball or the other, or it's a real pressing sort of thing, because they want to get better the next week. I think that's what makes us unusual. On Monday, when I walk into that team meeting, if someone would walk in there with me that did not know the score of the game or did not know what our record was at a point in time, they certainly wouldn't be able to tell by the way our team handles success.
Q: You've been here since '02. When did that develop?
A: It's more evident now. But it was evident then, and a lot of it was because (former Colts Head Coach) Tony's (Dungy) demeanor was always very steady. He never showed great emotion over wins or far-reaching lows with defeats. It was nice and steady because the season was so long and he just didn't want his team on a roller-coaster ride. I certainly feel that way, and it's how my personality is as well. I sometimes have to watch myself. I have to tell the team, 'Hey, when we win these games, you have to enjoy them. You have to find a way. I'm not telling you to go out and have a big party, but you have to find some enjoyment in them.' That's my approach. I'm (snaps fingers) onto the next one. That whistle blows, I shake hands with the opposing coach and I'm jogging in and already thinking, 'We've got to get ready for New York.' That's always been a bad habit of mine. I see that as problem with myself, so I try to make sure the team, the coaches – that's why I gave them this past weekend off: 'Get away. Enjoy it. Bask in the glow. Get out there a little bit and enjoy yourself for a couple of days before we get to work. You've earned it,' but yet we still have a long way to go.'
Q: But you don't think focus will be an issue this week . . .
A: That's a thing our team does so well. They really block out all the other things. They take the approach of, 'All right. Here we go. We have another game. This is how we prepare. This is how we practice. This is how we're going to play it.' Nothing special. Nothing unusual. We take away a lot of the anxiety. It's never, 'Hey, let's go get No. 14. No, this is what we're looking at. We're going to win just this game. Nothing else matters. Nothing else that happened before can help us in this particular situation except for how we prepare, practice and get ready for this particular game.'
Q: The topic around the Colts will be the last two games, but to you, it won't be about two games, but one, isn't that right?
A: The thing about this next game is how we're going to play depends on the health of our team and what it looks like. Now, the health of our team also could include getting them rested and ready as well. That's part of that, but it also may mean some injuries here or there. That may dictate some changes in the lineup. We're still going out to win the game. We're still going to prepare hard exactly the same way. But we'll look at each week as if it's a whole separate entity, which indeed it is. We'll go from there, but we're not looking at anything beyond that. We're not looking at Buffalo or anything of that nature. We just want to focus in on the Jets.
Q: Lastly, you seemed to take a lot of pride in that victory over Jacksonville. Playing with no playoff implications, the Colts beat a team that had a lot to play for . . .
A: It showed really that our group can focus. It was a very difficult situation to keep your focus in that kind of ball game and under those kinds of conditions. You really don't have anything tangible to play for. That's what I think is unique about this group. That was a real fine test. Was there a little bit of lax in the minds of some? I couldn't tell you. I would assume that human nature would tell you in some cases there would be, but the prevailing attitude was, 'Let's go play this one.' It wasn't long after the start of that game where I think everybody was engaged.