Colts Shift Focus to Post-Season and Preparation for Baltimore
INDIANAPOLIS – As the team transitions from the regular season to the playoffs, Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said the Colts are preparing for a "quantum shift."
With the games faster and the stakes higher, the Colts coach said the post-season is the time of the year when your regular-season record is thrown out the window and your determination and intensity become absolutely vital to your success.
Like all NFL playoff teams, Caldwell said the Colts are focused on their upcoming opponent, the Baltimore Ravens, and are doing whatever it takes to be ready come Saturday.
"We are in position to have an opportunity to win the ultimate prize," he said.
Caldwell said while the post-season brings a blitz of emotions, he does not expect his team to feel particularly pressured.
"I wouldn't say there's any more pressure than there would normally be in this kind of a setting," Caldwell said. "This is an exciting time, obviously, one that brings its own pressures.
"Our team has typically been a team that gets prepared, gets focused, plays well and doesn't play tight. The fact of the matter is, there is only one happy team at the end of the year. So what you do is fight to become that team."
To do that, the Colts first will have to beat the Ravens, whom they face in the Divisional Round of the AFC Playoffs this Saturday at 8:15 p.m. at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Indianapolis previously faced Baltimore on the road seven weeks ago, where a fourth-quarter comeback propelled the Colts to a 17-15 victory.
Since then, the Ravens have gone 5-2, including a 33-14 victory over the New England Patriots in Foxborough over Wild Card Weekend.
Caldwell said from November he remembers a Baltimore team that traditionally is known for its dominant running game and "sticky" defense, and one thing became evident after watching the Ravens' victory last Sunday. Baltimore has not changed much since seven weeks ago.
"We don't see a whole lot of difference in that regard," he said.
Last week, the Colts modeled their preparation and practice schedule around playoff readiness. Caldwell said the team has worked extensively on execution and fundamentals, something most teams are not allowed to hone on in heavy doses amidst a hectic regular season, instead having to focus on a weekly opponent.
"We certainly want to make certain we are as sharp as we can be," Caldwell said. "We want to keep our edge and just make certain that we have the focus and concentration needed to perform well."
Ultimately, Caldwell said, the goal was to win the final two regular-season games. But the team also made sure to "take care of the little things" in order to be at full strength come the start of the post-season.
One of those little things was taking care of banged up and injured players, an area in which the Colts unfortunately have had their share of this season.
Last season, the Colts did not have the luxury of time to heal some of their injured players down the stretch, including linebacker Gary Brackett, who missed the AFC Wild Card game at San Diego.
On Wednesday, Caldwell explained just how crucial it is to have a player of Brackett's abilities on the field during the playoffs.
"He's one of those guys that just does a tremendous job of getting us in the right places, in terms of our alignment, and making the adjustments we have to make," Caldwell said. "He's also a very fine player, and not just a guy who orchestrates things, but makes a lot of plays for us."
Caldwell said he has tried to balance rest with keeping practices competitive. He said the team's "intensity factor" is key to sound preparation.
To keep things lively, Caldwell said the team's first-unit offense and defense faced off against one another in practice last week as much as they have since the beginning of training camp.
"Maybe the three best practices we've had in a long time," Caldwell said.
The Colts coach said he tried to have practices mimic real games and had players use the same mannerisms and voice inflection they would use on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"Putting yourself in the moment is extremely important," he said. "Even when you don't have pads on, prior to the snap can be exactly like you would handle it in the course of a game."
And this week, the Colts' entire focus has shifted to the Ravens.
Just days away from its first post-season game, Caldwell reiterated that the team is zoned in on its preparation for Baltimore.
"Hopefully, it will pay off for us," he said.