Approach Won't Change for 14th Game, Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell Says
INDIANAPOLIS – For at least this week, nothing will change.
Not the approach. Not the way the Colts determine playing time.
And not the week-to-week focus.
Jim Caldwell, in his first season as the Colts' head coach, said Monday afternoon that even with the AFC's No. 1 seed clinched – and even with the team having secured a bye and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs – the team will change nothing. At least not for the next four days.
The Colts will visit the Jacksonville Jaguars Thursday.
And when they do, healthy players will play – just as they have all season, Caldwell said.
"We're going to approach the 14th game exactly like we did one through 13," Caldwell said Monday, a day after the Colts (13-0) held off a second-half rally for a 28-16 victory over the Denver Broncos (8-5) at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis.
"We'll look at this game and prepare just as hard. We're in a great rhythm in terms of our preparation. We're going to go out and play just like we have done the previous 13."
The Colts, who also started 13-0 in 2005, remain one of two unbeaten teams this season along with New Orleans, which also improved to 13-0 this season. They are the sixth and seventh teams to start a season 13-0, and never have two teams done it the same season.
The Colts on Sunday also:
• Became the first team in NFL history to win 114 games in a single decade. They had been tied with the 1990s San Francisco 49ers for the NFL record in that category.
• Became the first team in NFL history to win 22 consecutive regular-season games. They had been tied with the 2006-08 New England Patriots for the NFL record in that category.
• Improved to 81-19 over their last 100 games. That's tied for the best record over a 100-game span in NFL history with the New England Patriots, who were 81-19 over a span on several occasions this decade.
But the primary topic Monday during Caldwell's weekly next-day press conference was playing time – and how the Colts would approach it with home-field clinched.
The Colts, who will play host to an AFC Divisional Playoff game on January 16-17, can do no more to enhance their playoff positioning in the final three games of the regular season.
As such, much of the discussion in the Colts' locker room Sunday following the victory over Denver centered around how much the Colts' front-line players would play not only against Jacksonville Thursday, but against the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills in the final two weeks.
Caldwell said there is no plan for the final two weeks of the regular season.
"That's all I'm going to deal with, is this game coming up," said Caldwell, who said a focus on the week at hand has been a reason thus far for the team's success. "I'm not looking beyond this game – just like we've done every week.
"It has served us well. We're going to continue to do so."
Colts President Bill Polian said shortly after the Denver game that the primary issue facing the Colts now is health.
"It doesn't go beyond who's healthy," Polian said. "You do what you think is best, but I think that's moot. I don't think it goes beyond who's healthy."
Caldwell on Monday said health will be the only determining factor for playing time against Jacksonville.
"The only thing that will deter playing time is health issues – whether or not a player is capable of playing," Caldwell said. "Other than that, we're going to play ball and approach it the same way we do every game. That should alleviate a few of the questions with regard to our approach to the next game.
"Just like any other week, we just have to look at our team, where we are. We just have to make sure we stay in rhythm. That's what's most imant to us."
The Colts reached 13-0 with a defensive effort Sunday that Caldwell called one of the best defensive performances of the season. The Colts, who have yet to allow a touchdown following a turnover, allowed just one field goal following three Colts turnovers.
"The only thing they're concerned about is getting [the opponent] stopped," Caldwell said. "Oftentimes, you see teams go into those situations and because of the fact that they're feeling sorry for themselves, or upset with the offense that they didn't move the ball or turned it over and put it in a bad position. Our guys don't think that way. That's an indication of great morale and discipline.
"Often, there may be one a game. We had it back to back to back and they kept answering the bell. It was a tremendous job. That sticks out in my mind, what a gallant effort that was."