Question remains for Colts
Now, the Indianapolis Colts can rest.
And make no mistake:
After beating the Denver Broncos, 28-16, Sunday afternoon in
a game of streaks, momentum and history, the Colts almost certainly
will rest to some degree now that they have clinched home-field
advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
That’s why when the Colts were asked about pressure in the
wake of their NFL-record 22nd consecutive regular-season victory
— their 13th to start this year — the notion was easily
Go for 16-0 or rest players?
Go for more history or prepare for playoffs?
To hear the Colts tell it, such things just haven’t been
seriously considered. Not yet.
“I haven’t had time to think about that, I guess,” said Colts
quarterback Peyton Manning, after throwing four touchdown passes
and three interceptions against a Broncos team that cut way, way
into a three-touchdown deficit before falling just short in the
The way the Colts think, and the way they are approaching
this season, whatever pressure they may or may not feel has little
to do with streaks, records or history in the unbeaten sense.
“It’s irrelevant,” Colts president Bill Polian said. “I don’t
think there’s anybody in this room that thinks about it.”
As the Colts see it, they have been here before, starting
13-0 in 2005. They lost that season in the playoffs, won the Super
Bowl the following year, and saw the New England Patriots go
unbeaten and lose the Super Bowl in 2007. Whatever pressure the
Colts feel — not that they’d admit to feeling any — is
about postseasons and Super Bowls, not zeroes after the hyphen, and
not even history.
“We’ve just got to take it game-by-game,” Colts owner Jim
Irsay said afterward. “We’d love to get to 16-0, but that’s not the
The Colts made history on many fronts Sunday. There was the
consecutive regular-season victories record, and they won their
114th game of the decade, also an NFL record.
They even trumped the performance of Denver wide receiver
Brandon Marshall, whose NFL-record 21 receptions for 200 yards got
the Broncos close before Manning led an 80-yard, seven-minute
touchdown drive to clinch the victory with 2:25 remaining.
After which, the questions of pursuing more history began.
There will be more questions in coming days and weeks.
There will be hue and there will be cry.
All will be ignored, as likely will the opinions of players,
although Colts coach Jim Caldwell did say Sunday “it’s important
you listen to everybody.”
“We’ll take somewhat of a poll,” he said, adding with a
smile, “knowing where the final decision lies. We would certainly
listen to the guys who have been around here. We’ll have a
conference on it at some point.”
But linebacker Gary Brackett, a defensive captain who has
been around for both 13-0 starts, said as much as part of him might
like to play the rest of the season, any input from the locker room
likely will be limited.
“I don’t think that will happen,” Brackett said, laughing. “I
think they definitely make those decisions and then we follow suit.
But as a player, we definitely want to keep the momentum going.”
One reason the Colts will rest is that they don’t believe the
commonly held theory that their past playoff frustrations are tied
to “rust and momentum.”
But mainly, they will rest because of necessity.
The Colts played the final quarter without rookie cornerback
Jerraud Powers, and cornerback Jacob Lacey left the game briefly
before returning. Second-year running back Mike Hart was playing
late for Joseph Addai because backup Donald Brown has missed the
last two games with a chest injury.
Polian several weeks ago said of injuries that you can only
stretch the rubber band so far, and on Sunday, he said the issue of
resting or not resting is really quite simple.
“It’s only about who’s healthy,” he said. “Today was the most
important game from the standpoint of this year’s race —
that’s over. Today was the most important game if you want to talk
about history, because it achieved two historic milestones. That’s
it. What more is there to do?
“You do what you think is best, but I think that’s moot. I
don’t think it goes beyond who’s healthy.”
And with that, you pretty much knew what the Colts will do
moving forward. They’ll play some players, and perhaps they’ll go
all-out Thursday against Jacksonville. But if anyone is on the
borderline between playing and not playing, they won’t play, not
for the pursuit of 16-0, and certainly not to maintain momentum.
The way the Colts see it, that’s what they earned on Sunday
— not any added pressure to go unbeaten, but rather, the
right to choose. And to those running the Colts, the choice is
rest, if not complete rest, enough to make winning three more in
the regular season tough. Very tough.
To those running the Colts, the choice really isn’t much of a
choice at all.
And they own the vote that counts.