Colts get back in sync just in time for playoffs

Robert Mathis insists momentum matters.

He remembers Indianapolis pulling things together to make a

Super Bowl run following the 2006 season and realizes six of the

past eight Super Bowl champs played on wild-card weekend. The teams

that survive and advance this time of year are the ones capable of

cranking up the intensity while minimizing mistakes.

Yes, the new NFL sacks champion has done his homework and

figures that model bodes well for his Colts.

”I think if you check the last six Super Bowl winners, they got

hot at the right time,” Mathis said Monday. ”That’s what it’s all

about, getting hot at the right time.”

No team has done that better this season than the AFC South

champions.

Only one of the NFL’s 12 playoff teams heads into the postseason

with a longer winning streak than Indy (11-5). San Diego has won

four straight. The Colts, Carolina and San Francisco each have won

three in a row. But Indy’s resume may be the most impressive of the

group.

In a league where one-possession games are the norm, Indy has

won its past three all by 16 or more points including a 23-7

victory at Kansas City (11-5) on Dec. 22.

During that stretch, Indy is plus-seven in turnovers, has

allowed only two touchdowns, outscored opponents 78-20 and seen

Andrew Luck complete nearly 67 percent of his passes.

The offense has 106 points in the past 14 quarters, a per game

average of 30.2. Indy heads into the postseason with the fewest

turnovers (14) and fewest penalties (66) in the league, a 4-2 mark

against playoff teams and a 3-1 record against teams with five or

fewer losses.

The Colts are playing their best football of the season and at

just the right time – heading into Saturday’s rematch with the

Chiefs (11-5), who have lost five of their past seven.

”That’s our goal,” running back Donald Brown said, ”getting

better each week, learning from our mistakes and just moving

forward.”

Mathis knows better than most that getting hot doesn’t guarantee

anything in the playoffs.

He was around when Indy:

– went 13-0 in 2005 and wound up losing in the divisional round

to eventual Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh.

– started 14-0 in 2009, then threw away a possible perfect

season to chase a second Super Bowl title before losing to New

Orleans in Miami.

– and in 2008, when the Colts thought they were ready for

another deep playoff run after finishing the regular season with

nine straight wins. Then came an overtime loss at San Diego.

This time may be different. After six up-and-down weeks of

alternating narrow wins and blowout losses, contending with

agonizingly slow starts and the constant injury battle, the Colts’

called a players-only meeting to discuss fixes.

”It was guys meeting, men talking and holding each other

accountable,” Mathis said, declining to reveal details of the

private discussion.

Whatever was said, worked.

After weeks of struggling without Pro Bowl receiver Reggie

Wayne, the Colts trotted out a no-huddle offense and Luck

delivered.

He started hooking up with young receivers such as Da’Rick

Rogers and LaVon Brazill, which opened things up for T.Y. Hilton.

The benching of Trent Richardson gave Brown a chance to prove his

value and he finished the season averaging 5.3 yards per carry.

Indy’s constantly shifting offensive line, which has started six

different combinations over the past six weeks, responded by

allowing just three sacks in three weeks. And the defense has

limited opponents to just nine third-down conversions in 37 chances

in the past three games.

”I think the key to it is now we’ve had the same guys in the

lineup a little bit more so we’re kind of feeling comfortable with

each other knowing who is out there,” said kicker Adam Vinatieri,

a four-time Super Bowl champ.

”I think guys are really, really trying to do the extra little

stuff to get us to the next level. If that’s on the iPads, if

that’s more meeting time, if that’s a little more field time, if

it’s more time in the training room to make sure you can get as

healthy as you can so you can play the best that you can. I think

that focus is really amped up.”

Notes: Cornerback Vontae Davis (groin), defensive tackle Aubrayo

Franklin (knee) and linebacker Bjoern Werner (ankle) all left

Sunday’s game with injuries and are listed day to day after their

MRIs were negative. … Offensive lineman Mike McGlynn (elbow) and

defensive end Cory Redding (shoulder) are expected to lay this week

after being inactive Sunday. … The Colts said 7,000 tickets

remain for Indy’s first home playoff game in nearly three years.

Indy lost 17-16 to the New York Jets on Jan. 8, 2011, in the final

game Peyton Manning played with the Colts.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org