INDIANAPOLIS — On to Baltimore.
Now that the Indianapolis Colts have one National Football League postseason win over their belts this season, thanks to a 23-8 AFC wild card victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, it’s on to M&T; Bank Stadium for Saturday’s divisional playoff game with the Baltimore Ravens at 4:30 p.m.
It’s the second straight year that the Colts have made the trip east, with Indianapolis posting a 24-7 win over the Ravens in the 2005 season opener. But this year’s matchup figures to have a bit more emotion attached to it, at least from the Baltimore fan base, since it will be the first time that the city’s old team has faced its current team in a postseason contest.
In fact, it will be the first playoff game for the Colts to be played in Baltimore since a 37-31 overtime loss to the Oakland Raiders in an AFC divisional game on December 24, 1977. The franchise moved to Indianapolis prior to the start of the 1984 season.
So while the Colts’ return to Baltimore will no doubt draw a lot of interest from that city’s media and fans, Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy doesn’t necessarily think the history of the two teams will ultimately play a large part in what eventually transpires on the playing field.
“I think there’ll be an energy level and the excitement that’s there, especially for some of the fans who have lived there [in Baltimore] for that length of time. But for the players and the people in it, there’s enough on the line with a playoff game and the fact that [the Ravens are] a great football team. And that’s what our concern is going to be,” Dungy said Sunday.
“Probably most of our guys, I’d say two-thirds of our players, don’t even know that we started out in Baltimore. For those two-thirds, they won’t even know. When you talk about Willie Mays and Jim Brown, these guys don’t know who that is. So when you talk about the Baltimore Colts, there’ll be a lot of guys who would not be aware of that.”
• Facing McNair, again — The Colts and Baltimore quarterback Steve McNair will renew a rivalry this week that started when McNair was the starting quarterback of the Tennessee Titans. But Dungy doesn’t think that his team’s familiarity with McNair will help a whole lot come Saturday.
“It’s a different system, different players around him,” the Colts coach said. “We do know that we don’t want to give him a chance late in the game with the ball in his hands. We’ve seen what he can do in those situations. He has a knack for coming up with the big play or hitting the right receivers in those kind of situations.”
Two of Billick’s assistants, offensive line coach/assistant head coach Chris Foerster and assistant special teams coach John Fassel, are very familiar to the Colts.
Foerster was a member of Dungy’s original Indianapolis coaching staff, serving as the team’s tight ends coach from 2002-03. Fassel had a tryout as a receiver with the Colts in 2000 after playing at Weber State.
• Another playoff game, another coaching buddy — Dungy and Baltimore coach Brian Billick were assistant coaches together with the Minnesota Vikings, serving as defensive and offensive coordinators under then-Vikings coach Dennis Green.
Dungy says that their knowledge of each other’s tendencies won’t play a large part in this week’s game.
“It’s how you play out there. I’ve got some good friends on that staff, guys who have worked for me and guys that I stay in touch with. But I don’t think there’s any advantage either way,” Dungy said.
• Road woes, or just a bump? Prior to the Colts losing their final four road games of the 2006 regular season, the team had fared fairly well away from the RCA Dome in recent years.
Indianapolis had posted one of the NFL’s best road records since the start of the 2002 season, winning 30 of 44 games (including the playoffs). Going back over the last two years, the Colts had won 11 of 12 road games before finishing with four straight road losses at the end of the season.
In fact, the Colts were 4-0 at one point this year on the road, knocking off three teams that are in this year’s playoffs (the New York Giants, New York Jets and New England Patriots) and a fourth team (Denver) that just fell short of making the postseason.
All four of the teams that beat Indianapolis this season — Dallas, Tennessee, Jacksonville and Houston — are done for the year. The Cowboys dropped a 21-20 heartbreaker to Seattle in an NFC wild card game Saturday night when former Eastern Illinois quarterback Tony Romo bobbled the hold on a potential game-winning field goal attempt in the final minutes of the game.
• Networks giving out secrets? — Colts officials were none too pleased Saturday evening when NBC used a graphic that showed some of the terminology that offensive coordinator Tom Moore uses to call plays in to quarterback Peyton Manning.
The information was given to the network as background information during the usual pregame production meetings to help in their broadcast but the Colts didn’t intend for it to be aired.
While team president Bill Polian was reportedly angered by the use of the information, Dungy took a lighter approach in his reaction to what happened.
“It’s not really that upsetting. It’s something that we’ll be careful of. We talked about our terminology with them, not realizing that it was going to be obviously put up on the screen,” he said. “Most of the time people don’t really have a chance to hear what’s going on out there anyway. And we have enough code words that we can change.
“But it’s just one of those things. You’re trying to be helpful to the networks. We’re working with them. We know they pay a lot of our salary so you are trying to be helpful. You just have to be careful, I guess, how helpful we are.”
• Closed practices and mind games — The Colts closed their practices to the media last week as the team prepared for Kansas City. Dungy admitted Sunday that Indianapolis made few structural changes prior to playing the Chiefs and that the closed workouts were meant to cause people to think that the team may be trying something different.
“Oh, we changed a lot. That’s why we closed practice. We actually did so many things that you would be shocked,” he joked Sunday.
“No, we really didn’t change anything. There was no changes. Actually, I closed practice because I wanted [the Chiefs] to think that we were changing something.
“[Kansas City coach] Herm [Edwards] knows me a little bit too well for that. He probably didn’t fall for that, but that was the theory behind it. A little psychological warfare. Really nothing to it.”
• Reagor may travel — Dungy said Sunday that defensive tackle Montae Reagor, who has been sidelined since he incurred facial and head injuries in an automobile accident on Oct. 22, may make the trip to Baltimore with the team this week.
Reagor was on the sidelines for the Chiefs game and was credited with giving the team an emotional lift.
“We were talking about that [Sunday morning] We’ll talk to his doctors and see what they have to say about it. If they give him clearance to travel, we just might do it,” Dungy said.
INDIANAPOLIS — On to Baltimore.
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