By Tom James
INDIANAPOLIS — Business as usual.
That’s the plan for the Indianapolis Colts heading into a bye week in the National Football League postseason. Indianapolis dropped a 30-7 decision to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday in the regular-season finale with most of the team’s offensive and defensive starters sitting out or seeing very limited work.
Now it’s on to the playoffs, with the Colts having earned the top seed in the AFC, having a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the postseason with a 14-2 regular-season record. Head coach Jim Caldwell is planning on having a regular week of practice before giving his team some time off next weekend.
The NFL announced on Monday that the Colts will play their first playoff game at 8:15 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 16 at Lucas Oil Stadium. Whom they will play won’t be known until next weekend, but the possible opponents would be the Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets or Baltimore Ravens.
Indianapolis would face the lowest-seeded remaining AFC team.
“Most of the teams that we have a possibility of facing [in an AFC divisional playoff game] we’ve already played. Cincinnati we have played in the preseason. But we’ll get going [on game planning] shortly,” Caldwell said.
As for the practice week, the first-year head coach will allow the team to have Monday and today off before returning for workouts Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
“There’s a few guys [from the Buffalo game] that played a lot of snaps, so we’ll come in and get them their treatment. [Today] is their day off and we’ll come back on Wednesday morning and practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday,” he said. “So we’ll get three days of practice in during this bye week. I think that’s important because if we can keep our rhythm and develop a few things and get some improvement along the way also, that’s what we planning to do this week.”
The Colts came out of the regular season’s final two games in relatively good shape, physically. That was the plan.
“It appears that way. But from the sense I got, just in terms of guys coming out of games, everybody had an opportunity to return [for the playoffs]. It wasn’t a huge issue,” Caldwell said. “But oftentimes you don’t completely until a day or so afterwards, so we will probably have to wait until [Monday] afternoon to get a good sense of it.”
n Work and rest — Caldwell will put his team through three days of workouts beginning on Wednesday and wrapping up on Friday. He said that Indianapolis will prepare for a few potential playoff opponents during the practice sessions.
“I’ll study, in particular the teams that we haven’t seen much of or that we have not had the opportunity to play. We’ll take a good look at them and try to study their personnel. I’ll concentrate on one a day. I’ll just take the entire day and study every aspect of that particular team. I’ll look at as many tapes as I possibly can. I’ll look at their personnel situation. Then the next day, if there is another team that it is a possibility that we may play, I’ll take a look at that team,” he said.
“Obviously, there may be some teams that we’ve had an opportunity to play already. That gives us a little bit of familiarity, in terms of our preparation. I’ll watch the [wild-card] games live, as many as I can. You learn quite a bit from television sometimes. They give you different angles that you don’t get from the tape that we get. It does add something to it.”
The Colts will try to balance practice time while also making sure that everybody will be in prime shape, health-wise, in time for the team’s first playoff game.
“It’s a very delicate balancing act. You certainly want to be able to give your team [rest]. That’s one of the advantages of a bye week, you have some guys that maybe would not play that upcoming weekend would play the following week because they have the opportunity to recuperate and rehab and etc. You have to make certain that you’re not getting them beat up during the course of that week, but yet, you don’t want to lose your edge either,” Caldwell explained.
“That’s the thing we’ve always talked about, making certain that we keep our edge. I think that comes from good, solid practice with speed and great purpose. We’ll try to make certain our practices reflect that next week. We’ll try to make them challenging when they go out on that field and they learn something every day and get something out of it every day. We’re not just out there to be out there, but it is with intent and purpose, and we’re able to keep our sharpness.”
• Make it, take it — The Colts coach isn’t worried about rust or the loss of any possible momentum. He’s counting on Indianapolis’ veteran leadership and desire to win a second Super Bowl title to set the tone during the team’s practice sessions over the next two weeks.
“It’s kind of like when you were young playing basketball on the court. You’d play make it, take it. But also if you won, you stayed on the court, and if you lost you were off the court. Oftentimes, the line of teams behind you was so long it may take you another three to four hours to get back out on the court,” Caldwell explained.
“There was always a heightened sense of, ‘Hey, you have to get it done, otherwise you’re off.’ Well, that’s what happens in the playoffs. There is a certain understanding that it is do or die. That in itself adds a little flavor to the preparation.”
• Record book — Quarterback Peyton Manning made his team-record 192nd consecutive start for the Colts in the Buffalo game. It’s the longest career-opening streak of any quarterback in NFL history.
Manning completed 393 of 571 passes for 4,500 yards, 33 touchdowns and 16 interceptions this season, giving him the most regular-season completions of his NFL career and ties the third-most passing attempts of his career (591, 2002; 575, 1998; 571, 2000). His 4,500 yards passing is the second-highest of his NFL career (4,557, 2004).
Wide receiver Reggie Wayne ended the regular season with 100 receptions for 1,264 yards and 10 touchdowns. It’s the second time in Wayne’s NFL career that he has had 100 or more catches in a season (104, 2007). His 1,264 yards is his third-most of his NFL career (1,510, 2007; 1,310, 2006).
Tight end Dallas Clark finished the regular season with 100 receptions for the season for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns. The reception and yards totals are career highs. He is the second tight end in league history with 100 or more receptions in a season (104, Tony Gonzalez, 2004).
Rookie wide receiver Austin Collie goes into the postseason with 60 receptions for 676 yards and seven touchdowns. The 60 catches during the regular season is the fourth-best total for a first-year receiver in Colts history behind Bill Brooks’ 65 in 1986, Marvin Harrison’s 64 in 1996 and Edgerrin James’ 62 in 1999.
Collie’s 676 yards receiving is the fifth-best by a rookie (Brooks, 1,131, 1986; Harrison, 836, 1996; Andre Rison, 820, 1989; John Mackey, 726, 1963).
Running back Joseph Addai finished the regular season with 828 yards on 219 carries, his highest rushing total since he had 1,072 yards in 2007. Addai also hauled in 51 passes this year for 336 yards, the most receptions of his NFL career and his second-highest yardage total (364, 2007).
His 10 rushing touchdowns is his second highest (12, 2007) and his 13 total touchdowns (10 rushing, three receiving) are his most since 2007 (15, 12 rushing and three receiving).