Colts emerge victorious in must-lose game

January 4, 2010
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It’s not often a team faces a must lose game.
 
But that’s exactly what the Indianapolis Colts had on their schedule Sunday in Buffalo. Colts President Bill Polian and Coach Jim Caldwell—who are getting most of the credit for the masterpiece against the N.Y. Jets on Dec. 27—must have been dancing a jig when the saw the frightful weather Sunday in Buffalo.

It was indeed a triumphant return to Buffalo for Polian, who has been adamant that resting players in the name of playoff preparation trumps a shot at history—the first team to go 19-0.
 
Polian looked pretty smart yesterday. After all, who wouldn’t argue that getting the team’s most prized possessions off a snow-covered field is smart.
 
Everyone in the Horseshoe Kingdom breathed a sigh of relief to see Peyton Manning, Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne sitting in coats and stocking caps in one piece on the sideline. The misfortune that visited New England Patriots wideout Wes Welker only served to reinforce that sense of relief. In the moment, tanking the Jets game suddenly looked like the right thing to do.

But had the Colts reserves managed to win in Buffalo, the hue and cry from Evansville to South Bend would have started anew; The Colts were a lousy 20 plus or minus minutes away from the perfect season! Against a mediocre team!! On their home field!!!

The Colts did Sunday exactly what they needed to do. Must lose indeed. Once they tanked the Jets game, the Colts had to stay on that course. Mission accomplished.

If you think the fan howling after last week’s game was a distraction, yikes, what would the run-up to the playoffs have been like had the Colts won in Buffalo. And players on the verge of mutiny last week, would have offered a few new death stares at Polian and Caldwell in the days heading into the playoffs.

Now, Polian looks like a genius who can not only put together a championship-caliber football team, but can predict the weather better than Punxsutawney Phil.

With the loss already on the books against the Jets, there was absolutely no pressure to play key starters in the snow at Buffalo. There’s no letdown this week from the Bills loss and really, comparatively little distraction.

But there’s this little side note. The fans haven’t really forgotten. Rightly or wrongly, there are seeds of doubt among the Kingdom’s faithful. Still uneasiness—perhaps even simmering hostility—about not pursuing perfection.

And clearly, if you watched the Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals play Sunday, it looked like they were fighting for a chance at that No. 4 seed and a shot at the Colts in the divisional round. Those two teams would seem to think the Colts are more ripe for the plucking than the red-hot San Diego Chargers.

So the switch is now flipped. The pressure is on again. It’s heating up in the locker room, the coaches’ stable, and especially in the quarters of the jockey steering this steed.

Because if the Colts lose before next season’s pre-season opener, the front line of this war will move from between the white lines onto the Colts’ sales and marketing team’s front doorstep.
 
And the ensuing stampede may be enough to make the snow storm in Buffalo look like a pony ride at the circus.  
 

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  • Watching Welkers knee buckle was like some surrealistic view of what could have been. That easily could have been Dallas, Wayne or Manning on the frozen tundra of Rush Stadium.

    I hated to see Manning et al. on the field as long as they were, but I understand how important the 100 catch marks are for Wayne and especially Dallas. I breathed a long sigh of relief when they left the field.

    I am not so sure the Pats or Bengals want the Colts as much as they were protecting injured players (in the pats part), and hoping to get the Jets(on the Bengals side).

    For that matter, I hope we get the Jets so we can properly have Mr. Freeney and Mr. Mathis introduce Mr. Sanchez to the turf of Lucas Oil Stadium.
  • That was supposed to be Rich Stadium.
  • That was supposed to be Rich Stadium.
  • Sale, no sale
    They better win that first playoff game, or my season ticket renewal envelope is going out the window. They've got one last chance to restore faith.
  • Lukewarm
    Matt - Since you're such a lukewarm fan, I'm sure someone on the season ticket waiting list would be glad to have your seats. I know the seats aren't cheap, but loyalty ought to be stronger than what you show. Sounds like you're on the fence anyway. Hand in the tickets.
    • C'mon Man!
      Loyalty, you must be joking. I've had season tickets since 1985, and I've never felt so betrayed. The team's owner and management really should have had a better feel for what the fans wanted. And should have reacted more appropriately. It feels a lot like the desires of the paying public is pretty secondary in this instance. BP is like the wizard of Oz, over there behind the curtain doing things the rest of us munchkins will never understand. Yeah, right!!! As for waiting lists, anyone in sports marketing or sales knows how quickly those evaporate.
    • Really???
      Johnson - You didn't feel more betrayed by the 3-13 Colts??? FWIW, I was irate at the decision to not go for 19-0. I was sure that it was the wrong decision. But you know, Polian has not made many bad decisions. In fact, he knows plenty more about running a football organization than I do. His football logic is admired in the league.

      After watching the events of this weekend, he may have made the right decision. Yes, it was unpopular. How many years have we gone to the playoffs and not had many of our healthy stars to carry the load? The one year they win the Superbowl has less to do with playing out the string than it does with having a healthy Bob Sanders back on the roster. Remember they lost three of the their last five and looked like they couldn't stop George Plimpton. The two years they rested players and went one-and-done were the result of key losses; Cornelius Bennett in 1999 and Jamie Dungy's tragedy in 2005.

      The "positive" from all this angst is that Indianapolis has become a football town. It is great to see the passion from all the fans. While you may be upset at the decision against the Jets, let's look at all points of view and understand that Colts are putting everything into bringing another Super Bowl Championship to Indy. Let's put this behind us. All true Colt fans need to move to the playoffs and root for this team, this organization, and this city.
    • I was there
      I was there for the 3-13 seasons, so I don't want to hear that garbage. I have been with the team (as a fan) longer than Polian. So he needs to realize he has to pay some respect to the fans that have supported this team for 20 plus years. We pay his salary, not the other way around. At least when they were 3-13 they didn't throw any games. Polian's football logic may not be in question, but his marketing and common sense, that's another issue. Fooey!
    • Bobby Knight
      Bobby Knight's exit from this state has as much to do with Indy becoming a football town as the Colts' success, as much as it pains some people to admit that.
    • Betrayal??!! Are you kidding me??!! Betrayal??!!
      The way some are talking here, you'd never guess the Colts won the Super Bowl just three years ago.
    • One Goal - SUPER BOWL
      Seeing Wes Welker go down, and some others on playoff teams, one can certainly see that it's a good move to be sure we are healthy for the playoffs. Remember, the goals are:
      (1) Win the Division. DONE
      (2) Get a bye. DONE
      (3) Get home field in playoffs. DONE
      (4) Win Playoff game #1.
      (5) Win playoff game #2.
      (6) Win Super Bowl.Super Bowl.

      Hopefully we'll achieve goals 4, 5, and 6.
      GO COLTS!
    • Pats gave up?
      Anthony,

      I think that you are again grasping at straws here. The Patriots played their starters a majority of that game. Welker went down, Brady came out but then BB put him back in only to remove him from the game later. The Pats were trying to win the game and the Bengals didn't want to have to play the Ravens for a 3rd time this season...plus the Bengals coach said that he could essentially determine his opponent and could have two weeks to prepare for the same team which he thought could be advantageous. Another swing...another miss.
    • One more thing
      Momentum has no statistical bearing on playoff success. How else would you explain the Cardinals of last season who were 9-7 and lost 4 of the final 6 games one of which was a 47-7 loss to the Patriots and another was a 35-14 loss to the Vikings. The Colts had a 9 game winning streak and lost to the Chargers. The 2006 Colts lost 4 of their final 7 and won the SB. Moral of the story is that execution, matchups, and luck dictate the results of the playoffs. Not a week 16 or week 17 regular season game. Peroid.
    • yeah Matt...
      ...hand in those dang tickets ASAP if yer so goldarn 'lukewarm' cuz we knows ders lotsa mor idjits willin to pay BIG $$$ to see the Dolts lose!!!(like maybe the loser Boomer?)

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