INDIANAPOLIS – We'll start the final Coffee with the Colts of the 2010 regular season by addressing a fairly obvious notion.
This 2010 AFC South title for the Indianapolis Colts?
It was no ordinary title.
So, while we'll spend a big part of the week talking about the Colts' match-up with the New York Jets, we'll take a while on this first Monday of January to appreciate what the Colts accomplished this season.
“Check us out, that’s all I can say,” Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne said Sunday following a 23-20 victory over the Tennessee Titans that allowed the Colts to secure the No. 3 seed in the AFC postseason.
“We’ve always had the naysayers. All we can do is go out and play Colts football and do the things we are supposed to do. It was tough on us early in the year, but we found a way to prevail and move forward and now we’re going to the playoffs.”
There's the ninth consecutive playoff appearance, and that's a big deal around a franchise that values consistency and has achieved it as well as any NFL team for the last decade.
"That is what you try to be – a consistent player, a consistent team,” Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said. “I think for the most part we have done that.”
There's the third seed in the AFC playoffs, which is hardly insignificant considering the Colts made the Super Bowl following the 2006 season from the same seeding. They also won the Super Bowl that season, winning a home playoff game (Kansas City) and a road playoff game (Baltimore) before beating the New England Patriots at home.
Will the Colts wangle a home game in the AFC title game? It's not likely, but in the NFL there's nothing in the postseason that's impossible.
Mostly for the Colts, there's the seventh AFC South title in eight seasons, something that many outside the team just didn't seen happening four games ago.
Remember? Early in December, the Colts had lost to the Dallas Cowboys, 38-35, in overtime, and had lost three consecutive games. Worse, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning had thrown 11 interceptions over the three game span, four of which had been returned for touchdowns.
They couldn't run and couldn't stop the run.
They weren't stopping the pass all that well, either, and considering the stunning list of injured players – Dallas Clark, Austin Collie, Anthony Gonzalez, Jerraud Powers, Kelvin Hayden, Bob Sanders, Melvin Bullitt, Clint Session, Joseph Addai, etc., etc. – it was certainly no given that the Colts could win their final four regular-season games to win the AFC South title.
They did, and did so for many reasons:
*Manning, as he noted in his post-game remarks Sunday, got getter. He threw just two interceptions over the last four games.
*The running game got better, too. Addai returned, and the Colts' three-headed backfield of Addai, Donald Brown and Dominic Rhodes gave the Colts in the final four games a more consistent, legitimate running attack than it has had in the last several seasons.
*They got some help. The Jaguars, who lost their last four games last season, again faded late, losing their last three games to slip from first to second in the AFC South.
*The run defense got better. The Colts shut down Chris Johnson in the regular-season finale, holding him to 39 yards on 20 carries after similarly limiting Maurice Jones-Drew of Jacksonville and Darren McFadden of Oakland on back-to-back weeks.
What will it all mean for the post-season?
That, obviously, is too early to tell. The Colts play the Jets Saturday, and while New York is 11-5, the match-up doesn't seem to be one that will overwhelm the Colts.
What it means for the regular season, however, is clear.
While the Colts didn't win 12 games this season, and while the season was a struggle at times, they made the postseason in a season when circumstances would have made it very understandable had they not. This was no ordinary season for the Colts, not with the injuries, and not with what they had to overcome, because what they had to overcome was perhaps more than they have overcome in any of the previous eight seasons.
And that makes what happened Sunday pretty extraordinary, too.
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