INDIANAPOLIS – A quick, game-day version of Magnificent Seven as the Indianapolis Colts prepare to play the New York Jets in an AFC Wild Card Playoff game Saturday . . .
Short week. Hectic week.
We'll keep it short – and we'll keep the lead-in short except to say throughout the week this increasingly has felt like one of those first-round playoff games that's really, really hard to predict. Every time you start thinking the Colts have the edge, you see a way the Jets might counter it and vice versa.
This one has the makings of a really, really good post-season game.
7)Post-holiday stuffing. One of the Colts' most notable improvements in the last month has been the run defense. Players and coaches talked extensively about an emphasis on speed and simplicity being a key, and since a 38-35 overtime loss to Dallas in early December, the improvement has been remarkable. Indianapolis in the last three games held Maurice Jones-Drew of Jacksonville, Darren McFadden of Oakland and Chris Johnson of Tennessee well under 100 yards and the Colts won all three games. Sometime during that stretch, it stopped being surprising when opposing runners weren't getting three or four yards on a carry, but Colts linebacker Gary Brackett said as offenses get more balanced in the post-season, stacking against the run will be more difficult. “Obviously, we have been playing a little more eight-man fronts with one of our safeties down in the box to help solidify that run,” Brackett said. “But when you do that, there is always give and take. You become a little vulnerable in the pass defense. I think you have to mix up both coverages, keep the offense off-balanced as far as what you are calling. We have been running quite a bit of Cover 2 as well, which is a seven-man front, so it has not always been eight-man fronts. But I think across the board guys have been tackling well, and that has to continue.”
6)Much ado about . . . Interesting to hear Colts players talk about Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan this week. The consensus was that while Ryan is entertaining, little of what he says will have a real impact on the game. The reality is the Colts have too many veteran players who have gone through too many post-seasons and too many situations to worry about Ryan and his words. Best quote on the matter came from Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne. Discussing Ryan saying he considered the match-up with Colts quarterback Peyton Manning personal, Wayne said, “Get in line.” Translation: In the NFL, everybody's motivated. Everybody wants to win. Ryan just talks about it more.
5)A welcomed back. Followers of the Colts the last several seasons won't be surprised that Manning is particularly glad to have running back Joseph Addai back for the post-season. One reason is Addai's running. Addai was having a better year than statistics would indicate before missing eight games because of a neck injury, but Addai's ability as a pass blocker is what could be critical against the blitz-heavy Jets Saturday. “That’s what we think is special about him is that he is a physical guy that can pass protect, yet can run routes and get open,” Manning said. “Not many guys can do both really well. Usually the quicker guys, the good route runners, don’t protect as well, (and) the bigger blocking guys don’t run routes as well. Joe gives you that good versatility. I’m excited to have him back in the lineup. I know he’s glad to be back out there. He’ll play a pivotal role out there.”
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