Over the weekend I was sleepily perusing the Colts stories and pages on the internet. After the win, life was puttering along until BAM. Like a splash of cold water I opened Phil Richard's Saturday article and saw the headline: Colt's Satisfied Titan's Johnson Didn't Beat Them.
Panicked, I scrolled down looking for good news... It only got worse.
A paragraph later was Jim Cadwell's quote:
"You just hope that it's not enough to really destroy you. I think we were able to keep him [Chris Johnson] contained...."
I sat muttering to myself: I really hope the title isn't indicative of how the Colts really feel. I really hope the quote isn't a true representation of the mood in the locker room. I really hope that both (especially the quote) were contrived media drab intended to slip under the radar.
Because otherwise.... we are screwed!
The Colts were somehow satisfied giving up 111 rushing yards, 1 touchdown and another 68 yards receiving to a guy who had only broken the 100-yard mark in 2 of his previous 6 games?
The Colt's coaching staff was somehow reassured by the fact that the defense gave up 179 yards total offense to one player?
Jim Cadwell was somehow ok allowing 28 points to a team that hadn't scored a touchdown in the previous 8 quarters?
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?
I don't care how bad the run defense has been or how phenomenal Chris Johnson was last year, giving up 179 yards to anyone but the quarterback is atrocious. 179 yards was his season high in total yards for Chris Johnson, yet straight-faced Jim Cadwell came out and said "I think we were able to keep him contained?" That is some broad definition of contained.
If a team that started a decrepit QB, had only one weapon and as a unit was clearly in an offensive funk came out and scored 28 points on my defense, I would be furious. But straight faced Jim Cadwell, he just was hoping not to be destroyed.
That is not the attitude of a championship team. Plain and simple. We are going into what is the most important regular season game many of our long time veterans have ever played in a Colts uniform and our coach is hoping not to get destroyed... Shocking.
Where is the intensity? Where is the pride? Where is the confidence?
Even as one of the biggest Colts homers, I couldn't spin this one. I am sure Jim Cadwell is more emotional behind closed doors and I am sure he was purposely avoiding bulletin board material. It doesn't matter - its the wrong approach. The article was dripping with defeat and players take notice. Negative words like "destroyed" creep into the player's psyches and over time begin to take their toll.
Instead of "Let's Go! Let's show Mojo who we are, what we are made of. Let's play smash-mouth Clint Session football," players start to think "I hope we hold on.. O man Mojo is so good, I hope he doesn't embarrass us..."
Missed tackles linger, the negativity of the coaches words persist and soon its a downward spiral of self pity and defeat.
I will always remember in 2007 after the Colts pasted the Ravens on Sunday Night Football putting up 44 points on them, the next day, Ray Lewis came out and said that it was a fluke and a bad day. We are fine he declared. He promised Raven nation that they shouldn't worry and that the following week they would go out and dominate.
It was a display of confidence and during a year in which they finished 5-11 a mighty balsy one at that. Yet it wasn't trash talk because they believed in themselves and knew they were better and had proved it before.
But hell, give the Jags something to throw on their locker room wall. Go out and challenge your team; show your defense that you have confidence that even against Mojo's best shot, they can stop him. It's not like the Jags aren't going to be pumped up anyway.
Such brazen courage in the biggest moments is needed, but probably wont materialize.
Since Dungy, the mantra has been the same. Don't change anything, approach every game the same way, maintain that even keeled temperament throughout. For the long grind of the regular season, its perfect. Look at our record over the past decade. No one is better. The model is a beacon of consistency and a testament to the strong characters' of our last two coaches.
It's also so monotonous its almost boring...which may be part of the problem.
Maybe there is a reason we stall in the playoffs. Over a few seasons (or even the course of just one) confident cocky teams usually flare out. They become unglued and undisciplined. Guys play inspired football and put up huge numbers for 3 or 4 weeks and then burn out. The system collapses and the coach gets kicked out the door.
Not in Indy.
Dungy and Cadwell preach consistency and patience throughout. The problem is, in the biggest games nothing seems to change with the Colts while other coaches (Sean Payton comes to mind) conjure passion with bold risks (on side kicks) and extreme intensity. At the same time Manning is preaching work ethic, Rodney Harrison, James Harrison and others are on the sidelines stirring up wild furry and an aura of indestructible confidence.
The result in the playoffs has been that against the good teams, the Colts come out flat and fall behind. Same story every year... except - that one glorious year - 2006. The difference? Confidence. The D was inspired, fired up, galvanized.
The vaunted Larry Johnson? STUFFED. 32 yards on 14 carries. In Baltimore - the same thing. The Indy D was magnificent.
But, against the Pats, that low key approach crept back out. By half-time admit it, we all thought we were doomed.
Then something happened. The Colts stampeded out and played one of the most inspired animated halves that they have played and guess what? We won.
For the Colts, this game is the playoffs. We lose and rebuilding the offensive line starts earlier than normal.
It's not time for that just yet. We are the Colts and we play in January.
Its time to cut the loser-mentality crap and get that belief. We are about to face three of the best backs in the league. The challenge couldn't be an steeper. The only way we are going to get through this and
sneak stampede into the playoffs is if the defense can rise to the occasion.
Can they do it? Of course. Let's just hope Cadwell takes time to remind them that.
Ultimately, the Playoffs is about confidence, belief, and health.
We know the Colts aren't healthy and must already overcome that. Let's just hope they find some of the other two...
I believe they will. I still believe in Blue.