clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Colts have chance for deep run thanks to Chris Ballard, Frank Reich, and Andrew Luck

Dallas Cowboys v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Entering the 2018-19 regular season the Indianapolis Colts weren’t very fond of the number 32 and the word rebuild.

That’s what media and football spectators coined the Colts. A team that found itself with a huge question-mark at quarterback and several other positions. With all those concerns, Indianapolis was labeled No. 32. 32 as in the 32nd ranked team in the preseason rankings.

The Colts head coach knew it wasn’t a rebuild and he knew he had a group of guys that is better than the No. 32 label.

Fast forward 17 weeks, Reich was right.

“I never thought it was a rebuild,” Reich said to reporters after the Week 17 win over the Tennessee Titans. “Chris (Ballard) and I would talk, he had the perspective at the end that we talked about building. We talked about building. We talked about where we were at, and goals that we had. I took myself out of that equation from the beginning. I just wanted to say one thing up front that I’ve got one thing on my mind, and that’s to win this year, and that’s what our expectation is.”

The expectation came to fruition when the Colts earned their 10th win of the season, knocking the Titans out of the playoffs with a 33-17 win. That victory capped off a 2018 regular season in which Indianapolis won nine of its last 10 games.

That doesn’t happen over night, and the 32nd ranked team in the league wouldn’t be able to achieve such a feat.

The Colts did, and they were motivated.

“We have the players to do it,” Reich said. “We don’t want to hear everything about what everybody said about the roster. We were ranked 32nd in all preseason polls. We talked about that, and then we were ranked 32nd after the draft with that draft we had. I like where we’re at.”

Whenever Luck is 100 percent healthy, the Colts have a chance to win each game. With Luck finding his old self again, the Colts needed other roster members to step-up to relieve some pressure off the franchise quarterback.

Chris Ballard did that, finding players such Quenton Nelson, Eric Ebron, Dontrelle Inman, Mark Glowinski, Nyheim Hines, Tyquan Lewis, Braden Smith, Malik Hooker, and so forth.

Ballard’s campaign started off on a bumpy road, as the Colts won just five games in 22 attempts. That had the Indianapolis fan base concerned about their new general manager. Those yells and whispers are forgotten as Ballard’s roster build has the Colts primed for a playoff run outside of this season.

“I can’t say enough about Chris (Ballard) and everything he’s done to make this happen,” Reich said. “The emphasis on character, the draft that we had, the leadership that we’re getting from the guys in the draft – not just great players, but strong players. Obviously, Chris (Ballard) is at the forefront of that.”

Even at 1-5, the Colts knew they had a chance for something special. With close losses to the Cincinnati Bengals, Philadelphia Eagles, and Houston Texans, the guys in the locker room stuck together like glue.

The glue never wore off, which made the win over the Titans in Week 17 that much more special.

“We’re excited,” Luck said. “I’m so proud of the guys on this team. I sincerely love being on this team. I really enjoy those guys in the locker room, the coaches, the help, everybody. It’s a great group of guys. You can’t do it without a strong locker room. You can’t. It’s what this league’s about. Coach put a great group together. Frank (Reich) leading the charge, awesome. We’ve been in playoff mode for a long time now, we really have and honestly, I think that helps. It helps us when we are in a so called ‘win and in’ situation. Things don’t change this weekend now; it’s the same. Excited, very happy, certainly proud to be a Colt.”

The Colts became the second team in the history of the National Football League to clinch a playoff berth despite starting 1-5.

Don’t tell Luck that this group isn’t special.

“I’ll be honest when you’re in the weeds of it and you’re in it, it’s hard to sort of step back and appreciate it. I know for my personality, at least it is. Frank (Reich) mentioned something about maybe being the second team in NFL history to do what we’ve done and that’s great. That’s awesome. We’re just excited to have another opportunity to go play again. I guess to answer your question, it’s a little hard to step back and look at it from that perspective now.”

Next up, Houston.