Heading into Sunday's finale with the Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis has won three in a row and can finally see the playoffs in the near distance.
"We knew we had to win out. That's the thing we've always been focused on, this quarter we have to make certain whomever we play, we go out and get a win," Colts coach Jim Caldwell said after the team's recent win over Oakland.
"We weren't worried about (playoff) scenarios and all that kind of stuff. Everybody else can worry about that. We've got to focus in on what we're doing."
So the bottom line is this — win against the Titans and Indianapolis will be the 2010 AFC South champion and host a first-round playoff game the weekend of Jan. 8-9.
A loss, though, coupled with a win by Jacksonville at Houston on Sunday, and the Colts stay home. It can't get much simpler than that.
- "When I get my opportunities, I try to do the best with them. That's something I've done my whole career. I got the opportunity to play (Sunday) a lot and I took advantage of it." — RB Dominic Rhodes on his 98-yard rushing performance against the Raiders.
- "Even though right now he's the oldest back, he seems like the youngest back just how he acts. You need somebody like that. I've been in this game a long time and he's probably got the best attitude of any player I've ever been around. He lightens the locker room each and every week." -- RB Joseph Addai on 31-year old RB Dominic Rhodes.
- WR Reggie Wayne became the seventh player in NFL history with at least three seasons of 100 or more receptions: Jerry Rice (4), Marvin Harrison (4), Reggie Wayne (3), Herman Moore (3), Brandon Marshall (3), Wes Welker (3) and Andre Johnson (3).
- QB Peyton Manning started his 207th consecutive game against Oakland, tying him with late Raiders offensive guard Gene Upshaw for the most to start a career at any position.
- RB Joseph Addai came out of the Oakland game feeling better than he did going into the contest. Addai had missed the previous eight games as he recovered from nerve damage in his left shoulder.
"You go into a game certainly when you have been inactive as long as Joe has been, you have some questions as to, 'OK, how well will I handle this hit?' Because we cannot emulate the hits he will take in a ballgame in practice. So there are some unknowns," Caldwell explained. "There is some uncertainty there. I think after he got in there and took a couple of hits and made a couple of runs, he felt really good about his progress and he could handle the rigors of the game once again."
- WR Austin Collie's absence will be felt as the Colts head into their final game of the regular season and on into the postseason if they can beat Tennessee on Sunday.
Despite missing playing time this year with a wrist/thumb injury as well as his concussion issues, Collie remains tied for second on the team in receptions with 58 for 649 yards and had a team-high eight touchdown catches in just nine games. He had 60 total catches and seven TDs in 16 games as a rookie last year.
- WR Reggie Wayne understands that as much as he wants to be an integral part of the Colts' offensive attack, the ability to run the football is also key.
"The offensive line the last couple of weeks has answered the bell and just stepped up to the challenge and made us a running team," said Wayne. "We are definitely going to have to keep it that way. It makes defenses have to be honest, (and) nobody can just sit back and play pass."
- TE Jacob Tamme has proven to be a more than capable fill-in for injured Pro Bowl TE Dallas Clark, who is sidelined for the season with a wrist/hand injury.
Tamme, despite seeing very limited playing time on offense since being selected in the fourth round of the 2008 NFL draft, has hauled in 60 passes for 564 yards and four touchdowns this year. The 60 receptions and four TD catches are both single-season career-bests.
- DT Antonio Johnson may have played his best game of the season in the win over Oakland. Johnson, nicknamed "Mookie," got increased playing time with starter Daniel Muir sidelined with a chest injury.
"He flew around. He ran around well. Particularly, you probably saw him run down that screen which was impressive," Caldwell said.
"Mook, for a big man, when he sets his mind to it, he can go. Mook gives you everything he's got. He's tough in there in the middle and I really thought he stepped up and played and played well."
- CB Kelvin Hayden has missed the last two games with a pinched nerve in his neck. Hayden had thought that he would be able to play against Jacksonville two weeks ago and had two good days of practices before having issues with the pinched nerve again.
"He had a bit of an episode during practice a couple of weeks ago now. So he is still in the process of mending and being evaluated at the same time," the Colts coach said.
- LB Gary Brackett says that the Colts have played improved defense, especially against the run in recent weeks, due to simplifying some things in the game plan.
"Perhaps he is referring to the fact is that one of the things in the last several weeks that we have been trying to preach is speed and simplicity," Caldwell explained.
"We have tried to boil it down to those things and we try to make things as simple as we possibly can in terms of our game plan so guys can use what God has given them as an attribute and that is the ability to run."
- It's hard to tell that RB Dominic Rhodes is 31 years old. He'd rather refer to himself as 31 years young.
"He has exhibited some youthfulness out there, and I think that has kind of been his trademark," the Colts coach said.
"Dom has always had that great spirit about him, and he displays that when he gets the ball under his arm."
- While DE Dwight Freeney's individual game statistics are somewhat meager sometimes, the Colts' coaching staff knows that his important to the team's defensive effort goes far beyond numbers.
"Oftentimes (Freeney) may have taken up two blockers that allowed a linebacker to scrape around the corner and make a play, which did happen on a number of occasions. Also, you will probably see situations where there may have been a couple of guys staying in to focus on Dwight, and there may have been two or three guys trying to get him from going to the passer," Caldwell said.
"What that does is limit their route running down the field, it doesn't take away the under coverage, it allows us to get a double where we ordinarily would not have had one and things of that nature. It all ties in together. Oftentimes, simply because of just the shear numbers, you do not get a good sense of how an individual played."
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