INDIANAPOLIS – A busy week around the Indianapolis Colts, as if New England Patriots-Colts week can be anything but. Don’t know how long Magnifient Seven will be this week.
Here goes . . .
7. Perfect situation. In thinking about themes for this week’s Magnificent Seven, one jumped out that hasn’t been much addressed nationally – the nature of the Colts entering the game.
And while they may not be massive underdogs, it’s not untrue that there are lower expectations for the Colts entering this game than there have been in a long, long time. Trying to think of a time when fewer people expected the Colts to win, one has to go back to November 2008, when the Colts were 3-4 before reeling off nine consecutive victories.
The Colts beat the New England Patriots to even their record at 4-4 that season, but they weren’t overwhelming underdogs in that game with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady being out for the season and the Patriots in the middle of a season in which they weren’t dominating.
This week feels a bit more like the week leading to the Pittsburgh game that season. The Colts never had won in Pittsburgh, and on paper, seemed a bit outmanned. They rallied from a double-digit victory in November that helped turn that season around and without which the streak of consecutive 12-victory seasons would not be ongoing.
Lesson from that day: On days when few expect the Colts to win, they usually play pretty well, and it’s silly to count them out in important games as December nears.
6.Mr. Reliable. Wide receiver Reggie Wayne didn’t practice Wednesday because of a knee injury, but was there any doubt he would figure a way to play?
Wayne hasn’t missed a start since 2002 and hasn’t missed a game since his rookie season, and if that streak doesn’t get as much notoriety nationally as that of quarterback Peyton Manning, that doesn’t make it significantly less impressive.
Manning often talks about Wayne’s reliability not only in games, but in practice, and does so when discussing how the Colts manage to improve from season to season – and within seasons. Wayne is a model of that approach, and while he has made four Pro Bowls, he somehow doesn’t always get mention as one of the game’s elite players at his position in the NFL.
That’s not something he can control, but what he has been able to do is show up for every game, and produce consistently for a long time. Games such as Sunday’s historically are the ones for which Wayne has shown up biggest – and not just last season, when he made a 1-yard game-winning catch against New England that will be remembered as one of the signature plays of his career. Historically, he has played big in the biggest of moments and has been available when needed.
Never much question he would be available this week, either.
5.Leveling the playing field. Wrote this for Fanhouse this week, and it was fascinating to hear Colts defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis talk about Brady – how difficult he is to sack, and the satisfaction they get when they reach him.
Fascinating, too, to hear Brady on Freeney and Mathis. Brady has real respect for the duo, as they do him.
A shocking statistic is that Freeney hasn’t sacked Brady since the 2004 AFC Divisional Playoff, while Mathis has sacked him four times in the last two seasons. But make no mistake: Brady considers Freeney’s the most dangerous pass rusher in he NFL, and while the Colts are beat up, as long as that duo is healthy, the Colts have a chance to disrupt New England enough to win Sunday.
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