Colts can clinch AFC South title at Houston
INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts spent the entire offseason talking about the importance of winning back the AFC South title.
Now with the unbeaten Colts on the verge of achieving their first major goal, they'd rather the discussion be about anything else. They insist Sunday's trip to Houston is just another game.
"No, I did not know that," left tackle Charlie Johnson said when asked Wednesday whether he could recite the division-clinching scenario.
If the Colts (10-0) beat the Texans for the 15th time in 16 games and Jacksonville loses at San Francisco, Indy will be AFC South champs for the sixth time in seven years. It would ensure Indy of hosting its first playoff game at Lucas Oil Stadium, not that anybody dare mention it so soon.
Players like Johnson and rookie receiver Austin Collie insist they are so focused on this week's task — just winning on the road — they didn't have time to consider the bigger picture.
"There's a sign in our locker room, you've probably seen it toward the weight room, and it's a quote from Joe Paterno," coach Jim Caldwell said. "It says, 'Take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves.' So what I do is talk about what we need to do to win. I figure if we prepare like we have been all along, everything else will take care of itself."
Things have gone perfectly for Caldwell so far.
He's the first rookie coach in league history to start a season 10-0 and he's tied Wally Lemm for most consecutive wins to start a career, though it took Lemm two stops to do it — winning nine straight with the Houston Oilers in 1961 and the 1962 season opener with the St. Louis Cardinals.
What's most impressive is how the Colts are winning.
The last four victories have come by four points or fewer. The previous four all came by double digits. Indy has needed defensive stops to end comebacks and needed three-time MVP Peyton Manning to lead both frantic rallies and deliberate drives.
That combination has given Indy a chance to clinch arguably the NFL's strongest division earlier than anybody could have projected two months ago. The four AFC South teams have a combined total of 25 wins, the most in the NFL, and even when division leaders are excluded from the equation only the NFC East can match the AFC South with 15 victories.
So the Colts don't want to waste an opportunity to lock things up.
"We've been playing well. We're undefeated, and we do have a tough division," defensive lineman Raheem Brock said. "So we want to get that clinched as early as possible."
Veterans who remember the 13-0 start in 2005, then the embarrassment of losing in the divisional round, call discussion about a perfect season premature. The winning streak, which is now two wins short of New England's record set from 2006-08, is off limits, too.
Clinching the division this weekend isn't high on the discussion list, either.
"We've really not thought about that or talked about that," Manning said. "All we're preparing for is to go down there and beat Houston."
Then they can focus on the other goals — earning the AFC's top seed, assuring themselves of not playing outdoors between the regular-season finale at Buffalo and the Super Bowl in Miami and hoisting the Lombardi Trophy for the second time in four years.
It's all part of the plan.
"Winning the division is the only way you guarantee yourself anything, that's what we've said since training camp," Johnson said. "That's the goal we set."
And now it's within reach.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Agent: Polamalu undecided whether to play in 2015
- Starkey: In defense of Mel Kiper Jr.
- No tag for Worilds; Steelers cut Moore
- Steelers not limiting themselves in free agency
- Steelers restructure Gilbert, Mitchell contracts; Pouncey close
- Steelers’ Harrison announces desire to play one more year
- Big names become available this week via free agency; will Steelers be tempted?