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To Play or Not To Play: Has History Taught the Indianapolis Colts a Lesson?

Posted By Eddie Garrison On December 16, 2009 @ 2:06 pm In Colts News, Featured | No Comments

To play or not to play? That is the question the Indianapolis Colts [1] tend to struggle with around this time of year.

A question or situation I am sure 90 percent of the teams in the NFL [2] would love to have to grind over. They are almost always assured of making the postseason and more often than not have sealed up home-field advantage.

The following are the records for the Colts [1] the past five years:

14-2 (2005)
12-4 (2006)
13-3 (2007)
12-4 (2008)
13-0 (2009)*

*through week 13

As you can see, each year they have had at least 12 wins and are almost always faced with this type of late-season decision, which has, at times, haunted them.



After wrapping up another AFC South division title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs in Week 14, the Colts starters shut it down for the remaining two weeks of the season against Seattle [3] and Arizona [4].

The result was a first round loss in the divisional round to the Pittsburgh Steelers [5] and then-rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger [6] 21-18.

Colts’ fans will most remember two plays from this game: the Roethlisberger tackle after Bettis fumbled at the goal line and Mike “our idiot kicker” Vanderjagt’s wide right field goal that is still curling towards someplace other than between the goal posts.

Result: First round loss.



Starting in Week 13 and losing back-to-back games to divisional rivals Tennessee [7] and Jacksonville [8], the Colts were forced to play the starters throughout the regular season.

They ran off three straight wins against Cincinnati [9], Houston [10], and Miami [11] to go into the playoffs with momentum.

From there they went on to play Kansas City [12] in the wild-card round and busted up KC 23-8.

With that victory, they moved on to play the Ravens [13] in Baltimore and came away from there with a very hard fought 15-6 victory to setup the showdown with New England [14] in the AFC Championship game in Indy.

After trailing by 18 points at the half, Peyton Manning [15] and the Colts made one of the biggest rallies in playoff history to beat the Patriots 38-34 and move on to Miami.

They eventually beat the Chicago Bears [16] in the Super Bowl to give Manning his first Lombardi trophy.



This was the season many (including this writer) thought the Colts had a real shot at repeating as Super Bowl champs. They were basically bringing their entire team back from the year before and were now used to having some success in the postseason.

With their 13-2 record, the Colts again found themselves in a situation to rest players coming down the stretch.

So what do they do?

After beating the Texans on Dec. 23 they rested their starters the next week against the Titans and did not play another game until Jan. 13 against the San Diego Chargers [17].

The Colts’ starters had not played since Dec. 23, a 21-day lay-off for a team that is all about timing.

Result: The Chargers’ backup quarterback Billy Volek scored the game-winning touchdown on a one-yard sneak to once again knock the Colts out of the playoffs in the first round.



The 2008 season once again saw a great season from the Indianapolis Colts. However, it saw a better one from their AFC South division rivals, the Titans, who won the division with a 13-3 mark.

The Colts, unable to win the division with a 12-4 record, were forced to travel to San Diego to meet the 8-8 Chargers—the winners of the AFC West.

Again, in Week 17, the Colts elected to rest their starters for the playoffs. The result, a 23-17 overtime loss in San Diego in which the Colts never got possession of the ball after Darren Sproles broke of a 22-yard touchdown run to seal the victory and send the Colts home early.



Which now brings us to Week 14 of this NFL season. The Colts are once again in prime position heading to the playoffs with an unbeaten record of 13-0, AFC South winners, and have already clinched home-field advantage throughout the postseason.

An all too familiar place for the Colts to be in, but this year is different. There is another team with the same mark—the New Orleans Saints [18].

New head coach Jim Caldwell is a lot like his predecessor, Tony Dungy, but a little less hesitant to make different calls in similar situations.

Caldwell has said, “Healthy players will play.” Does this mean we will see the starters in the games the rest of the years? Does this mean he is going for the unbeaten regular season?

Or, does this simply mean he wants the offense, which is largely based on the timing of the receivers with Peyton Manning, to be ready and sharp heading into the playoffs?

There are more rookies and players without playoff experience, so maybe Caldwell wants them ready to play as if it were just another week of the season.

One thing is certain, the Colts are once again poised to make the playoffs in a similar fashion as they have the past five seasons.

The question is, has history taught them anything or do they continue their struggles in January?

I say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it—play ‘em.

Read more Indianapolis Colts [1] news on BleacherReport.com

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URLs in this post:

[1] Indianapolis Colts: http://bleacherreport.com/indianapolis-colts

[2] NFL: http://bleacherreport.com/nfl

[3] Seattle: http://bleacherreport.com/seattle-seahawks

[4] Arizona: http://bleacherreport.com/arizona-cardinals

[5] Pittsburgh Steelers: http://bleacherreport.com/pittsburgh-steelers

[6] Ben Roethlisberger: http://bleacherreport.com/ben-roethlisberger

[7] Tennessee: http://bleacherreport.com/tennessee-titans

[8] Jacksonville: http://bleacherreport.com/jacksonville-jaguars

[9] Cincinnati: http://bleacherreport.com/cincinnati-bengals

[10] Houston: http://bleacherreport.com/houston-texans

[11] Miami: http://bleacherreport.com/miami-dolphins

[12] Kansas City: http://bleacherreport.com/kansas-city-chiefs

[13] Ravens: http://bleacherreport.com/baltimore-ravens

[14] New England: http://bleacherreport.com/new-england-patriots

[15] Peyton Manning: http://bleacherreport.com/peyton-manning

[16] Chicago Bears: http://bleacherreport.com/chicago-bears

[17] San Diego Chargers: http://bleacherreport.com/san-diego-chargers

[18] New Orleans Saints: http://bleacherreport.com/new-orleans-saints

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