The Indianapolis Colts pulled a rabbit out of the hat once again today, defeating the Tennessee Titans 27-23. For the Colts, it marked their ninth victory of the season, eight of them by a margin of a touchdown or less. Additionally, the Colts overcame yet another halftime deficit to post the win. The word "improbable" is quickly becoming one that doesn't apply to these Colts.
After the game, the players were understandably jubilant, basking in the glow of a 9-4 record. With losses today from both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, the Colts are virtually assured one of the two wild card spots for the playoffs. Should Houston lose tomorrow night in New England, it's still conceivable that the Colts could take the AFC South with two of their remaining three games left against the Texans.
To a man, the Colts I talked to didn't want to hear about any of that. They were uniform in insisting that today was about today and tomorrow would be about preparing for Houston next week. There would be no talk of playoffs or any speculations about scenarios from this group. Reggie Wayne went so far as to theorize that the ability to remain so focused on the task at hand was the main reason behind the Colts' success this season.
Wayne was also proud of his young teammates. He took in their joy and reflected on it after the game:
"I'm just happy to see these guys excited, these rookies, these second-year guys. I'm just happy to see them enjoying the winning. For the second year guys that were on this team last year, it's like night and day."
Wayne, who has known nothing but winning during his Colts' career, save for last season, there is a mature sense of satisfaction in passing that torch on to the next generation wearing the horse shoe. He's not surprised, however, that these young guys have comes so far so fast.
"You saw glimpses of it in camp. As weeks went on, you saw what these guys are capable of."
Wayne also has been one who has carried the mantle of mutual accountability, insisting that his teammates realize their responsibilities to one another. After a first half play saw rookie TE Coby Fleener whiff on a block, Wayne was quick to remind his teammate that it was his man who dropped him for a loss.
" We're accounting for each other. It was his guy that tackled me. He's got to make that block, just like when he's got the ball he's expecting me to make the block. Sometimes things just have to be said."
While Reggie said he didn't have much to say at halftime when the Colts trailed 20-7, another veteran, Cory Redding, had plenty to tell his teammates.
“A lot was said at halftime. A lot of stuff was said at halftime. Coaches are talking. Players are talking. I’m talking that’s why I’m hoarse but when men get challenged to stand up, when men get challenged to stand up, they stand up and that’s what we’ve done these last few weeks in getting these wins. We found another way to win.”
The Colts are winning behind rookies at key positions, but if not for the veteran presence of players like Wayne, Redding, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, it's doubtful they would be where they are today. It's their leadership by example that has allowed these new players to assimilate proper work habits as they've begun their NFL careers.
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