Cheer up, Colts fans, and welcome to what should be an exciting off-season. Today, we’re going to discuss how this team believes they’ll better for the experience gained on Sunday. We’ll also talk about red zone inefficiency, and big game hunting…so to speak.
This Will Make Them Better
After their storybook season ended in defeat on Sunday, twenty-one different Colts players can call themselves playoff-tested for the first time. This team was as inexperienced as it was out-manned on Wild Card Weekend. Of course, the hope is that what happened on Sunday will galvanize and prepare the young core of players for some sustained playoff runs in the future. Meanwhile, there is finally the time to reflect on this character-building experience.
Chuck Pagano, though he certainly wasn’t satisfied, was pleased with how his young team kept fighting on Sunday, and all season. “We had opportunities, just watching this team fight and fight and fight, week in and week out,” he said. “To accomplish what they accomplished. I told them all, when you walk out of here, you hold your head high and be very, very proud of how you played this game, how you’ve represented this organization. We talk about legacy a lot and trust, loyalty and respect and things like that. And they did that. They should be very, very proud of themselves. And again, how they carried themselves and how they represented the ‘shoe.’”
Pagano believes the experience and the bitter taste of playoff defeat will make his team better and that, “The disappointment and the feelings that they all have right now, that’s what is going to propel us to 2013. That’s what’s going to motivate us to come back and work even harder. We’ve got a young group, as you know, and we’ve got a bright future.”
This team will need to do some serious spending in 2013 to get up to the minimum of 89% of the salary cap. They have some important holes to fill at offensive line, interior defensive line, and defensive back. If the Colts can improve in those areas, to go with the intangible of playoff experience, this team could be a force to be reckoned with in 2013.
Flat in the Red Zone
The Colts struggled mightily throughout their Wild Card playoff game against the Ravens, but they managed to move the ball surprisingly well, rolling up 419 offensive yards. They dominated time of possession, in part because of their running game, and partly because of Baltimore’s big plays on offense. The Colts went 0-3 in the red zone, however, and never crossed the goal line against the Ravens’ nearly impervious defense.
“It’s a 4 point swing, when you’re talking about touchdowns and field goals,” running back Vick Ballard said after the game. “I think that played a big part today. As it turned out, we had 3 field goals and actually missed one. If we turn those into touchdowns, it’s a whole different ball game.”
“We had our opportunities, but we couldn’t get it done,” Andrew Luck added. “We made too many mistakes and left too many plays out there. But the Baltimore defense is a great, great unit, it was great to make the playoffs but we can’t make the mistakes that we made today to advance in the playoffs.”
The Big Game Hunter
Adam Vinatieri, the Big Game Hunter (no, literally, he hunts big game in the off-season), is now the all-time NFL leader in postseason field goals made, with 48. He hit 76% (26 of 34) of his attempts with New England and improved to a very impressive 92% (22 of 24) in these past seven seasons with the Colts. His miss from 40 yards out was the first time he’s ever missed a field goal attempt against Baltimore (18 of 19).
After the game, Vinatieri was more focused on that one frustrating miss than anything else. “In games like this, you have to make them all,” he said. “Obviously the one I will remember is the 40-yarder that I missed. If I made it, who knows how the momentum would go from there. We may have comeback and won, you just never know. The feeling in our locker room isn’t real good but we have a lot to build on. We just have to bust our butts in the off season, and come back.”
Vinatieri already held the record for most points scored in playoff history, and extended it from 183 to 192, according to the Colts. The NFL postseason records pdf says his previous total was 187, which would of course put him at 196 in his 24 career postseason games. Either way, Adam Vinatieri has had a thoroughly impressive postseason career that many believe will eventually land him in the Hall of Fame.
Samson Satele on Andrew Luck: “The best quarterback I’ve ever played with—smart, tough. He took some hits this year. It’s amazing how he just got up and just smiled at the guy, and telling him, ‘You got me,’ and then he got up and played the next play. We’ve got to do a better job next year protecting him.”
Tom Zbikowski on Luck: “He’s a great player. He’s only going to get better. He’s the type of player who is going to come back, and learn from his mistakes, and continue to grow as a professional.”
Ravens Coach John Harbaugh on Luck: They have a great football team. And, that Andrew Luck – he’s going to be around for a long time. He made play after play out there. Hats off to them. I thought they played exceptionally well.”
Last but not least, Jim Irsay, on the 2012 Season: “This year was incredible. It was special and unique in so many ways. It was one of the most special seasons in the Colts history and probably NFL history. I couldn’t have imagined how this season would have played out. We had a coach fighting for his life; we re-organized, won 11 games, and went to the playoffs. We just didn’t get it done today, I knew we would fight. To say that our future is bright is an understatement.”
One final thing, if you’re in need of a pick-me-up after the crushing defeat, here is a great highlight video of the comeback win over the Packers, mashed up with Pagano’s surprisingly prophetic minicamp speech, from NFL Turning Point on NBC Sports.
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