Last season, as the Colts headed off to Baltimore for the Wild Card round of the playoffs, it was the end of a wild and emotional ride. On top of that, many of the most important offensive players were rookies getting their first taste of the NFL postseason and all its intensity. It was the end of the longest season they’d ever played, followed by an even longer Ray Lewis tribute video.
This year has a vastly different feel. While certainly not perfect or especially healthy, the Colts, playing at home this time around, have beaten their last three opponents by an average of 19 points, are better than they were in 2012, and they’re a little older and more ready (not that they weren't "ready" for the playoffs before).
“There’s kind of, to a certain degree, levels,” Coby Fleener said yesterday. “There’s the preseason. Then as a rookie, you go into regular season and that’s another eye-opening experience. Then the playoffs is just another step up in that order. So this year I would say that maybe I’m not more comfortable, but I’m better prepared.”
Earlier in the week, Andrew Luck talked about being a little more comfortable going in with more experience as well. “I think just having experience,” he said contrasting this postseason with the last. “I don’t know if I can rattle things off my head. Just knowing it’s ‘one-and-done.’ Having that experience is always helpful. I feel more comfortable this year as a football player in this league because of that experience.”
The game could go either way, of course, but playing at home and not having to rely on so many inexperienced rookies should be major boosts for the Colts, who 1 to 2.5 point favorites, depending on the odds-maker.
To help keep our wonderful non-local Colts fans from all over the world up to speed, that Bjoern pun (Bjoern pjun?) in the heading is a partial reference to the Indiana Pacers’ Lance Stephenson).
Rookie outside linebacker Bjoern Werner, who is nursing an ankle injury but practiced yesterday, has been on a bit of a roll lately. Werner has been backing up Erik Walden and Robert Mathis while learning a new position this year, but he had little to show for it on the stat sheet until recently.
Over the last three weeks, despite averaging just 26 snaps per game, Werner has racked up 4 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 QB hurries (PFF), a pass deflection, and a tackle for a loss. He's been busy.
Werner’s progress has caught the eye of Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky too. “With all the rookies it’s the same way,” he said yesterday. “There’s always a rookie wall because you’re not used to doing the same thing over and over and over for as many weeks as we have starting with training camp and going all the way through.
“With all the young guys, they keep on forcing the issue. I think the way they just have to keep on working at their craft and that’s what he’s been doing since he’s been here. He’s had some progress over the last couple weeks and we look forward to him continuing to do that.”
If Werner can play and be a threat to the opposing quarterback in the playoffs, it will take some of the heat – and double teams – off Robert Mathis, which can only help. Werner looks more ready than he has all season, and the Colts need him.
Yes, we’re already here, but there are some good quotes in the leftovers today, so here goes.
Coby Fleener says nothing can prepare a person for the playoffs other than…the playoffs: “No, people try to explain it to you and try to tell you what to expect but until you’re in that moment, you don’t really grasp the full experience.”
Antoine Bethea on turnovers: “That’s huge. I think that’s one of the top three things that any defense wants. Being able to get off on third down and turnovers. Turnovers are big for us. Being able to get our offense and Andrew (Luck) back on the field, that goes a long way. These past three games, being able to get turnovers and get Andrew and the offense back on the field, you see they put some good numbers up these past three weeks. So if we can continue to do that throughout the playoffs, that’ll take us a long way.”
Trent Richardson on what he was doing last year at this time: “Oh yeah, I was planning on what I was going to be doing for my offseason, how I was going to get better or how we were going to rebuild the team or where I was going to take my vacation to. I never had an offseason like that, so it was different. It was different.”
Richardson, answering a follow up question, said he’s made no such plans yet this year: “No, I’m not looking towards taking no vacation right now. I’m looking to playing next week and the week after that and the week after that. That’s my plans and that’s where my head is at.”
Pep Hamilton on having a franchise-caliber quarterback: “Yeah, that’s where it all starts. That’s where it all starts. The quarterback is the one guy you can count on touching the ball every single play offensively. We have the good fortune of having a quote-unquote franchise-caliber quarterback. Having won 22 regular season games in his first two years is just a testament to his talent and his commitment to excellence in a sense. It’s important to him. He works hard at it. And we’ve all reaped the benefits of Andrew’s many talents.”
All quotes are couresy of the Indianapolis Colts PR Department.