Cumberland Times-News

Local Sports

January 3, 2014

Colts try to ease pressure for playoff game

Colts coach Chuck Pagano has kept

it loose all week.

He’s been

cracking

jokes, encouraging

laughter

and trying to

put football in

perspective.

He does not

want Saturday’s playoff game

to change the routine, so he is

imploring the Colts to make

this business as usual — even

with the Chiefs coming to

town for a wild-card game.

“It’s no time to pressure up.

It’s no time to get outside of

anything you’ve done at this

point,” Pagano said. “You

come in, you meet, you have a

walkthrough, you practice

well and then you play well.

Don’t do anything different.

Just understand what’s at

stake. It is one-and-done.

That doesn’t mean go play

tight and those types of

things and put any added

pressure on yourself. You do

that and you’re not going to

play well.”

Pagano has seen what happens

when teams play tight.

So have Colts fans, more

times than they care to count.

It’s not easy making a playoff

week seem normal.

There are all sorts of potential

distractions — ticket

requests, travel plans, holiday

celebration, even unforeseen

medical emergencies. Last

year, just before their wildcard

game at Baltimore,

Colts offensive coordinator

Bruce Arians was hospitalized.

Indy managed only

three field goals in a 24-9 loss

as a bunch of Colts made

their postseason debuts; Arians

turned out to be OK and

wound up getting hired by the

Cardinals.

But the Colts’ youngsters

learned some key lessons

that have helped this time

around.

“There can be a little more

focus during the week. There

can be some more distractions.

That’s where you really

need to sort of hunker down,”

quarterback Andrew Luck

said. “As far as playing the

game and practice, we’ve gotten

to this point doing some

things well. Let’s keep doing

those.”

Now, it’s the Chiefs’ turn.

Coach Andy Reid and new

general manager John

Dorsey followed the same

plan Pagano and Ryan Grigson

used to rebuild the Colts

— new coach, new GM, new

quarterback, new roster.

Kansas City, like the Colts,

went from 2-14 to 11-5 and

back to the playoffs with nearly

two dozen first- or secondyear

guys.

A few of the playoff veterans

now find themselves

explaining to teammates

what to expect Saturday.

“I know my first time, I

acted like a rookie. I was

excited and fumbled the ball

twice,” AFC rushing champ

Jamaal Charles said. “Now

I’m going in my second time

and seeing other people,

becoming a vet, 27 years old, I

really want this, I really want

to go far, and if I have to put

the team on my back, I will.”

Former Colts coach Tony

Dungy usually told players

something else — most playoff

games are lost rather than

won and the teams that fare best stick to the plan. Translation:

Trying to do too much

will only get you and your

teammates in trouble.

Many of Dungy’s pupils,

including NFL sacks champs

Robert Mathis, still abide by

that philosophy. Mathis has

spent the last two Januarys

telling teammates all they

really have to do is match

their opponents’ intensity, pay

attention to the details, do

their jobs and trust teammates

to do theirs — the same

approach Indy has used all

season. But when it comes

from the mouth of someone

who has played in Super

Bowls and won one, the words

carry more clout.

“You can be too loose to

where you’re overconfident,

arrogant. But you can be too

tight to where you’re wound

up and you can’t play football

that way,” Mathis said. “You

have to have fun. This is a

kid’s game so you have to

approach it as such. Have fun.

Just do what you got here.

That’s what I always tell my

young guys. Do what got you

here and you’ll be all right.”

Exhibit 1 came in the last

playoff meeting between these

teams.

Back in January 2007, Indy’s

heavily maligned run defense

faced one of the most feared

rushers in football, Larry

Johnson. Instead of being run

over, Mathis & Co. limited

Johnson to 32 yards on 13 carries,

won 23-8 and a month

later won the Super Bowl in

rainy Miami.

The trick is finding the right

balance when the stakes are

so high.

“Nine years, three postseason

appearances. You’re very

fortunate when you get here,”

Chiefs linebacker Derrick

Johnson said. “My message to

the young guys is you have to

take advantage of this. You

never know when you’ll get

back. It’s not the time to play

uptight. It’s the time to go all

out.”

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