Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Colts could ride comeback long way

Win over Chiefs might instill sense of destiny

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Professional football teams battle and joust with one another all season long, often for something that ends up being completely useless: the bye week. It doesn't matter if you made the playoffs by hook or crook, and whether you're the first seed or the sixth seed; as long as you get in, anything can happen.

In the CFL this year, the Toronto Argonauts won the Eastern Division and the Calgary Stampeders took the West. They did everything in their powers to ensure and secure they had a "win and in" scenario. They had an extra week of rest, an extra week of preparation and an extra week of game planning. All they had to do was win one game at home. Neither team could get it done.

We see it happen so many times it makes you wonder why football teams kick the hell out of each other to acquire something that so seldom pays dividends. It is a season-long investment with zero guaranteed return.

It is an accomplishment, for sure, to be one of the best teams in the regular season and to earn a week off. But those teams that think this affords them anything other than an extra seven days to get rusty and lose momentum are due for an unpleasant wake-up call.

What we saw in the CFL this year was not an aberration. You can spend hours analyzing matchups and trends and histories, when often the only thing you have to look at is who won most recently.

The confidence a single victory can instill in a team can change everything about them. Confidence can make you believe you can do things you previously never thought possible. Confidence can make a team believe they can overcome any obstacle and are destined for greatness. Confidence is what no one in the NFL playoffs has right now to the same degree as the Indianapolis Colts.

Saturday's wild-card game between the Colts and the Kansas City Chiefs was truly wild. The 31 first-half points put up by the Chiefs was a record. No road team in the history of the NFL had ever scored so many points in the first half of a playoff game. The Kansas City offence was playing out of this world, and offence was the only advantage the Colts were supposed to have going into this game.

Then there was the comeback. Down by 28 points in the third quarter, Andrew Luck and the Colts orchestrated a feat only the 1992 Buffalo Bills have surpassed. They overcame this margin, the second greatest in NFL playoff history, and defeated the Chiefs, when most people, yours truly included, had stopped watching because of how one-sided the first half had been and what a foregone conclusion it appeared to be.

There are highs of momentum and confidence in the playoffs, and then there is what the Indianapolis Colts are experiencing. When coaches talk about turning points in their seasons, emotionally uplifting games and games they look back on after championships are won, this is precisely what the Colts wild-card victory was. We have seen teams rally around overcoming far less adversity -- the New York Giants come to mind -- and accomplish the ultimate goal.

The question now is whether that will be enough for the Colts to beat the New England Patriots. Is it sufficient to convince the roster they are destined for greatness?

The Colts are a good team with mediocre offensive and defensive stats who have shocked the world this season with wins over the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos. And as you would expect with a team led by a sometimes erratic second-year QB, they also lost to the Arizona Cardinals, St. Louis Rams and Miami Dolphins.

While "getting hot" at the right time may be the most important thing in the playoffs, it can't be said with any degree of certainty that will be enough to defeat the twin powers of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

But if they do, the momentum the Colts will then carry will be too much for anyone to stop.


Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.

Twitter: @DougBrown97

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 7, 2014 C6

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