The Colts played well in the NFL’s ultimate week against the Houston Texans. The Colts opened with a 75-yard touchdown drive, capped by a one-yard Andrew Luck TD pass to rookie Coby Fleener. An energized defense, a Deji Karim 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a 70-yard TD pass from Luck to T.Y. Hilton was enough to drown the misfiring Texans.
Andrew Luck and Reggie Wayne played the first series of the second half. After a three-and-out defensive stop, Luck and Wayne came out again and again. On the first possession of the fourth quarter Luck found himself lead blocking on an outside run play.
The Colts ate clock in the fourth quarter and still Luck and Wayne are on the field. Is that Wayne squaring up against the Texans’ linebackers? Is that Luck driving for a first down on a QB sneak?
I don’t care how tough you think you and your team are, this is professional malfeasance, plain and simple. The risk of injury was only part of the consideration in resting players. The more important reason to rest key players is from the perspective of physically recovering for the Wild Card game.
There is simply no competitive advantage to Luck and Wayne finishing this game.
But if your players need to prove something to themselves at this point in the season, then the team has a deficiency that one well-played game is not going to fix.
The science is clear, human bodies need time to recover from heavy exertion and performance declines over time if the body is not allowed time to recover. All of the moxy and mojo in the world can’t make the human body recover faster.
Pagano should have taken a cue from his former mentor, John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens, and rested his key skill players. Earlier in the week Pagano said something to the effect that his players were 16-game players. Fine. Why should that 16th game be a meaningless game rather than the first game of the one-and-done playoffs?
After the game Pagano was smiling and the fans were cheering. Over in Cincinnati, on the Ravens sideline, John Harbaugh was smiling with his team behind 23-14. Why is the coach of a losing team relaxed and smiling? What does the coach who has taken his team to the playoffs four years in a row know?
So the Colts beat their AFC rival, whoop de freakin’ do. Everyone knows the ultimate goal of every competitive team is a championship and the Colts just lowered the probability of making that happen.
Mark my words, the Colts will rue this coaching decision in the AFC Wild Card game. Had the Colts rested their key skill players I would have picked them to win on Wild Card Weekend. Instead, they face a rested and tested Ravens team that will pound them out of the stadium.
Of course, I’ve been wrong before.
How far do you think the Colts will go?