It never gets old, does it?
For the fifth consecutive season, the Indianapolis Colts have claimed the title of AFC South Champions. They do so even before concluding the regular season or division schedule with the division rival Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans left on deck.
While other teams around the NFL continue to grab headlines from the defending champs, the 12-2 Colts continue to fly under the radar, even after conquering the toughest division in football and arguably their most impressive division title to date.
“This one is gratifying in a lot of ways; we knew we had the target on us all year,” said head coach Tony Dungy. “We knew how tough the division was going to be. I think you can see that. It’s a very tough division, to win when everybody was shooting for us; people talk about the post Super Bowl letdown and all that. We haven’t experienced that.”
With two final home contests and a bye ahead before another meaningful snap is taken, the Colts again find themselves primed for a post season run, something that was far from guaranteed in a season dominated by injury.
Though the team was favored to “five-peat” in the AFC South, quarterback Peyton Manning added the team’s penchant for division dominance is not getting old.
“In my 10 years, you never take a win for granted,” he said. “You never take a chance to win the division for granted. It’s a good accomplishment, but certainly we want to keep it in perspective and context and try to keep winning.”
Having been here before, what the Colts do to maintain consistency during this time is all that matters as their regular season comes to a close. The AFC’s No. 2 seed is in the enviable position of finding a balance that allows starters to rest, gains inexperienced talent time on the field and most importantly, avoids any other injuries prior to the start of the playoffs.
According to safety Bob Sanders, the reality of their position will not equate to a lull on the field, no matter who is out there. He added that with much work left to be done, the team does not consider their final two contests meaningless. In fact, they are more like tune ups.
“We’ve still got a lot of work left to do, but it’s definitely a good feeling anytime you can sew (the division) up and you can just get ready for the playoffs and put yourself in good position, it always feels good,” he said.
A regular season filled with record-breaking performances, the Colts record of consistency has largely been overlooked despite being defending Super Bowl champions. Along with each division title, the Colts have experienced five straight seasons of at least 12 wins, a feat never before accomplished in the history of the league. It may not be the flashiest record to be achieved this year, but for Dungy and crew, it is just as sweet.
“I’m really proud of them,” said coach Tony Dungy after Sunday’s 21-14 victory over the Oakland Raiders. “It’s something that shows the consistency we’ve had, the player leadership, Jim (Irsay) and Bill Polian creating that atmosphere that we are able to win. I think it speaks to our coaching staff and the job those guys do, and the fact that we’ve had a lot of good players over the last five years.”