Smart move, Colts
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It only takes one freak play to end a player's season and the Colts have been victimized by freak plays sidelining key players for the playoffs. The Colts haven't lost their first round game the last two years because they rested starters. They lost them because of injuries to irreplaceable talents. Without Gary Brackett last year the Colts had no answer for Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson over the middle of the field. Without Dwight Freeney and with Mathis and Brock hobbled in 2007 the Colts were totally unable to apply pass pressure. One play can do irreparable harm to a team's Super Bowl run.
So much is made of the effect rest supposedly has on how sharp Indy's precision passing offense is, but the rested Colts passing offense was more effective in the 2007 and 2008 playoffs than in any game during the unrested 2006 Super Bowl run. What should have been a well oiled passing machine, if the play-it-out'ers are to be believed, averaged less than 18 points per game over the 10 quarters leading up to halftime of the 2006 AFC Championship Game. 2003 through 2005 the Colts rested and won two of their first three playoff games, with all three playoff exits coming at the hands of the eventual Super Bowl Champs. Connecting rest to 1st round losses is a lazy narrative that relies on a small sample size, cherry picking a cutoff of 2005 (ignoring 1st round wins after resting in 03 and 04), and disregarding the absence of key players in 07 and 08.
The Colts made the right move not just because injuries derail seasons, but because the team is professional enough, and strong enough emotionally to stay focused on their goal despite a disappointment. To write off the Colts chances because of what happened today is to call the players emotionally weak. Professionals get over disappointment. 19-0 was not the goal, as the Colts have said for weeks, there is no reason to fold with that potential lost.
There is a balance between getting the work needed to stay sharp and risking injuries. The Colts chose the mid 3rd quarter as the place to strike that balance. It's unlikely to go over well with the fans, but the Colts Super Bowl chances are stronger than ever thanks to the continued health of their top talents.
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