Staying Alive: Colts win "Playoff" game at Lucas Oil Stadium

There was a time when I got excited for every NFL game I had the opportunity to watch/cover. Unfortunately, I'm not as "giddy" for these weekly work assignments as I used to get.

Don't get me wrong, I truly enjoy every chance I get to cover one of the most talented quarterbacks ever while he is still in his prime. However, sometimes the games just run together.

There are, of course some exceptions, and Sunday's contest against the Jaguars was one of those games. I had been thinking off and on all week about the game and whether I thought the Colts would/could pull out a victory and stay alive in the AFC South race.

With all of this "talk" about a playoff-like atmosphere, I felt like I was driving to a playoff game Sunday morning. Playoff games (or games against the Patriots) just feel different than all the rest.

This game had that feeling about it.

The Colts weren't perfect, but nobody cares. They were better than the Jaguars at most phases of the game. Donald Brown out-rushed Maurice Jones-Drew. Peyton Manning out-played David Garrard. While the special teams weren't perfect, they made some plays which has not always happened in the past.

In fact, I could envision a scenario where the Jaguars fall apart and lose to the final two games of the season. Jacksonville had a chance to FINALLY claim and AFC South title, celebrate on the Colts home turf, and knock the reigning AFC Champions out of the playoffs before Christmas.

To borrow a paraphrase from Tony Dungy during the 2006 AFC Championship game, "It wasn't Jacksonville's time"

To put it simply, the Colts just beat the Jaguars and "Stayed Alive" in the AFC South.

The responses in the locker room were similar to what you might get after a January victory.

RYAN DIEM: "Basically it was win or go home. We kind of put ourselves behind the eight-ball earlier this year. Every game from here on out is a must-win for us."

REGGIE WAYNE: "Our main objective is to make sure we win this game and keep pushing on. There was no way we wanted them to celebrate on our field."

JIM CALDWELL: "We knew our backs have been against the wall for a couple of weeks now. It's just one of those things where you have to play well or else you're not going to have an opportunity to do anything further. So we're still just giving ourselves another opportunity here."

and perhaps the best quotes come from the soft-spoken Robert Mathis: "You don't want anybody to come into your yard, your house, and take your cookies. As funny as it may be, you just can't let that happen. You just have to take it as a personal challenge and not let it happen."

The Colts still have some gaping holes to fill as they hope to clinch a 9th straight playoff appearance. I don't think Austin Collie will play again this season. Despite what we saw Sunday, there are still some concerns about stopping the run. Peyton Manning wouldn't mind a quality kickoff return every once in awhile.

However, the Colts are still alive and kicking in their own personal playoff race.

Prior to the win in Nashville, I heard a fan on a local sports talk radio station mention how the Colts were going to win eight straight games and claim the Super Bowl. I chuckled a bit, but appreciated his optimism. Then, after the win against the Titans, I heard Peyton Manning compare the situation to high school playoffs. He knew the Colts had to win that game and keep on winning to "stay alive"

Robert Mathis was preaching a similar tune Sunday: "Every game is a playoff game. Seven game playoff, one down, six to go. Hey, one-and-done, you can't lose."

Technically, two playoff wins down, two to go. Then, if the Colts actually get to the REAL playoffs, where it could be a new four-game season and I don't know too many teams who would want to face them.

I'm not predicting a trip to Jerry-Dome this February for the "Big Game" but at least we can talk about it the possibilities this Holiday weekend thanks to a playoff-like victory over the Jaguars.

I don't know what is going to happen next in the un-predictable NFL, but I know that I'm looking forward to the next game and the hype that will continue to build for this team with each passing victory.

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