By Tom James Tribune-Star
The Washington Times-Herald
---- — Robert Mathis doesn’t care that the Indianapolis Colts registered a 23-7 win over the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium two weeks ago.
The two teams will meet again in an AFC wild-card playoff game Saturday (4:35 p.m., NBC Sports) at Lucas Oil Stadium. But Mathis, a player who has plenty of National Football League playoff experience under his belt, knows that what happened on Dec. 22 doesn’t mean anything when it comes to the post-season.
“Yeah, the whole [playoff] atmosphere’s electric from beginning to end. Pregame, halftime, postgame, everything is just magnified. And just a win-or-go-home type of deal,” the outside linebacker said Monday.
The 11th-year NFL veteran doesn’t have to think too much to remember a similar situation.
“Pittsburgh 2005. We beat them Monday or Sunday Night Football [actually Monday Night] pretty convincingly (26-7). They came back [in the playoffs] and beat us first (21-18 in an AFC Divisional playoff game),” he recalled.
“We were a one-and-done team. And that was arguably the best team we had that year since I’ve been here. So don’t fall for the banana in the tailpipe. [Kansas City is] coming to play. So you better come to play. Bring you’re A-game and your lunch pail.”
Being able to adjust will be the key. Mathis knows that the Chiefs will tweak what they do offensively, give Indianapolis some different looks than what they saw two weeks ago.
He also knows that the Colts must continue their defensive improvement, which has limited opposing teams to 13 points over their final three regular season games.
“Improve, adjust and improve on the good things. Anything that was bad or any minuses, you minimize that,” Mathis explained.
“Maximize the positives because you know they’re going to make adjustments and they’re going to work on the things that failed them the first time around. Whatever game plan they come with, you just have to be on top of what you are.”
Being the hot team going into the playoffs has been the goal. Indianapolis is one of several post-season teams that went 4-1 over the final month of the season.
“I think if you check the last six Super Bowl winners, they got hot at the right time. That’s what it’s all about, getting hot at the right time and just take it into the postseason and into the Super Bowl,” he voiced.
“I’m a student of the game. And experiencing it in 2006 [when the Colts swept through the playoffs and won the Super Bowl], we got hot at the right time. Playoffs came and we hit the switch and that’s what it’s all about. The hot team wins.”
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano agrees, saying that he expected Kansas City to play to its strengths. He added that Indianapolis will do the same thing.
“I don’t think you ever want to overcook it, so to speak. I think you’ll have a wrinkle, much like they will in all three phases. I think at this point, everybody is going to play to their strengths. Certainly we’ve found some things in all three phases that are working for us,” Pagano stressed.
“To get away from that too far would probably be egregious on our part. I think we just keep doing what we’re doing and do it better and find something here or there that they haven’t seen. I’m sure we’ll experience the same thing. There’s always the unknown that you’ve got to take into account.”
Injury report -- Good news for Indianapolis as cornerback Vontae Davis (groin), nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin (knee) and rookie outside linebacker Bjoern Werner (ankle) all had negative magnetic resonance imaging tests Sunday evening.
All three were hurt during the Colts’ 30-10 regular-season finale win over Jacksonville. As for being available to play against the Chiefs on Saturday afternoon, that is yet to be determined.
Davis, Franklin and Werner are all listed as day-to-day for practices, which begin today. The Colts had Monday off due to the shortened week before the Kansas City game.
Offensive guard Mike McGlynn (elbow), defensive end Cory Redding (neck/shoulder) and safety Sergio Brown (groin) are all expected to return to practice this afternoon, although how much work they get has not been decided.
McGlynn, Redding, Brown, outside linebacker Daniel Adongo (hamstring), offensive guard Joe Reitz (concussion) and defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois (foot) were all pregame inactives on Sunday.
Adongo and Reitz are both slated to practice today. Jean Francois’ chances of returning for workouts are skectchy. He is listed as day-to-day.
Offensive guard/tackle Jeff Linkenbach (quad), who had been sidelined for several weeks, returned for the Jacksonville game and came away in good shape. Cornerback Greg Toler (groin) has gotten limited playing time the last two games and could see more work against the Chiefs this weekend.
Playoff tickets -- Approximately 7,000 tickets remain available for Saturday’s game with the Chiefs. Post-season ticket prices and policies are set by the NFL. Prices vary from $56 to $155 (non-club).
These tickets may be purchased at the Lucas Oil Stadium Ticket Office, Ticketmaster Ticket Centers, charge-by-phone at (800) 745-3000 or at www.ticketmaster.com while they last.
“[Having a home playoff game is a] lot better than being on the road somewhere, I can tell you that. We experienced that last year. Again, hats off to these coaches and players for sweeping the division, winning the division and earning the right to play at home, the 12th man, best fans in the National Football League,” the Colts coach said.
“Again, [the fans] were great [Sunday]. We’re going to need them more than ever come Saturday. Have the opportunity to have a home game in the tournament means a lot. It’s difficult, especially when you look at our opponent having to travel last week, travel yesterday and then travel on Friday this week and we don’t. Obviously it’s something they have to deal with and we don’t.”
Turner let go by Washington -- Former Indiana State football-basketball standout Bobby Turner was one of the assistant coaches dismissed by the Washington Redskins on Monday.
Turner, who was a defensive back during his time with the Sycamores, also served as a long-time assistant football coach at ISU under Tom Harp, Dick Jamieson and Dennis Raetz. He was Indiana State’s defensive backs and running backs coach.
The East Chicago native, who also coached high school basketball in Kokomo, has been a member of Mike Shanahan’s coaching staffs in Denver and, more recently, in Washington. Turner had been the Redskins’ assistant head coach and running backs coach. Shanahan was fired Monday morning.