INDIANAPOLIS – A memorable Sunday in Las Vegas came with a sobering challenge.
Do it again.
That’s life in the NFL’s fast lane. Regardless what happened one week – during normal times or the abnormal days leading up to the meeting with the Las Vegas Raiders – it’s imperative to turn the page and refocus on the next.
And next are the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Jeff Saturday lived that seven-day lifecycle during his ultra-successful 14-year NFL career.
Now, he’s living it as the Indianapolis Colts’ interim head coach.
In the immediate aftermath of what he described as a “storybook’’ debut – a 25-20 victory over the Raiders – Saturday quickly added perspective.
“It’s a heckuva win for a first win,’’ he said after the game. “We want to stack a lot of wins, but you can’t start a stack until you get the first one.’’
Players and coaches admitted Saturday injected energy into meetings and on the practice field. He’s a keen motivator and possesses an infectious optimism.
Frequently, that manifests in an immediate boost in performance.
At the end of their tumultuous week – Frank Reich fired, Saturday hired, Parks Frazier named first-time playcaller, Shaquille Leonard placed on IR, Matt Ryan reinserted as starting quarterback – the Colts rolled out one of their best games of the season.
The Ryan-led offense piled up 415 total yards, Jonathan Taylor returned to form with 147 yards, including a 66-yard TD/sprint, and the defense got game-on-the-line stops in the final minute from Bobby Okereke and Stephon Gilmore.
The key moving forward?
“Sustainability. We talked about it last night,’’ Saturday said. “We’ve still got a lot of games left and we have processes in place that we know we have to achieve and we have to execute, too.’’
That was one of the discussions that took place on what was a celebratory flight home Sunday evening.
“The process to me is the most important,’’ Saturday said. “How do you get yourself around the ebbs and flows of the league? I learned this from Tony (Dungy) and Jim Caldwell; the process doesn’t change.
“Again, as excited as we were about beating the Raiders, we’ve got to go play the Eagles. The game don’t change. It keeps moving on. We’ve got another opportunity this week and we’re excited about it.’’
Linebacker Zaire Franklin dismissed the notion the team rode an emotional wave to the win in Vegas.
“It was really just a shift of the mindset and just kind of more of a refocus,’’ he said. “I wouldn’t say we were riding the energy boost. Obviously, Jeff was the leader of that focus.
“But for us, it’s just the commitments and everything that we said we were going to do. It’s just maintaining that. All of the effort and the attention to detail that it took to get back on the winning side of things. You’ve got to understand you can’t ride the highs and lows of the NFL season. They come and go. For us, it’s just being consistent, sticking to what we know, being who we know we are and making plays.’’
Saturday also downplayed any impact emotion might have played. Execution is sustainable; emotion quickly wanes.
“Emotion usually runs out about midway through the first quarter,’’ he said. “Now, we’re execution, right?
“So, making sure that the process clears up so many of those issues that it’s not just being carried on emotions. That can wear out on you. You’ve got to make sure that you’re mentally focused and prepared to do it play after play.’’
Shaquille Leonard was expected to meet with noted neck surgeon Dr. Robert Watkins in Los Angeles on Monday, according to ESPN. The Colts placed their All-Pro linebacker on the injured reserve list Friday after he encountered a setback in practice earlier in the week.
Leonard is out at least the next three games, but could miss the remainder of the season. He’s been on the field for just 74 snaps in three games because of his rehab from June 9 back surgery and a concussion/broken nose.
“I don’t know who he is going to meet with,’’ Saturday said during his Monday press conference. “I’m not sure if he’s going to another doctor, which obviously is all good from my perspective just figuring out what’s going on.
“Whoever he is trying to see, I’m sure is trying to get him back as soon as possible. That’s what guys like Shaq do . . . as fast as he can get back, I know he’ll want to and that’s probably want he’s going to do today.’’
Occasionally, coaches use the point spread to motivate their team. It’s tantamount to playing the disrespect card.
Might Saturday travel that path this week?
“Is it bad? I haven’t looked at it,’’ he said. “I’m sure it’s not pretty.’’
Oddsmakers have installed the Colts 8½-point underdogs against the Eagles. The line opened at 9½.
“So, that’s a bad one,’’ Saturday said with a laugh. “That’s a bad one, right? Listen, I’m not sweating that. When I look at those things, I’ve been around this game a long time and there is perception and there is reality, and I think Tony Dungy used to do a fantastic job and I tried to replicate that of, ‘Hey, here’s the perception of who we are and here’s the reality. Here’s the perception of who the team we’re playing is, and here’s the reality.’
“We have to live in the reality . . . That won’t change for me irrespective of the point spread of whatever that is. I think the men know the challenge before them and I expect them to meet the standard.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.