Posts Tagged ‘games’

MIND GAMES: PSYCHOLOGIST SAYS PATS HAVE GOTTEN INSIDE COLTS’ HEADS

Nov 4, 2005 – {Note from Dr. Murray: Phil Richards writes a good article in accurately describing the truth of winning streaks and losing streaks which cannot be ignored, but Phil will be the first to say that I did not in any way make a prediction on this game or claim that the Pats have the Colts number! He is simply using the headline to demonstrate that any team which has lost 6 straight to another team has to deal with this reality and remove that pink elephant from the room! He does not mention in this article that I also advised that any team facing this kind of challenge (similar to my rationale for the MPI in focusing on every play of the game) needs to focus only on every moment and every snap, and not on that big pink elephant in the room!}

Indianapolis Star – Phil Richards – If the subject is numbers, then consider these: The Indianapolis Colts have lost their past six games to New England, including playoff defeats that ended their 2003 and 2004 seasons. They have lost their past nine appearances in Foxborough, Mass., where they will meet the Patriots again this week on “Monday Night Football.”

In the vernacular of sport, New England might be said to have the Colts’ “number.”

“A lot of coaches will say, ‘That’s hogwash. Forget it.’ But you know what? You have to deal with reality, and the reality is you’ve lost how many in a row?” said John F. Murray, a Palm Beach, Fla., sports psychologist who has worked with NFL teams and players.

“Oftentimes, the solution is to forget the streak, but how do you do that? It’s like saying, ‘Let’s not think about this pink elephant in the middle of the room right now. Whatever you do, don’t think about this pink elephant.’ ”

Colts coach Tony Dungy is inclined to neither feed peanuts to that pink elephant, nor ignore it. His team will study its losses to New England, but only in an effort to learn, to improve, to get it right this time.

“I guess you can’t ignore it because it’s history,” Dungy said, “but it’s not going to have an effect on what happens in this game.”

John Rauch, Harvey Johnson, Lou Saban, Jim Ringo and Chuck Knox might have recited the same motto. They were Buffalo’s head coaches while the Bills were losing 20 consecutive games to Miami from 1970-79.
That the Bills were persistently pathetic through most of that stretch explains away much of the Dolphins’ magic. But Buffalo went 9-5 in 1973 and did it again in 1974. Of their 10 losses those two seasons, Miami inflicted four.

People were beginning to say that Tennessee had the Colts’ number when the Titans ended a 13-3 Colts season with a victory at the RCA Dome during the 1999 playoffs, then came back in 2002 to sweep the Colts and win the title in the new AFC South.

The Colts have climbed that mountain. They have won their past five games against the Titans.

“Now they’re probably saying we have Tennessee’s number,” Colts linebacker David Thornton said. “I’m not too big on people thinking, ‘I’ve got your number. We can always beat you.’

“This is a new team, a new season.” New team, fresh hopes

It is indeed a new team. A 38-34 loss to New England at the RCA Dome during the 2003 season cost the Colts home-field advantage and a first-round bye during the playoffs. The Colts had to go to Foxborough for the AFC Championship Game.

The Patriots won it 24-14 to advance to the Super Bowl. The Colts went home.Fewer than half of the 53 players from the 2003 Colts remain on the active roster. This is a new team.

Chris Carr, a sports psychologist with Methodist Sports Medicine Center, said research indicates that a focus on the present facilitates optimal performance.

Play not just one season at a time or even one game at a time. Play one snap at a time. Each snap is a game within a game; win enough snaps and the accumulation wins the game.

It also occupies the focus to the exclusion of distractions such as streaks, one team having the other’s number, and the rest.
That’s why Carr, who has worked with the Kansas City Royals the past six years, forbids his pupils’ use of the word “slump.”

“If you’re telling me you’re in a slump, that means you’re using a description of past performance, being 0-for-20, as an excuse for your next failure,” he said.

Carr used to work with the U.S. Ski team, and he remembers well Sports Illustrated’s preview of the 1994 Olympic Games at Lillehammer, Norway.
“They used the phrase ‘Uncle Sam’s lead-footed snowplow brigade,’ and that we hadn’t medaled since 1984,” Carr recalled. “It was a description of the past. Our athletes were able to go into the Olympics, Tommy Moe in particular, and be very focused on race day.”

Moe won the downhill gold and became the first U.S. skier since 1964 to win two medals. The U.S. won five, a team record.

“From a story line, it’s intriguing to say, ‘Here’s the history,’ ” Carr said. “From a performance standpoint, those past games in Foxborough should be totally irrelevant to Monday night.”

They will be as big a factor as the Colts let them.

That’s the opinion of Challace McMillin, a mental training coach who teaches psychology at James Madison University, where he founded the football program and spent many of his 20-plus seasons as an NCAA Division I-AA coach.

McMillin’s position echoed Carr’s and was supported by another sports psychologist who has worked with NFL players, Rutgers University psychology professor Jim Mastrich.

“Let’s say the first play of the game, quarterback sack, fumble and the Patriots recover,” Mastrich proposed. “The Colts have two choices: They can walk around with their heads down, ‘They’ve got our number. Who’s kidding whom? They’re going to beat us anyway.’

“Or they can say, ‘Let’s go. Every snap of the ballgame is a game within a game. Play it one snap at a time. This is the only thing that matters.’ ”
Unbeaten, unfulfilled

The Colts (7-0) are in an interesting position. They are the league’s lone unbeaten team. They are 31/2-point favorites to win where they haven’t won since 1995, where quarterback Peyton Manning is 0-9, where their trips to the Super Bowl have been canceled the past two seasons.

They know they will face adversity. New England (4-3) is hobbled by injury, struggling on defense and inconsistent in the running game, but it has the champion’s presence. It is proud and poised. It has won the Super Bowl three of the past four seasons.

And it has committed 11 turnovers against the Colts in 12 meetings since Manning moved under center in 1998. The Colts have committed 34.

“The past is the past,” Colts defensive tackle Montae Reagor said. “This is the now. The same way they hunt for us, we’ll hunt for them.

“We’re not going to panic. We’ve come too far. We’ve been through too much. We’ve had our share of ups and downs but we’ve grown as a team and we know how to handle those situations if they show up.”

The Colts have won 15 of their past 16 regular-season games. Winning, like losing, becomes a habit, and habits will collide Monday. The fire will be burning on both sides of the field.

“You have to channel it in the right way,” Dungy said. “People that win big games are people that can function in a pressurized environment and do the same thing they do in a training camp practice.

“That’s what we have not done against New England. We’ve gone there and false-started on the first play of the game. We’ve done those kinds of things, which you can’t do because it’s hard enough to beat a good team when you do everything right.”

Stay in the moment. Play the game snap by snap. The mottos are trite but true. The Colts know them. The pink elephant waits.

Record of futility

The Colts have gone 2-14 against the New England Patriots since 1996. The record:

Season Winner Score
1996 Patriots 27-9
1996 Patriots 27-13
1997 Patriots 31-6
1997 Patriots 20-17
1998 Patriots 29-6
1998 Patriots 21-16
1999 Patriots 31-28
1999 Colts 20-15
2000 Patriots 24-16
2000 Colts 30-23
2001 Patriots 44-13
2001 Patriots 38-17
2003 Patriots 38-34
*2003 Patriots 24-14
2004 Patriots 27-24
*2004 Patriots 20-3

* Playoff game.

Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.