Now they are one victory away and headed back to the place they last won a championship.
No, the plans haven't changed much from the Colts' last Super Bowl trip to Miami. This week will be spent putting in a game plan, and next week, first-year coach Jim Caldwell will take a page right out of Tony Dungy's playbook. The Colts will stay at the same hotel, practice at the same facility and follow almost the same routine that they did before beating the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI.
"We'll change some things," Caldwell said Monday. "We'll tweak them and adjust them a little bit, according to how we envision some things, and it depends on what happens to us this week. We'll make some adjustments -- it's not an iron-clad sort of routine. But, overall, we'll probably be fairly close to what we've done previously."
Some of the changes aren't by choice.
Four-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning and his Pro Bowl teammates, who include tight end Dallas Clark, defensive end Dwight Freeney and wide receiver Reggie Wayne, are expected to be in town Sunday afternoon for a pregame news conference -- a full day before the rest of the Colts arrive for Super Bowl XLIV. Team president Bill Polian called that rule "distasteful" and a "fiasco" on his weekly radio show Monday night.
The Colts' team plane also is expected to arrive a little earlier than it did three years ago because of new rules implemented in 2008.
But with nearly half of Indianapolis' roster having Super Bowl experience, Caldwell will rely on his veterans to help younger players cope with the countless distractions of the next two weeks. Players, like fans, are scrambling to make travel plans, fill countless ticket requests and answer all kinds of e-mail and text messages. Caldwell said he had about 250 e-mails and more than 150 text messages after Sunday's 30-17 victory over the New York Jets in the AFC Championship Game.
"Make a list of how many tickets you're going to have, set a priority and tell them the tickets will be there at will call when you get there," he said. "Let them find their ways down, because it can become a madhouse. Truthfully, it falls a lot to our wives and family members who help us out. It can get anybody stressed."
Preferably, the Colts (16-2) would like everything resolved before returning to practice Wednesday. The reason? Once the Colts reach Miami, Saturday recalls, players will study film and do additional prep work for the Saints (15-3) in unfamiliar surroundings or hotel rooms. New Orleans is in the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.
Another possible problem: Most people who come to town want to vacation or party. But the Colts have a job -- completing a mission deemed so essential that they threw away a chance at perfection to win a title.
"I guess it is kind of a relief that we've made it, but we're not satisfied just being here," left guard Ryan Lilja said. "We want to win, we want a ring, and that means you shouldn't be hanging out on South Beach on Saturday night."
The Colts' leaders will make sure that doesn't happen. Among those singled out by Caldwell were Freeney, Manning, Saturday and Wayne -- all of whom likely will treat this visit like the business trip they made to Miami in February 2007.
"Hey, we've got three months to hang out after this," Saturday said. "You can hang out on South Beach for three months if you want. But we have a job to do first."
And it's that attitude that Caldwell believes will make a difference on game day.
"The ultimate goal is to win it all," he said. "Nobody is going to be satisfied until we do that."
Notes: Freeney sprained his right ankle late in the AFC Championship Game, but he's expected to play in the Super Bowl, Polian told radio listeners Monday night. ... Wayne had swelling in one of his knees and might miss some practice this week, but he should be ready in two weeks. Polian didn't say which knee Wayne hurt. ... Safety Antoine Bethea (back) and RB Donald Brown (toe) also were hurt Sunday, but they should be ready for the Super Bowl. ... Polian was less certain about the status of CB Jerraud Powers, who sat out Sunday with a left foot injury.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press