Heather Hill Lloyd, a.k.a. “The Blue Mare,” liked how her Indianapolis Colts took care of playoff business in a 26-10 AFC Wild Card playoff victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at Lucas Oil Stadium. Now the Colts venture to the Mile High city to face Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in Sunday’s AFC Divisional playoff game. Lloyd shared her insights with Phillip B. Wilson about the game won and the one to come.
Phil B: Heather, you never had a doubt, huh? You knew they’d beat the Bengals?
Heather: (Laughs.) You know what, as the season went along, we all had our doubts here or there. But it seemed like in September when the Colts lost to the Broncos to kick the season off, you had a feeling then that we knew we were going to see this team again. The season certainly had its ups and downs, there were certainly moments of doubt, but that the Colts are going to play the Broncos at Denver in the playoffs now doesn’t surprise me at all. I’m thrilled they got here. They went through a lot to get here, but the reality is now that it’s here and they’re going, you have to look back on it and say, ‘Oh, of course, of course it worked out this way.
Phil B: Did the Bengals game give you more confidence they could go out and win?
Heather: Yeah, I think it gave all of us more confidence just because they looked like they handled their stuff better. And that’s what we were asking them to do. Hold onto the ball, now did we do that perfectly? No. But we protected Andrew Luck. Granted, I know the Bengals aren’t the most pass-rushing team in the NFL, but regardless, Andrew Luck had time to throw and it was nice to see what he could do given a little bit of extra time. Yeah, T.Y. Hilton had some drops and I know ‘Boom’ (Daniel Herron) had a couple of fumbles, there were still some mistakes but they weren’t the catastrophic mistakes that they’ve had in the games leading up to this, so I feel like they really cleaned themselves up. The offensive line stepped up. The defense was fantastic. Jerrell Freeman was everywhere. That was nice to see. So if they can just, again, take it one step further and next week plan a few more things and hold onto that ball, they really have a chance.
Phil B: I don’t want you to get excited here, but I talked to Peyton Manning and he told me to tell you he wants you to root for him on Sunday. Is that OK?
Heather: Sorry, Peyton. I love you, but I just can’t do it.
Phil B: No, you’re not going to do it? This is from P-money himself.
Heather: I can’t. Directly from Peyton Manning, oh, that’s a killer. It hurts me. It breaks my heart. But I just can’t do it. I’m a Peyton Manning fan, I always will be, but first and foremost I’m a Colts fan and that means Andrew Luck is my boy.
Phil B: OK. He’ll be disappointed. I know he reads your blog regularly.
Heather: Let him down gently, Phil.
Phil B: OK. You know I didn’t talk to him, but I thought I had to tease you. This is Manning versus Luck III, so to speak. I know we make a lot out of the quarterbacks, but how much more of a dynamic is this, win or go home, they split before but now it’s for the playoffs. How much more intense is this for you and for fans, do you think?
Heather: Oh, this ups the ante a lot. When we played the Broncos in the first game of the season, it was the beginning of the season and we didn’t know what to expect from this team yet. We had so many questions when the season started. The fact that it’s the playoffs now, we have a pretty good feel for the team we have and what it’s able to do. It’s kind of a tiebreaker with the Colts versus the Broncos with Luck and Manning. Each side has won one, so it’s a tiebreaker. But on top of it all, it’s a playoff game. Yeah, the winner goes on and the loser goes home. That changes everything. It really does. I also think it’s been long enough now. This isn’t the first game these two have faced off against each other. Although it will never feel normal facing off against Peyton, it’s kind of like it’s more about the teams now, it’s more about the Colts and the Broncos. Peyton’s there, but he’s been there for a while now, we’ve watched him there for a while there, it’s not so fresh and new. I kind of feel like things are returning more toward Colts versus Broncos instead of Luck versus Manning. There will always be an element to that, but I feel like the emotions behind it have calmed down a little bit and we can now look at it more as, ‘Hey, let’s go out there and get a win against the Broncos, no matter who is playing quarterback.’
Phil B: How anxious are you? How nervous are you? Or is it mid-week and you’ll be more both of those by the end of the week?
Heather: A little bit of that really. It’s kind of one of those weeks where there will be a lot of hype this week, there will be a lot of stuff to read, there will be a lot of stuff that we hear this week, so it’s a fun week in that everyone will be talking about it all week long. I love games like that. I love having a game coming up where you know your whole week is going to revolve around that game. It’s exciting. But also I know by the time Sunday gets here, I’ll have a sick feeling in my stomach all day until the game starts just because you want them to do well, you want them to get in there and play really well, and clean up some of the stuff they’ve had in some of the games leading up to this, look a little bit cleaner and a little bit better. I honestly think if they can do a number of things, they can win this game. And that makes me excited. No. 1, they have to protect Luck because we saw last week what he can do when he has time to throw. And we know, because Peyton was our quarterback forever, we have to rattle Peyton Manning. We have to get a pass rush in there. And I think the Colts have demonstrated again that they can do that. And the Colts just have to hold onto the ball really. Hold onto the ball. If they can do those three things, I’d say they’ve got a great chance of going in there and winning.
Phil B: When I was out there in Denver in September, I took a picture of a fan with the hybrid No. 18 Colts/Broncos jersey, and it got a rather nasty backlash on Twitter. Can you confirm or deny you own a hybrid jersey and what are your thoughts on the hybrid jersey?
Heather: (Laughs.) I adamantly deny that I own a hybrid jersey. I get the spirit of that. You still love Peyton and you want to support Peyton no matter whatever team he’s on. But the problem with the hybrid jersey is you’re splitting your team loyalty with the hybrid jersey. That’s why it’s wrong. You can support Peyton Manning outside of the Colts when he’s not playing the Colts, but you can’t do that now because the Colts are in the playoffs with him. Last year, supporting Peyton when he was in the Super Bowl and we were home, it was a totally different story. Right now, wearing a hybrid jersey of any kind, it takes away from the quarterback thing and the Peyton Manning thing and it really makes you a split fan and that’s where it goes wrong. I understand people will love and support Peyton forever and, listen, I’m one of those people. But I’m not going to split my fan loyalty over it. I’m a Colts fan and Andrew Luck is my quarterback. That’s where my loyalty is. You’ll never see me in one.
Phil B: Let’s go somewhere we haven’t gone before. I’ll finish you with this, and I don’t know if you do this. Your life depends on it, I’ll come and steal that cute little dog you put pictures of on Facebook …
Heather: (Laughs.) You know where to hit me, don’t you?
Phil B: Give me your prediction and analysis on how this game is going to be won. Give me a score and tell me what’s going to happen Sunday afternoon so I know what I’m flying to Denver for.
Heather: This is what I honestly think, and I’m not just saying this as a fan. If I didn’t think the Colts had a chance to win this game, I would tell you that. I really would.
Phil B: OK, score, pick?
Heather: I think the Colts are going to surprise the Broncos. I do. I think there are a few more things they have that they haven’t pulled out yet this year. I think they’re going to go in there and win it. I’m going to say, 30-27 Colts.
Phil B: Really? You’re on record.
Heather: Yeah, I’m on record and that’s what I think. That’s my prediction. And if they don’t do that, I have a bet with a Broncos fan and I have to take a picture of myself in a Broncos hat and post it, and that will not be fun. That’s not too bad, but I really don’t want to do it. I really want the Colts to go on and take that next step to the AFC Championship. This should be the year. If it turns out it’s not the year, it’s not catastrophic. We all want them to take the next step because we couldn’t script that they go one step further than they did last year, but that’s what we’re looking for. That’s what coach Chuck Pagano is looking for, that’s what the players are looking for, so we want to see that. This is what they’ve been playing for all year. I hope they can go get it.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.