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Forget the fake, Colts’ Pagano deals with what’s real

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The Sports Xchange

INDIANAPOLIS — Forget it and drive on.

That’s the attitude that Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano has been pushing this week as his team prepares for Sunday’s home game with New Orleans.

The “it” that Pagano is referring to includes last Sunday night’s 34-27 home-field loss to New England.

It also refers to all of the reaction, both from the media and fans, to the coach’s decision to attempt a fake punt — which was botched — in the third quarter of the Patriots game.

To borrow a phrase from Bill Belichick, it’s on to the New Orleans Saints. And don’t bother listening to all the outside noise. Focus, instead, on playing New Orleans this week.

“The outside noise doesn’t affect me; there’s real life stuff that really matters,” Pagano said, referring to his recent battle with leukemia. “They can’t eat ya. That’s my motto.”

As for the fallout on the fake punt, the buck stops with the Indianapolis coach.

“I categorically reject any criticism that’s fallen on our players or our coaches,” Pagano stressed. “I take full responsibility. Our total focus is on New Orleans. It’s over. That’s all. It’s over.”

As for the Saints, the Colts coach is wary of what they bring to the table.

“They do a great job with tempo and their personnel groups,” Pagano said. “(The) Saints still have a lot of weapons, can still run and throw it.

“(Quarterback Drew) Brees is still operating the Saints’ offense at a high level. Run numbers don’t look great but don’t be fooled. (All) three of their backs are threats.”

The diversity of the New Orleans offense is what caught his attention.

“They could be in 15 different personnel groups,” Pagano said.

As Indianapolis gets ready for New Orleans, he is also looking for continued improvement of his own team.

“I don’t want to play our best football in Week 6,” he said. “(The) goal is to improve each week.

“This team has overcome a lot. Because of (our) culture and character and commitment, (we need to) put blinders on and move on.”

SERIES HISTORY: 12th regular season meeting, Saints lead the regular season series, 6-5. New Orleans also leads in the post-season series, winning Super Bowl XLIV, 31-17 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami. New Orleans has won six of the last eight regular-season meetings. The Colts, however, have won two of the last three regular season meetings — 55-21 on Sept. 28, 2003, and 41-10 on Sept. 6, 2007. Sunday’s game will be the first meeting of the two franchises at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Colts are 1-2 against New Orleans at the Hoosier/RCA Dome. The Saints won the last meeting between the two franchises 62-7 at the Superdome in New Orleans on Oct. 23, 2011. Drew Brees completed 31-of-35 passes for 325 yards and five touchdowns. New Orleans head coach Sean Payton has a 2-1 career coaching record against the Colts. Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano has a 0-0 career coaching record against the Saints.

GAME PLAN: Continue to develop more consistency on offense. That tops the Colts plan for this week’s game with New Orleans.

Indianapolis showed more on offense in last week’s loss to New England and had success against the Patriots. That improvement has to continue this week.

Defensively, the Colts have gotten a bit better as well. But the pass rush has to improve. Indianapolis has to be able to force plays and to force turnovers. Getting to the Saints’ quarterback and forcing him into mistakes won’t be an easy task.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

–Colts QB Andrew Luck vs. Saints pass defense.

Luck had his best game of the season in last week’s loss to New England, passing for 312 yards and three touchdowns. He might get a chance to equal or surpass those numbers against a New Orleans pass defense that is ranked 24th in the league, allowing an average of 271.5 yards per game.

–Saints QB Drew Brees vs. Colts CBs Vontae Davis/Greg Toler.

Brees is a master of moving around in the pocket and finding open receivers downfield. He continues to be outstanding in extending plays with his legs, not so much as a scrambler but as a means to allow his receivers to get open. Davis and Toler have struggled at times this season with their overall consistency. They will be severely tested on Sunday.


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