NFL Wire News

Playoff-bound Colts don’t deviate from process

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INDIANAPOLIS — Coach Chuck Pagano has a favorite phrase for his Indianapolis Colts: Stick to the process.

A day after the Colts clinched their second consecutive AFC South title, their ninth overall since the division’s inception in 2002, that phrase is the name of Pagano’s game plan heading into the final two games of the regular season.

Coming off a 17-10 win over the Houston Texans, Indianapolis heads to Dallas this week. The Colts will wrap up the regular season Dec. 28 at division rival Tennessee.

“We’ve just got to stay humble and stick to that process,” Pagano said. “We’ve achieved our first goal. We talked about it. We got together.

“It’s been 144 days since we got together in Anderson (Ind.) on July 23rd (for the start of training camp). It was a Wednesday. We talked that night about a lot of things. We talked about our goals, and our No. 1 goal was to win the division. We’ve checked that box, so now it’s time to keep working and keep getting better.”

The Colts are on a run of four straight wins, over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Washington Redskins, Cleveland Browns and Houston.

Despite the victories, Indianapolis’ performance was largely uneven. The Colts will need to raise the level of play against the Cowboys.

“We’ve got a lot of things to clean up,” Pagano said. “We’ve still got to address some turnovers, we’ve got to get that cleaned up, penalties. We’re going to keep grinding. We punched our ticket to the dance, so to speak, so we’ve got to make good on it.

“Our vision is what our vision is. We’re going to put the time in that’s necessary to reach that ultimate goal. It’s all about getting hot and going on a little bit of a run here. Again, we’re never going to apologize for winning. They’re W’s, and they’re on the left-hand side of the column. Just got to keep grinding, keep working, try to get better.”

With the division already locked up, will the Colts begin to rest players over the final two weeks of the regular season? Pagano doesn’t think so.

“If we see a window for anyone with nagging injuries, not just (wide receiver) Reggie (Wayne), if anyone needs time to mend, then we’ll make that decision,” the coach said. “We haven’t changed our approach.

“We’re gonna play 16 games. We want to win. If a few guys need time to mend, OK. But winning is paramount.”

Wayne earned a game ball after the Houston win in which he set franchise records for games played (209) and victories (142).

“Surpassing Peyton (Manning for both records) is phenomenal,” Pagano said. “We talk about availability all the time. (Wayne has) been available for a long, long time, and he’s always showed up.

“He embodies everything that we talk about. He represents everything that Mr. (Jim) Irsay talks about: faith, family and football. Resiliency, team player, put the team first, self second. What he’s sacrificed, what he’s given to this organization, what he’s given to this city and this community, he is one of the all-timers. He’s going to be in the Ring of Honor at some point. He’ll be in the Hall of Fame at some point. He’s a very, very, special, special player and a special person.”

Wayne said that he is never complacent about winning another AFC South title.

“Absolutely, it never gets old,” he said. “This never gets old. This feeling never gets old.”

REPORT CARD VS. TEXANS

–PASSING OFFENSE: C — The Colts’ passing attack struggled to get on track. QB Andrew Luck completed just 18 of 34 passes for 187 yards and had an interception returned for the only Houston touchdown of the game. Luck’s passer rating was 76.5, which was slightly better than the 59.8 passer rating he had in the win over Cleveland a week earlier. WR T.Y. Hilton had four catches for 50 yards. WR Hakeem Nicks and TE Dwayne Allen caught touchdown passes.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: B-minus — RB Trent Richardson started and wound up with 32 yards on just nine carries. RB Daniel “Boom” Herron had a team-high 60 yards on 11 carries, with 37 of those yards coming in the drive that led to an insurance field goal late in the fourth quarter.

–PASS DEFENSE: B — Indianapolis faced two Texans quarterbacks, Ryan Fitzpatrick and rookie Tom Savage. Savage replaced Fitzpatrick in the second quarter after the starter left the game with a fractured leg. Before being sidelined, Fitzpatrick completed three of six passes for 30 yards. Savage, in his first extended playing time of the regular season, connected on 10 of 19 passes for 127 yards and had one pass intercepted. He was also sacked once. WR De’Andre Hopkins had five catches for 77 yards.

–RUSH DEFENSE: B — Texans RB Arian Foster ran for 99 yards on 26 carries, averaging 3.8 yards per carry. Foster got his yards but took a few lumps doing so. Backup RB Alfred Blue had 26 rushing yards on eight carries. As a team, Houston averaged just 3.3 yards on 41 rushing attempts.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus — PK Adam Vinatieri made his only field-goal attempt of the game, hitting from 29 yards late in the fourth quarter to give the Colts their final margin of victory. P Pat McAfee averaged 45.6 yards net and 46.4 yards gross on seven punts. Four of his kicks were downed inside the Texans’ 20-yard line. McAfee also had three touchbacks on kickoffs. KR/PR Josh Cribbs averaged 30 yards on two kickoff returns and 3.3 yards on four punt returns.

–COACHING: B-minus — Another Colts win, but another slow start, the kind that might end up hurting Indianapolis as the season progresses. And too many turnovers again as well. The Colts had one pass intercepted and returned for a touchdown, and Indianapolis lost a fumble. Coach Chuck Pagano says his team must clean up those issues, but they continue to occur. If the Colts are to have an extended postseason run, they must eliminate the mistakes.


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