The road question.
That’s what’s on the minds of the Indianapolis Colts’ coaches and players as the team gears up for Sunday’s trip to LP Field in Nashville and a matchup with AFC South rival Tennessee.
Seven weeks into the 2012 season, the Indianapolis Colts have won three of its four home games at Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis, however, is 0-2 on the road, losing to Chicago 41-21 in the season opener and to the New York Jets 34-9 two weeks ago.
In the two road losses, the Colts have been outscored 76-30, are averaging 15 points a game and have turned the football over a combined nine times (eight on offense and one on special teams).
Indianapolis, meanwhile, is averaging 25 points a game in its three wins and 23 points in all four home games.
So what gives?
“You’ve got to learn how to finish the game and protect the football. For us, it’s protect the football, create some turnovers, and we did a nice job at home of getting off to fast starts. We need to get off to a better start on the road,” interim coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said this week.
“We had a shot at it in New York. We had a chance to go down and put a touchdown on the board and get the crowd out of it. So that’s the main goal [against the Titans]. Get a good, strong start offensively and play solid defense early.”
Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck has not played well enough in the two road losses — and he knows it.
With the Colts falling behind quickly in both games, Luck has been forced to throw the ball more than the original gameplan called for.
He is averaging 45 pass attempts for both road losses, connecting on 45 of 89 passes for 589 yards, one touchdown and five interceptions. The Colts’ No. 1 draft pick also has lost fumbles in each game.
For Indianapolis to enjoy any kind of success away from home, the turnovers need to stop. Overall production — both offensively defensively — has to pick up.
“I think you have to be a little bit more cut-throat [on the road]. You realize it’s a business trip. Don’t get caught up in anything outside of that. Realize it’s still a football field. The end zones are 100 yards in between and don’t stray from the gameplan,” Luck assessed.
“Trust each other and realize to find a way to feed off the opponent’s crowd as opposed to feeding off your home crowd, which our home crowds have been great for us so far.”
Concentration. Focus. The Colts know that playing at noisy LP Field against a divisional opponent won’t be an easy task.
“Maybe it just requires a little more focus, a little more attention to detail,” the Indianapolis quarterback said.
“And hopefully those [turnovers] will come down because we realize if we continue on that path, with averaging four [turnovers] a game on the road, we will be lucky to win one game on the road.”
For cornerback Jerraud Powers, how the Colts play Sunday against the Titans will go a long way in determining how the rest of the team’s season will play itself out.
“Got to win on the road. Got to win on the road. This will be a big, big road test for us with Tennessee. They know us. We know them. It’s always a dogfight whenever we play those guys,” Powers said.
“Going to Tennessee, they always have a good crowd. So it’ll be a fun one to play on the road, but definitely an AFC South game. [We] want to win that and get our first victory on the road as well.”
I I I
n Chapman practicing — Rookie nose tackle Josh Chapman, the Colts’ fifth-round draft pick last spring, practiced for the first time Wednesday. He will remain on the reserve/non-football injury list for now.
Team officials will have up to three weeks from today to elevate Chapman — who suffered a knee injury as a senior at Alabama last season — to the 53-man active roster or he will remain on the reserve/non-football injury list for the rest of the season. He has not practiced with the team since being drafted.
Chapman has been rehabbing since Jan. 17 when he underwent surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Dr. James Andrews also performed a lateral meniscus repair during the medical procedure.
“Pretty much, [his return date was] right on target. He was targeted eligible to come back early. We didn’t know if we’d get him back at all, but he’s progressed nicely,” Arians said. “No worries right now about where he’s at physically. I look forward to seeing him out on the field. I think he’s really excited, as excited as we are to see him out there.”
His chances of playing sometime this season?
“We’ll see how it goes. We’ve got some decent depth [on the defensive line] right now. We want to take our time with him. If he’s ready to play, we’ll play him because he’s a great talent and he’ll give us a boost in there. So we just have to find out,” the Colts’ assistant coach said.
The former Alabama defensive lineman was initially hurt against Florida in October but played the remainder of the season with the injury. A 6-foot, 316-pounder, Chapman was thought to be one of the premier nose tackles available in the draft.
He reportedly bench-pressed almost 600 pounds with a 630-pound squat prior to the injury.
“He’s got to play football. He played on one leg last year. Learn to play on two and see how it feels. Give him hopefully a week or two and then we’ll reevaluate it,” Arians said. “He’s so strong, quick, powerful. He’s got every attribute you want in a nose guard. He’s extremely quick and can move the center of the pocket. He’s a good pass rusher for a short guy.”
n Roster move — The Colts signed outside linebacker Monte Simmons to the practice squad Tuesday evening.
Simmons (6-3, 226) spent last season on the San Francisco 49ers practice squad after being signed as an undrafted free agent out of Kent State on July 28, 2011. He was then signed as a free agent by the Philadelphia Eagles on March 5, 2012, and was waived Aug. 30.
n Injury list — Sitting out Wednesday’s practice were outside linebacker Dwight Freeney (ankle), cornerback Darius Butler (shoulder), outside linebacker Robert Mathis (knee), defensive tackle Fili Moala (knee) and nose tackle Antonio Johnson (illness).
Inside linebacker Pat Angerer (foot), running back Donald Brown (knee) and offensive tackle Winston Justice (ankle) saw limited work. Offensive guard Joe Reitz (knee), nose tackle Martin Tevaseu (ankle), defensive end Cory Redding (knee) and Luck (knee) all fully participated in the workout.
Brown underwent knee surgery after the Green Bay game and was expected to miss four to six weeks. He might be back in two. No other information was immediately known on Luck’s knee issue, but it’s not considered to be serious.
“[Brown is progressing] extremely well. We’ve got our fingers crossed and we’ll see how he’s doing [Wednesday],” Arians said. “After we see him and they’ve got to work on it, do football moves and see what kind of swelling occurs and then we’ll go from there.”
As for the other injuries that have kept players out of the lineup, there is a chance some of them could return for the Tennessee game.
“We are ready to roll. Darius Butler and Fili Moala [did] not practice [Wednesday]. All the rest of the hands are on deck and ready to go. We’ll see what we get out of each guy and progress throughout the week,” the Colts’ interim coach said, adding that none of the players on the injury list have been ruled out of the Titans matchup just yet.