News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 30, 2013

In major gain, Colts lead NFL in fewest turnovers

Tom James
Tribune-Star Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS — Play clean. That’s been a credo that the Indianapolis Colts have tried to live by this season.

A year ago, turnovers and penalties were two of the Colts’ biggest issues. Quarterback Andrew Luck had 18 interceptions and he fumbled five times. As a team, Indianapolis was minus-21 in turnover ratio.

During the offseason, coach Chuck Pagano stressed the importance of protecting the football. It looks like his players took his words to heart.

With the regular season wrapping up on Sunday, the Colts ended the year with a National Football League-low 14. That set a franchise record, snapping the old mark of 17 that had been set in 2004 and 2008.

Indianapolis was also second in the league with the fewest penalties (66) to New England heading into the late round of games on Sunday.

The Colts had an opportunity to be the first team since the 2002 Kansas City Chiefs to lead the NFL in both categories, and to be only the second team in the past 26 seasons to accomplish the feat.

“Taking care of the football. Not beating yourself,” Pagano praised after Sunday’s 30-10 win over Jacksonville. “Those things, guys caught fire. They kept playing.”

Indianapolis had no turnovers and two penalties in the victory over the Jaguars.

• Getting hot — The Colts won four of the last five regular-season games and three in a row as they head into the playoffs.

“Yeah. I would definitely say we’ve got hot, so to speak,” Pagano said. “Defense is playing lights out, gaining a ton of momentum, a ton of confidence. Offense is jelling at the right time. Being able to get hot and play well in December and go 4-1 and go into the playoffs obviously with some momentum, some mojo, is going to work in our favor.”

• Mathis leads NFL in sacks — Outside linebacker Robert Mathis had a pair of sacks against Jacksonville, giving him a franchise-record 19.5 for the season.

St. Louis Rams defensive end Robert Quinn had only one sack against Seattle. Quinn ended the year with 19 total sacks.

Mathis is only the second Colts player to lead the league in sacks. Dwight Freeney did it in 2004 with 16.

• Playing the season out — Even though Indianapolis had already clinched the AFC South and a playoff spot, there was no thought about sitting players who were healthy enough to play.

“We said at the beginning of the ear, they give you a 16-game schedule. It’s not in [the players’] DNA or any of our coaches DNA, not our mindset not to play,” Pagano said. “We’re not promised anything. We understand that fully. We’re not guaranteed nothing. We’re not guaranteed tomorrow.

“We come in week in and week out, go to work, put the time in, prepare the best we can and go play as hard as we can for 60 minutes. As long as we’re here together, that’s going to be our mindset and how we approach that.”

• Injury list — Cornerback Vontae Davis (groin), nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin (knee) and rookie outside linebacker Bjoern Werner (ankle) all left Sunday’s game and did not return.

All three are expected to undergo magnetic resonance imaging tests in order to determine the severity of their injuries.  

• Saturday’s game — Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. today at usual Colts sales locations.