The Indianapolis Colts found themselves in familiar National Football League territory Monday morning, although it took them awhile to get back there.
For the first time since the end of the 2010 season, the Colts are in sole possession of first place in the AFC South.
With Houston losing at San Francisco on Sunday night along with Tennessee losing earlier in the day to Kansas City, Indianapolis — now with a 4-1 record and a three-game winning streak - has returned to the top of the divisional heap.
Head coach Chuck Pagano likes the position his team finds itself in, especially after impressive wins over NFC favorites San Francisco and Seattle.
But Pagano is quick to stress that there’s still a long way to go before any real chest thumping can begin.
“You know what? It’s Week [six]. It’s a marathon, it’s not a sprint. We know that, so we’re going to stay grounded, we’re going to say humble,” he said Sunday after Indianapolis’ 34-28 victory over Seattle.
“We’re going to enjoy this for a couple [days] and then we’re going to get back to work and get ready for Monday Night Football against San Diego.”
Given a few hours to think about it, Pagano admitted Monday that he understands the enormity of what the Colts have accomplished so far this season.
“You have to [feel good]. You have to. Accomplish those two things [wins over the 49ers and Seahawks] and to be more importantly sitting here at 4-1 after five weeks of the season. Every team is good. We know that. We’re going to face another good one Sunday [at San Diego]. Games are hard to win at this level but the guys, I guess if you polled the coaches and the players, you’d have to feel good about yourself winning,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter who it is. Beating quality opponents builds confidence. All those type of things. I don’t think you’ll see any of these guys walk around with their chest out like a robin walking around the yard after a big rainstorm, bunch of worms out there, all robined up. We’re not going there. We’ll keep reminding them it’s a short ride from the penthouse to the outhouse. Stay humble. Stay grounded. Stay steady. Just stick to the process one week at a time.”
Pagano knows that he has a good locker room, led by a core of veterans such as wide receiver Reggie Wayne, outside linebacker Robert Mathis, defensive end Cory Redding, safety Antoine Bethea and backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
“We don’t have to say much because of our veteran leadership. Those guys take care of it. They handle that locker room. I’m sure if anybody starts to whatever, those guys take care of it,” he explained.
“They understand that they’ve been around the block too many times and seen it happen too many times. Again, you start reading your own press clippings and patting yourself on the back, you’re just setting yourself up for failure.”
• Bethea makes himself heard — That veteran leadership was on full display in the first quarter of the Seattle game.
Trailing 12-0 after a sluggish start, Bethea gathered his teammates around him on the Colts sidelines. In full view of the 66,608 fans in attendance, the Pro Bowl defensive back offered more than a few choice comments.
“Just felt like we weren’t really playing our style of ball the way we really wanted to play. Just something needed to be said. Somebody needed to say something. At that time, they were reviewing one of the plays. [I] just brought the team up and just talked about [the fact that] we weren’t playing well. We were just a little bit slower than the Seahawks,” Bethea recalled Monday.
“Just told them, ‘Look, we came out here to do something. Last time we were home [against Miami], it didn’t end so well.’ Just said put a little pep in our step and obviously came out with a win. I wasn’t nice. It was a little animated.”
He admitted that Sunday’s speech wasn’t the first time he had made such an impassioned plea to his teammates.
“I did it once before in the Chicago game last year. Not really that type of guy to really get in front of the team and say a whole lot. I like my actions to speak for itself. [Sunday] I thought something needed to be said. Somebody needed to say something during that time,” Bethea said.
That speech last season didn’t work as well. The Bears posted a 41-21 season-opening win at Soldier Field.
“No, it didn’t. But that’s in the past so it’s cool,” Bethea joked.
Pagano, though, appreciated the defensive back’s moxie.
“I think that’s what great leaders do. There’s certain times I’ve seen that happen on many occasions, on many sidelines,” he said.
“It’s their team. Guys sometimes have to do those type of things whether it’s the whole group or one side of the ball or the other. That’s what great leaders do.”
• Roster moves — The Colts waived defensive end Lawrence Guy and added wide receiver LaVon Brazill to the active roster.
Brazill had been suspended for the first four games of the season after violating the National Football League’s substance abuse policy.
Guy, who was with Indianapolis last season and was re-signed by the team two weeks ago after being released at the end of training camp, had quickly become a fan favorite. He was credited with blocking a field goal attempt by Seattle’s Steven Hauschka, which was returned 63 yards for a touchdown by safety Delano Howell.
Guy also had played well on defense, batting down passes in wins over Jacksonville and the Seahawks. He had three tackles in the win over Seattle.
Pagano admitted that the decision to part ways with the defensive lineman wasn’t not an easy one.
“The roster is fluid and got to make some tough decisions, as you know, and it’s always on what’s best for the team and what gives us the best chance to win,” the Colts coach explained.
“Just might mention that Lawrence did a great job last couple weeks, bringing him back when [defensive tackle] Ricky [Jean Francois] went down. Obviously played well [Sunday] and did a nice job, blocked field goal and all was huge, so thank him for his contributions.”
• Injury list — The Colts may get three starters back this week. Fullback Stanley Havili (ankle), safety LaRon Landry (ankle) and Jean Francois (groin) may be available to return for the San Diego game.
“Stanley Havili is doing well, tracking in the right direction, might get him back towards the end of the week. We’re keeping our fingers crossed. Same thing with Landry, moving in the right direction and maybe, hopefully, by the end of the week get him out there and start practicing,” Pagano said.
“He’s day-to-day along with Havili. Ricky Jean has done well. Looks like we’ll get him back out there on Wednesday for practice.”
There were no updates on rookie outside linebacker Bjoern Werner (foot) and running back Ahmad Bradshaw (neck). There was only one injury from the game, but it didn’t affect a player.
Pagano joked that he was hurt while running down the sidelines as Howell returned the blocked field goal for a touchdown.
“Pulled a hammy on that one. I wasn’t going to say anything because I don’t want [the players] to know,” he laughed.
“I don’t know. I don’t even recall it to be honest with you. Just a pretty exciting moment I guess. My wife happened to catch [video of Pagano running] too. She didn’t think I could move that fast either. It was good. It was a great moment in that game. Try to remain calm next time I guess.”
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