News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 18, 2012

Wobbly Colts need win to clinch

Tom James
Tribune-Star Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts will be a beat-up football team as they prepare for Sunday’s National Football League game at Kansas City.

Interim coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians confirmed that three starters — center Samson Satele (ankle), strong safety Tom Zbikowski (knee) and inside linebacker Kavell Conner (hamstring) — will miss a second straight game.

Running back Delone Carter (ankle), the team’s goal-line and short-yardage specialist, will also be sidelined for a second consecutive week.

The availability of backup center A.Q. Shipley (knee) and right offensive tackle Winston Justice (biceps) remains up in the air.

Shipley was starting for Satele and played most of the Houston game before he was hurt late in the fourth quarter and was forced to the sidelines. Justice was injured a week earlier against Tennessee and did not play against the Texans.

“We’ll get some scans and some [magnetic resonance imaging tests] and find out Wednesday more about who’ll be available this week,” Arians said Monday.

Indianapolis goes into the Chiefs game needing to secure a win in order to clinch one of the AFC’s two wild-card playoff berths. It’s just that simple.

The Colts, now with a 9-5 overall record, know that it’s time to get on another winning streak with two games remaining in the regular season.

Each time Indianapolis has lost a game this season, the team has rebounded with a victory. Kansas City is 2-12 after a 15-0 loss to Oakland.

“I think the biggest thing is the veteran leadership. Those guys bounce back. They know how to get the young guys off the 24-hour rule and come right back in and start working,” Arians said.

“We had really good meetings [Monday] and watched the tape [of Sunday’s 29-17 loss to the Texans]. This one will be out of our mouth by [Monday] night and we’ll get started on Kansas City.”

• Reviewing the Houston game — A learning experience.

That’s what the Colts took away from the loss to Houston at Reliant Stadium. It was the Colts’ second loss (3-2 overall) in the division this year.

So what exactly did Indianapolis learn in the loss to the Texans?

Indianapolis found out — once again — that it can’t continue to make costly gaffes at inopportune times and expect to come away with a victory.

The total number of turnovers wasn’t the problem. There was a fumble at the goal line by veteran running back Mewelde Moore with the Colts trailing 10-0 in the first quarter and a blocked punt for a touchdown in the second quarter.

“We can’t come into a stadium and beat ourselves, having blocked kicks, 1 for 8 on third downs, 1 for 3 in the red zone. The penalties hurt us and we beat ourselves in some areas,” Arians said. “Overall it was a tough loss for us.”

In looking ahead to the final two games of the regular season — at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium this week and then back home to face Houston in what would probably be the final home game — a young Colts squad learned that it can compete toe to toe with one of the better teams in the NFL and survive. And possibly even prosper.

“We have to play flawless when we’re playing teams like [Houston],” outside linebacker Robert Mathis said. “We didn’t do that.”

Indianapolis can still accomplish a lot by clinching a wild-card playoff spot against the Chiefs and then, of the current AFC standings hold up, heading to Baltimore in the first round.  

“Obviously we don’t want to lose. We do realize there is a chance to still make the [AFC playoffs] and we’ll fight for that. We’ll move on to the Chiefs next week and see how we can do,” quarterback Andrew Luck said.

Mathis agreed.

“We have a whole lot to play for. We haven’t accomplished our goals and we aren’t settling for mediocrity. We have to pull it together and go get one next week,” he said.