News From Terre Haute, Indiana

November 26, 2012

‘Resilient’ label fits Colts

Tom James
Tribune-Star Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS — If there is a word that best describes the 2012 Indianapolis Colts, it just might be “resilient.”

Give up a lot of points in road losses to Chicago, the New York Jets and New England? No problem. Lose a close game at home? Again, no problem.

Every time that the Colts have lost a game this year, they’ve battled back the next week to secure a much needed win. Indianapolis is 4-0 in such week-after games. Not bad for a mostly young squad that is still learning about what life is like in the National Football League.

“Yeah, it just shows a lot about this team and this coaching staff. One thing is protecting home field. After a tough loss, sometimes a tough loss can carry over into the next week, but guys came in the next week just being focused,” free safety Antoine Bethea said Sunday after the Colts’ 20-13 win over Buffalo.

Bethea is one of the few veterans remaining on the Indianapolis roster, along with wide receiver Reggie Wayne, outside linebackers Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, defensive end Cory Redding and strong safety Tom Zbikowski. Redding and Zbikowski are both new to the team, but not new to the NFL after playing the last several seasons in Baltimore.

“A very resilient team. A young team that’s guided by veteran leadership. Everybody’s all-in, all-aboard and that’s what happens,” Mathis added, not resisting a chance to tweak any and all prognosticators who had the Colts winning only a couple games this season.

“I guess that’s why you call them experts. We were picked to finish 1-15 and now [we’re] sitting at 7-4.”

Redding says the secret, if there is one, to an ability to move past tough losses is to have a short memory.

“Being able to put any bad situation behind you very quick. You can’t let one loss turn into two. Definitely have to see and man up to your mistakes and go to work honestly trying to correct those mistakes and keep your team in mind so that they don’t happen again,” he said Sunday.

“Guys responded well and leaders stepped up this week. Everybody else followed our lead and we just put together another good, solid win together to get No. 7 and keep us in the hunt.”

• Hilton’s big day — Rookie wide receiver T.Y. Hilton got off to a slow start during training camp due to some injury issues. But as the preseason and the regular season has progressed, the former Florida International standout has continued to impress his coaches, teammates and fans.

Hilton caught three passes for 33 yards and a touchdown while also returning four punts for 111 yards and a TD. Not a bad day’s work. In doing so, he became the first player in franchise history to score a touchdown receiving and returning a punt for a TD in the same game. Hilton is also the first Colts player to return a punt for a touchdown since T.J. Rushing did it against Oakland in 2007.

Interim coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians knew early on, despite the training camp injuries, that he had something special in Hilton.

“He reminds me a lot of [Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver] Antonio Brown,” Arians said. “They’re from the same neighborhood. They’re friends, they have the same desire to be good and they take it very serious to be good. When you have those and God-given talent, you should be successful.”

• Tackling machine — Former Canadian Football League all-star Jerrell Freeman is quickly making believers out of everybody who watches him play.

Freeman, who attended Mary Hardin-Baylor College in Texas, didn’t get too many looks from NFL teams. He did get a tryout with the Tennessee Titans and impressed the coaching staff there, but became a casualty of roster cuts at the end of training camp. Freeman went on to play with the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders, where he caught the attention of the Colts’ scouting department.

He’s a big favorite of first-year general manager Ryan Grigson and was the first outside player to be signed by Grigson upon being named to his current post. Ever since Freeman moved into the starting lineup in the season opener with Chicago, filling in for an injured Pat Angerer, all he’s done is perform.

Freeman has led the team in tackles in nine of the Colts’ 11 games. He had a game-high 16 tackles against the Bills on Sunday, including nine solos, a sack, three tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry.

“You can’t say enough about [Freeman]. He is a quality, quality football player and I’m sure glad he’s on our team. He’s fast and he can run with these guys,” Arians said.

• Luck keeps moving up the charts — Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck completed 20 of 37 passes for 240 yards for a TD and had one pass intercepted in the Buffalo game.

He has now thrown for 3,205 yards while throwing 13 touchdown passes and had 13 passes intercepted this season. With the win over the Bills, he tied St. Louis’ Sam Bradford for the most wins (7) by a quarterback drafted No. 1 overall since 1970.

Luck became the second rookie quarterback in Colts history to throw for 3,000-plus yards in their first season. With 449 passing attempts this season, he passed Jack Trudeau (417) for the second-most in a season by a rookie in team history.

• Wayne does too — Wayne finished with eight catches for 102 yards against the Bills. The performance was the third 100-yard contest for Wayne this season and the 41st of his career.

With his eight receptions, he upped his career total to 946 and surpassed Derrick Mason for 11th place on the NFL’s all-time receptions list. Wayne also improved his career yardage total to 12,813 and moved past Irving Fryar for 14th place on the league’s all-time receiving yardage list.

He set the NFL record for consecutive games with three-plus catches (59), topping Chris Carter’s old mark of 58.

• Injury list — Defensive tackle Fili Moala left Sunday’s game in the fourth quarter with a sprained right anterior cruciate knee ligament. He did not return.

Zbikowski incurred a right shin contusion in the fourth quarter but returned to the game later. Hilton suffered a head injury while returning his second punt and left the game. After a trip to the locker room for tests, he also returned after being cleared.

Cornerback Vontae Davis (knee) and tight end Coby Fleener (shoulder) were pregame inactives, along with inside linebacker Mario Harvey, nose tackle Josh Chapman, defensive end Clifton Geathers, offensive tackle Tony Hills and tight end Dominque Jones.