News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 13, 2011

Colts have three more chances to win

Yet many obstacles are still in Colts’ path

Tom James
Tribune-Star Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts may be 0-13 for the season, but the team keeps battling.

Two weeks ago, the Colts dropped a 31-24 road game to AFC East leader New England. On Sunday, Indianapolis battled to the end but came up on the losing side of a 24-10 decision to AFC North leader Baltimore at M&T Bank Stadium.

The Ravens’ defense proved to be just too much for Indianapolis to overcome, especially after the Colts — as they have done throughout this season — got off to a slow start offensively.

Baltimore’s defense set the tone early against an inconsistent Indianapolis offensive attack that saw quarterback Dan Orlovsky consistently harassed.

But there just might be some light at the end of a very long and frustrating 2011 season.

The Colts will wrap up the year with back-to-back home games with Tennessee (Sunday, 1 p.m., Lucas Oil Stadium) and Houston — on a Thursday night, Dec. 22 — before ending the year at Jacksonville on Jan. 1.

The final three games will be against AFC South rivals, giving coach Jim Caldwell’s team additional extra motivation. The Colts will have matchups with the Titans and Texans over an 11-day period.

“It’s tough. As a professional, to do what you do and to be winless right now, it’s tough,” tight end Jacob Tamme admitted after the Ravens game. “But we have three more [games] left and we’re going to go into [this] week trying to get better and come in with a good plan, try to execute it. But it’s tough. It stinks.”

Reasons for the Colts’ rough season are many. Losing the services of quarterback Peyton Manning to preseason neck fusion surgery certainly tops the list.

But also injuries to several defensive starters, such as middle linebacker Gary Brackett (shoulder), safety Melvin Bullitt (shoulder) and cornerback Jerraud Powers (elbow) have been crucial as well.

Manning (offense), Brackett (defense) and Bullitt (special teams) have been unit captains for the past several seasons.

“Regardless of what the records are, we want to win those [AFC South] games,” Caldwell said. “We’ve got to take them one at a time. It’s a competitive situation, obviously.

“We’re going to go after this next [game] as hard as we possible can and see if we can get a victory.”

And just how do the Colts go about doing that?

“We’ve got to find a way to be more consistent,” the Indianapolis coach said. “That’s one of the things we did a little bit better [against the Patriots] as opposed [to the Baltimore game]. We’ll look at the problems to see what we need to get straightened out and get back to work.”

• Facing the Titans Sunday — Familiarity won’t be an issue for the Colts as they close out the 2011 season.

“We’re coming up on a stretch where we have three of our division opponents in a row, and certainly we do know something about their personnel,” Caldwell previewed. “But there are some guys that we don’t know much about. Certainly we don’t know much about [Titans rookie quarterback Jake] Locker. We’ve seen him run around and play, but this will be an opportunity for us to get a little bit closer look at him.”

Locker has seen increased playing time in recent weeks due to injuries surrounding veteran starter Matt Hasselbeck. He is expected to start against the Colts on Sunday.

“I know he’s a very fine player and he runs extremely well,” Caldwell said. “There is some benefit to having played them once, but between the times that we’ve played one another, some things change in terms of personnel.”

• No decision on Caldwell — The fate of the Colts’ coach is not up for discussion, according to vice-chairman Bill Polian. Not now anyway.

“My fervent hope is that Jim’s job is not in jeopardy because my fervent hope is that we don’t go 0-16. And we’re doing everything we can to try and avoid that,” Polian said during his weekly Monday night radio show.

• Wheeler update — There won’t be an update on the status of strongside linebacker Philip Wheeler, who suffered an ankle/foot injury against Baltimore, until later in the week.

“[There is] nothing solidified as of yet,” Caldwell said. “He’s being evaluated and getting all of the exams that he needs, so we’ll have an idea shortly.”