The Indianapolis Colts continue to impress.
A year ago, the Colts were mired in a season-long losing streak and ended the year with a 2-14 record. This season, with a re-made roster and a new coaching staff, Indianapolis finds itself with a 6-3 mark and in contention for a return to the postseason after a one-year absence.
Few would have envisioned such a quick turnaround for the Colts, but Indianapolis finds itself solidly in second place in the AFC South and as the No. 5 seed in a potential AFC playoff format.
Interim coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians came away from Thursday night’s nationally televised 27-10 road win over Jacksonville liking what he saw.
“After watching the [game] tape, I was really pleased with the effort we put forth in all three phases. Really, the defensive line I thought dominated the game. The offensive line, we ran the ball pretty effectively. If our wide receivers block a little more, we’ll get some more chunks in our running game,” Arians said Friday afternoon.
“Overall, [I] can’t say enough about our young guys preparing on a short week and the veteran leadership that got them there. We made errors. We made some stupid plays in the fourth quarter, both offensively and defensively. But at that point and time, it didn’t cost us the game, but it will cost us the game down the road. We have a lot of things to clean up, but a lot of good things to build on.”
Arians, though, likes how Indianapolis has positioned itself. Up next on the schedule is a trip to Foxboro on Nov. 18 to face longtime nemesis New England.
“We’ve got a big game [coming up]. We’ll take a little rest and try to get some guys healthy. We should get some guys back now, so we’ll got see what we can do on a big stage,” Arians said. “It’s just about next week. We’ll add it all up at the end.”
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n On the road again — After beginning the season with road losses to Chicago and the New York Jets, Indianapolis has posted victories at Tennessee and Jacksonville.
Finding wins on the road will be crucial to the Colts’ playoff chances over the next month. Indianapolis has four more games away from Lucas Oil Stadium, including next weekend’s matchup with the Patriots.
“[Of] the remainder of the schedule, the majority is on the road. Unless something crazy would happen, if we got into the playoffs, it would probably be on the road. Just learning to win on the road, this will be a huge challenge next week,” Arians said.
“[New England is] the perennial contender, at their house, a lot of our veteran guys have been in that battle many, many times and can tell the young guys what to expect. But we’ve got half our roster that will experience it for the first time. I’m really looking forward to it.”
n Luck looking ahead — While rookie quarterback Andrew Luck appreciated the road win over Jacksonville, he knows next weekend’s trip to Foxboro won’t be easy.
“[The win over the Jaguars] was the biggest game to date by far and to win was great. Obviously, it’s nice to be 6-3. But we realize it’s just one step in the journey,” he said.
“We know it only gets harder from here, so we’re going to have to buckle down and put in twice as much effort and twice as much work.”
n Butler impressive — Cornerback Darius Butler made his first start at right cornerback a good one Thursday night.
Butler registered four tackles, a pair of interceptions, two passes broken up and a recovered fumble. He was filling in for injured Jerraud Powers.
His first interception came off starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert and was returned 11 yards for a touchdown. Butler then picked off backup QB Chad Henne in the fourth quarter.
Arians said that the former Patriots draft pick deserves a second start. Powers (toe) and Vontae Davis (knee) missed the Jacksonville game.
“He gets to be a starter. That’s the main thing. You get an opportunity, Wally Pipp, you forget about whoever’s hurt. That’s the whole beauty of the mantra ‘next man up.’ Don’t give it up, once you get it,” the Colts’ assistant said.
“[General manager] Ryan [Grigson] gave [Butler] an opportunity to reclaim a career and he’s making the best of it.”
Arians didn’t say who Butler would replace next week. He wants to wait and see how Powers and Davis are, health-wise, before making a final call.
“We’ll see how long they’re out. If he’s getting two picks, I bet he’s still starting,” he said, adding that Butler could end up at either left or right cornerback if need be.
“Yeah, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
n Luck as a tackler — Luck showed his tenacity Thursday when he attempted to tackle Jacksonville safety Dawan Landry after throwing an interception late in the second quarter.
Landry returned the pick 21 yards before lateraling the ball off to safety Chris Prosinski for an additional 2 yards. Wide receiver Reggie Wayne finally knocked Prosinski down.
The idea of Indianapolis’ starting quarterback trying to make a tackle is commendable, but not recommended.
“As long as it’s his left shoulder [take the brunt of the tackle]. No right shoulders tackles and don’t get in a reason to have to tackle,” Arians stressed Monday.
n Injuries — Defensive tackle Drake Nevis left the Jacksonville game in the second quarter with an apparent hand injury. He did not return.
Sitting out the game with previous injuries were Powers, Davis, tight end Coby Fleener (shoulder), outside linebacker Robert Mathis (back), center Samson Satele (back) and offensive tackle Winston Justice (knee). Running back Donald Brown (knee) was active but did not start. He rotated with Vick Ballard and Delone Carter.
Arians said he doesn’t know yet if any of the team’s injured players will be available to go against New England.
“Obviously, we gave the team time off until Monday. We’ll reconvene and catch up. Hopefully, get four guys back and be almost at full strength, and see how it goes Monday and especially Wednesday.” he mentioned.
n Luck wins FedEx passing award — Luck was awarded the FedEx NFL Air Player of the Week after he completed 30 of 48 passes for 433 yards and two touchdowns in the team’s 23-20 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
Junior Achievement in Indianapolis will be awarded a $2,000 donation in Luck’s name.