News From Terre Haute, Indiana

November 25, 2013

Colts ready to go back to work

Tom James
Tribune-Star Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS — If anybody expected Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano to start spewing fire to his players in the wake of Sunday’s 40-11 National Football League loss at Arizona, they would be largely disappointed.

Pagano prefers to stay positive and on an even keel, although he quickly admits that the Indianapolis coaching staff is a bit frustrated.

That being said, the Colts are still in command of the AFC South with a 7-4 record and a two-game lead over second place Tennessee. The Titans are this week’s opponent at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Of course, that cushion in the division race could become a lot tighter if Indianapolis were to lose to the Titans.

“There were some positives [in the Arizona loss]. I know that’s hard for some of you to believe,” the Colts coach said Monday. “It’s time to go back to work. [We have a] huge game coming up at home. We’ve got to put [the Cardinals game] behind us and get ready to work on Wednesday.”

Indianapolis has registered a 2-2 record since the team loss the services of veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne to a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Wayne is sidelined for the remainder of the season.

In those four games, the Colts have started slowly. Indianapolis was able to battle back in securing AFC South road victories over Houston and Tennessee, but in the other two games, against NFC West opponents St. Louis and Arizona, the Colts got behind too quickly and by too much to mount any sort of serious rally.

Indianapolis was outscored 78-19 in those two losses. So the work of the coaching staff continues.

“Coaches are working overtime. We start meetings at 8 and the special teams guys are in at 7. [Our] coaches are putting in hours you don’t normally,” Pagano voiced. “No matter win or loss, we stay [even]. Maintain the process. Point out mistakes, move on.”

He knows how important it is to secure a win over the Titans this week. An Indianapolis victory would move the Colts closer to securing the division title.

“[The game] is huge. It can’t get here, obviously, quick enough,” Pagano stressed. “This team is resilient. It’s always been able to bounce back.”

Need proof?

Since Pagano became head coach prior to the start of the 2012 season, Indianapolis has recorded an 8-0 record in regular-season games immediately following a loss. The Colts have done it three times this year.

• Getting back to basics — Pagano is trying to get his team out of its current funk.  

“We are going to figure out a way to get back to being the team that we were [earlier in the year, with wins over San Francisco, Seattle and Denver],” the Colts coach said.

“We are obviously missing some guys, that won’t be out there [now], when we won those games. Again, we make no excuses. We have to get it fixed and we have to get it fixed in a hurry.”

Veteran safety Antoine Bethea agrees.

“People on the outside are always going to question. But we believe in this locker room,” Bethea explained. “We believe what we have. It’s a long football season. The good thing about the NFL is you another week to come out and play ball.”

Getting off to much quicker starts would obviously help.

“I think we’ve been outscored 73-9 in the first half. We obviously have to figure things out and figure them out in a hurry,” Pagano said. “We got a huge ball game coming up, and we got to figure some things out and find a way to get this thing rectified.”

Better offensive line play, both in run blocking and pass protection, is crucial.

“There’s blood in the water right now, and until we get it fixed they are going to keep coming at us. It’s the same thing week in and week out on both sides of the ball and on special teams. Until you put out the fire … they keep testing you until you put the fire out,” the Colts coach said.

• Werner makes first start — Rookie outside linebacker Bjoern Werner made his first NFL start against the Cardinals, filling in for outside linebacker Erik Walden.

Walden was serving a one-game NFL suspension for head-butting Tennessee tight end Delanie Walker two weeks ago. Werner ended the Arizona game with one tackle and one pass broken up.

• Mathis moves up record charts — Outside linebacker Robert Mathis has registered a single-season personal best of 14.5 sacks so far this season, including a strip-sack of Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer on Sunday.

Mathis now has 40 career strip-sacks. He also has 106 career sacks and has had a sack in 81 consecutive games, tying the franchise record that was set by former Indianapolis defensive end/outside linebacker Dwight Freeney.

• Injury list — Cornerback Vontae Davis (groin) and wide receiver LaVon Brazill (back) were hurt in the Arizona, although both are expected to play against the Titans this week.

Cornerback Greg Toler (groin), fullback Stanley Havili (concussion) and inside linebacker Kavell Conner (ankle) did not play against the Cardinals. All three might be back in time for the Tennessee game.

“Vontae, we know went out with a groin strain. Looks like he’s going to be okay. LaVon Brazill looks like he’s going to be fine. [He] had the low back contusion,” Pagano reviewed.

“Greg Toler, he’s trending in the right direction. Hopefully [he’ll] get back on the field with the trainers on Wednesday, do some field work with them, do some individual drills with them and then see where we’re at. He’ll be day-to-day. Havili, again, he’s still going through the concussion protocol, he’s day-to-day. And Kavell Conner is day-to-day with his ankle.”

• Our Pal Al in Canada — Former Indiana State defensive back and assistant coach Alvin Reynolds was a part of the Saskatchewan Roughriders coaching staff during the team’s Canadian Football League Grey Cup championship win Sunday evening.

Reynolds played safety during his collegiate career and then was the Sycamores’ secondary coach before moving on to the NFL coaching ranks. He had stops in Denver, Baltimore, Jacksonville and Atlanta.

After serving as a defensive advisor with Saskatchewan during their training camp and early in the season, he was on the sidelines for the Roughriders’ 45-23 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.