It couldn’t last forever.
The Indianapolis Colts love playing with fire. That fire will be ever-present for a team that is on the margins of being anywhere from 7-9 to 11-5. And that fire will burn the Colts now and then.
In the 24-20 loss to Miami on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Colts couldn’t quite calibrate their ebb and their flow. The 448 yards of total offense — including 315 in the first half, the Colts’ best for a half since 2004 — were a testament that the Colts’ offense wasn’t broken.
But Miami’s three sacks — including a game-clincher by ex-Colt Phillip Wheeler with 1:35 left — were evidence that the protection still wasn’t always there. A 50-percent success rate in the red zone screamed loudly as to the Colts’ missed opportunities.
Miami’s 398 total yards indicated that the Colts’ defense wasn’t able to break the Dolphins enough, despite a decent second-half pass rush put on Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Even quarterback Andrew Luck — who keeps the Colts alive more than they deserve at times — was fallible with some forced passes and a fourth-quarter interception.
When you have a loss where there was nothing glaringly bad or out of the norm, you just move on. What matters now is how the Colts respond to a mild case of game-to-game adversity.
I specify “game-to-game adversity” because the Colts proved they could handle real adversity in 2012 when coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with cancer. The team and Pagano himself passed that test with flying colors.
Game-to-game adversity is far more run-of-the-mill, but also an important hurdle for any team to clear on its way to being a consistent winner. Game-to-game adversity is about exorcising the devil in the details. It’s about fixing little things. Tweaking, tinkering, making the small adjustments, but to make them right. All done under the microscope of higher expectations.
Game-to-game adversity is something the Colts only rarely faced in the 2012 season.
The Colts started 2-3, but at no point could it realistically be said that they were under pressure to win in that stretch. Luck was a rookie quarterback, the head coach was felled by a horrible disease, and the only truly poor loss in that stretch was a home setback against Jacksonville.
At that point, the mission for the young Colts was to avoid being overwhelmed. They dusted themselves off, united behind a common cause and had a fulfilling 11-5 playoff season.
Having done it once, the playoffs are expected, or at least a realistic goal. So the paradigm is different. Unlike 2012, when the Colts’ unexpected success was, to a degree, gravy, repeating success increases the weight on the Colts’ shoulders, and the burden of an avoidable loss such as the one suffered on Sunday.
The pressure is different. It messes with your head. For some teams and some players, it can make exorcising that devil in the details of getting better a daunting task.
Postgame mood is hardly the most accurate barometer to assess how a team will respond, but all of the right things were said.
Luck, as leaders will, took the blame for his part.
“I guess [I’m] a little angry at myself. Credit to [the Dolphins], they put us in all of these situations, but I feel like we are a better team than what we showed out there,” Luck said.
Pagano had few excuses to offer, even when there were some calls — including a possible pass interference on Brent Grimes’ fourth-quarter interception — that could have given him a chance to give the Colts an out.
“We just didn’t make enough plays. They made just enough to get out of here with a win,” Pagano said.
The vibe was certainly one of disappointment, but also that it wasn’t a loss the Colts couldn’t recover from.
That’s undoubtedly the right way for the Colts to be, but you also got the sense this might be a crossroads moment. You got the sense that maybe they also want to see for themselves how they respond.
The bounce-back task won’t be easy. The Colts travel to defending NFC champion San Francisco next Sunday. It’s followed by a winnable, but tricky, trip to Jacksonville a week later.
Seattle, with its impressive defense and Super Bowl aspirations, visits Lucas Oil on Oct. 6. Another West Coast trip, this time to improving San Diego, follows on Oct. 13. Then will be the Circus Maximus of Peyton Manning’s return to Indy with Denver on Oct. 20.
There’s not a single game in that stretch the Colts are a lock to win if they let their guard down. Game-to-game adversity might be run-of-the-mill, but it’s dangerous if it’s not curtailed.
“This ain’t no sprint,” Pagano said. “It’s Week 2. We want to win at home. We want to win every ballgame. We’re going to compete and prepare to win every ball game. We’ll make the corrections and get guys healthy and get guys back.”
It’s one thing to say it — Pagano could hardly be faulted for saying anything else — now we’ll see if the Colts do it.
It’s your move, Colts. Which direction do you go?
Todd Golden is sports editor of the Terre Haute Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @TribStarTodd.
How will Colts respond to this different kind of adversity?
It couldn’t last forever.
- Sports Columns
Ramblin' Reck: Four prep basketball teams still in contention
The season now is over for all but four high school basketball teams in the area.
Ramblin’ Reck: It’s officially Tourney Time in the Valley
The regular season now has ended for most high school and college basketball teams in the area. It’s Tourney Time.
College report: Valley softball pair help Ball State start off with 12-2 record
Two Wabash Valley products have helped the Ball State softball team get off to a 12-2 start, including five straight wins last weekend to capture the Louisville Slugger Invitational at Arizona State.
Redneck Quaker: Edington, Mafioli set up marriage in unique way
Kaylee Edington says being outdoors gets you away from the turmoil in life and that is why they want to include it into the most important things in their lives.
Little did she know a marriage proposal was being planned for her while she was shooting sporting clays in the great outdoors.
Ramblin Reck: Cloverdale riding 10-game winning streak
Illinois high school boys basketball teams commenced postseason play Monday night and teams in Indiana are set to close out the regular season. Two of the teams with top marks in the area are Cloverdale and Clay City and they met last Saturday to cap a good week of basketball.
TODD GOLDEN: Relax, guys: Play loose, have fun
What seems like an end can really be a beginning for Indiana State’s men’s basketball team.
Redneck Quaker: Wabash Valley Limbhangers conducting banquet March 7
Stand by for news!
No, I’m not Paul Harvey, but please read on about a lot of fun that is about to happen in the turkey-hunting and bass-fishing worlds.
Ramblin’ Reck: Regular season winding down in high school basketball
Time flies when you’re having fun … and playing basketball.
It’s hard to believe that the regular season ends this week for high school basketball teams that we cover in Illinois. The postseason begins next Monday.
Paris, Casey and Marshall have the top marks and Robinson has had some good wins playing a tough schedule.
From The Press Box: The nuts and bolts of compiling a Mock Selection for the NCAA Tournament
Before March Madness comes the March mystery of the run-up to Selection Sunday.
College Report: Valley pair square off in softball pitching duel
Administrators and coaches long ago scheduled the East Tennessee State and Indiana University softball teams to both compete in the Georgia State Panther Invitational in Atlanta last weekend. Little could they have realized, however, that a Sunday afternoon pitching matchup between the two teams would pair two successful, blonde, and versatile performers from western Indiana in a head-to-head clash.
Redneck Quaker: National Wild Turkey Federation banquet coming Saturday
The Sycamore Ridge chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation will have its banquet this coming Saturday at the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union Hall, 8801 E. Milner Ave.
Doors open at 5 p.m. with dinner at 7. Food is catered by Rick’s Smokehouse; you will lick your fingers to the bone after enjoying one of their fine meals.
Ramblin’ Reck: Grizzlies shoot, make just one free throw in win
Memphis defeated Atlanta 79-76. The big point about this game is that the Grizzlies shot just one free throw in the game — and made it. That is an unofficial record for the shot-clock era.
Redneck Quaker: Everyone should meet John Steinbrenner at least once
I’m struggling to find the correct words to describe this incredible 44-year-old outdoorsman!
At times, I will get down on life and feel sorry for myself. Everyone should meet John Steinbrenner at one time n their life. This man sees no challenges, just solutions for anything he comes up against.
From the Press Box: Loss couldn’t ruin great day for ISU, Terre Haute
When I write, and when I can, I like to give myself a bit of time to soak in what I’m going to write about. After Indiana State’s 65-58 loss to No. 4 Wichita State on Wednesday, I went home, had a bite to eat and pondered what I thought the night was all about.
I knew ISU’s disappointment cut deep. Really deep. A cruel reality of sports is that losses linger on in the memory with greater resonance than wins often do. Given the shots that rattled out, fell short and missed the mark in the final five minutes, this is a defeat that will, sadly, dog the Sycamores tonight, tomorrow and 20 years from now.
Ramblin' Reck: Upsets leave Syracuse in No. 1 spot
A wild week of men’s college basketball action ended Sunday with Indiana’s Hoosiers knocking off Big Ten leader Michigan 63-52.
TILL IT'S OVER: Indiana Track and Field museum in Terre Haute a treasure for city
Greg Gibson and Dave Patterson were named honorary members of the Indiana Track and Field and Cross Country Hall of Fame on Saturday at a reception for the 2014 inductees Saturday.
The Wabash Valley inductees were former high-jump state champion Ted Sweatt of Terre Haute Wiley, former Sullivan and Indiana State standout Erica Moore, former state mile record holder Jack Corridan of Wiley and Tom Henderson of Brazil.
Hughes, News & Views: Odds in favor of Richard Sherman being mentioned here
I’ve explained my post-2011 NFL allegiances before, but allow me to summarize them one more time for any new readers to this column.
I eased into liking the Indianapolis Colts as my favorite team in the late 1980s. Like plenty of other Wabash Valley sports fans, I became Colts-obsessed when Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne and others turned them into an elite franchise in 1999 and the early 2000s.
When the Colts beat Da Bears 29-17 in Super Bowl XLI on Feb. 4, 2007, I yelled as loud as anyone in Terre Haute.
Ramblin’ Reck: Even after 20-point loss, Sycamores move up to 51st in RPI
Checking out some basketball polls and rankings -- colleges first:
In spite of losing to Wichita State, Indiana State moved up to 51st in the weekly RPI totals from 63. Some other rankings: Kansas 1, Wisconsin 4, Villanova 5, Wichita State 9, Creighton 10, Illinois 58, Northern Iowa 70, Indiana 77, Missouri State 78, Purdue 87, Butler 90, Notre Dame 94, Illinois State 108.
College report: Terre Haute pair Berry, Comer to boost Sycamores’ lines
While many people have varying opinions on the most important position on a football team, most old-school gridiron veterans would consider strong line play as a necessity for anything else to work — kind of like pitching in baseball and guard play in basketball.
FROM THE PRESSBOX: Time for constructive criticism, not panic for ISU
I said before Indiana State’s Missouri Valley Conference showdown with Wichita State that there would be no need to hit the panic button if the Sycamores lost at Koch Arena on Saturday.
REDNECK QUAKER: Hunting bear will provide challenge you seek
Brett Dalton and some fellow turkey hunters decided to try their hand at bear hunting, but found it to be more of a challenge than they thought.
Don’t forget, Mother Nature calls the shots!
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Little to lose, a lot to gain for Indiana State
It’s hard not to get excited about today’s Missouri Valley Conference summit meeting between co-leaders Indiana State and Wichita State. Who wouldn’t be?
AMEY TAKES AIM: Emmitt 'Tank' Tyler remembered as a great football player, great mentor
Visitation is 4 to 7 p.m. today and 10 a.m. until the 11 o’clock services Saturday at Second Missionary Baptist Church for Emmitt “Tank” Tyler.
The former Garfield and Indiana State fullback and linebacker passed away on Jan. 8 and is survived by his wife Debra and sons Emmitt II and Ethan, along with three goddaughters, two sisters, five brothers and a huge extended family.
Ramblin' Reck: After snow, busy week in prep basketball
Because of lots of snow and ice, high school basketball action was limited in the area last week. This week promises to be a busy one, especially with better weather conditions in the forecast. Some key prep boys games are slated, two of them tonight.
AMEY TAKES AIM: Basketball clock ticking down for Union
If there’s an unfortunate unintended consequence of the several weather-related postponements to the Greene County Invitational — which is operating as well as it possibly could have, Steve Brett was adamant about going on record to say Saturday evening — it’s that losers of Saturday’s four first-round games won’t get to play their usual two additional games in the consolation bracket.
Ramblin' Reck: Both ISU basketball teams off to strong starts in MVC
College basketball teams have commenced league play and it's nice to see Indiana State teams in the top spot in the Missouri Valley Conference standings.
From the Press Box: I’ve seen the enemy … and it’s the double bonus
I’ve seen the enemy.
I’ve seen it turn the game of basketball from one of exciting flow into a nonstop parade of tedium. I’ve seen it morph hundreds of what would-be thrilling, last-minute, end-to-end conclusions into foul shooting exhibitions that suck the life out of a gym or arena near you.
It’s the double bonus. It’s a scourge, one that is often overlooked when ideas on how to make the game more entertaining or to speed the game up are put forth.
Amey Takes Aim: Tourney provided a few Classic moments
This column was falling into place nicely until about 1:15 p.m. Saturday. Then youth and inexperience reared up to bite it.
Ramblin’ Reck: College basketball season races start to get serious
The preliminaries are over and college conference teams start playing each other tonight with league titles and possible NCAA berths on the line.
A few words of wisdom for this Christmas season
Tis the day before Christmas, a day set aside for observing the birth of Jesus Christ.
Merry Christmas to you all and your loved ones. We'll take this time to publish some words of wisdom from one of the cards sent our way – this person is No. 1 among card senders in our book. To wit:
- More Sports Columns Headlines
- Ramblin' Reck: Four prep basketball teams still in contention