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Colts must bring bounce-back magic tonight

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Colts at Tennessee

Kickoff: 8:25 tonight in LP Field, Nashville, Tenn.
TV: NFL Network

For more on the Colts, follow Reggie Hayes via Twitter at and listen to Reggie preview the Colts-Titans game at 5:15 p.m. today on The BS Sports Show (1380-AM, 106.7-FM).

A loss at Tennessee could send team reeling

Thursday, November 14, 2013 - 10:07 am

The sample size is too small. Any statistician or 13-year-old ESPN viewer will tell you that.

Yet it's a fact that during the brief and primarily successful Andrew Luck Era (Andrew Luck Introductory Phase?) the Indianapolis Colts have never lost back-to-back games.

Whether they've lost big, as in a 35-point loss to the New England Patriots last season, or small, as in a four-point loss to Miami this season, the Colts have rebounded with wins.

Sometimes those wins have come against good teams (Packers last year, 49ers and Broncos this year) and sometimes against not-so-good teams (Browns and Chiefs last year). Yet seven times, the Colts have followed a loss with a win.

The sample size is too small.

Or is that actually irrelevant?

Is there something to the idea that the Colts with Luck (and coach Chuck Pagano) have a secret to not losing consecutive games?

“They're a resilient bunch,” Pagano said. “They understand that you've got to stick to the process. They go back and take a hard look at themselves and figure out and fix the things that caused the problems the week before.”

The Colts (6-3) play the Tennessee Titans (4-5) at 8:25 tonight at LP Field, Nashville.

It's not like the season is on the line or that this is a do-or-die game for the Colts, but it's a big opportunity. A win would put the Colts three games up in the AFC South, and winning a division title is the only guaranteed way to the playoffs. It would bury the memory of the horrendous 38-8 home loss to the St. Louis Rams. And it would put the Colts in a positive, confident mood heading into a stretch where they can heal and regroup before a Nov. 24 trip to Arizona.

This would also be the first time the Colts have bounced back without wide receiver Reggie Wayne, which would be no small feat given the glaring hole left by his absence in two games so far.

“You can't take a great player off the field and not be different, there's no doubt,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “You lose someone as special as he is …you're going to miss something because you don't have a weapon, the defenses are going to play you a little bit differently.”

To rebound again after a loss, the Colts must play better on offense. That's obvious. They can't be 2-for-12 in third-down conversions and go scoreless in the first half.

But the issues against the Rams were widespread, most evident in the defense and the special teams being unable to contain Tavon Austin, a good player that the Colts made look like an All-Pro.

“I think you learn from your mistakes,” Luck said. “You look back and you don't want to forget the whole game in a sense. We need to get better. We realize there's no time to feel sorry for yourself, no time to lament.”

Tennessee is a wounded team, coming off a loss to lowly Jacksonville and faced with moving ahead with backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Starting quarterback Jake Locker is out for the season with a foot injury.

It's worth noting, however, that the Colts lost to Rams backup quarterback Kellen Clemens and nearly lost to Texans backup quarterback Case Keenum.

Indianapolis has thrived against the best – Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks and Peyton Manning and the Broncos – but struggled against the mediocre.

Heading into their 10th game, there are few major adjustments the Colts can make. They promoted wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers from the practice squad, but that's not necessarily a major change. Pagano wasn't sure if Rogers would even be active to play against Tennessee.

The Colts need better offensive production earlier in the game. They need to pressure Fitzpatrick, contain running back Chris Johnson and force turnovers, if possible. They need good field position – David Reed needs to be smarter, if he's still the kickoff returner – and better special teams coverage.

Pagano said he didn't have his team ready to play against the Rams. That's unacceptable. A repeat performance (or lack thereof) threatens to send this team in the wrong direction.

The Colts must be ready, mentally as well as physically.

If there's a secret formula to their previous seven bounce-back wins, they better resurrect it tonight.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at