Analysis: Are you relieved or exasperated about these Colts?

The only way the Colts seem to be able to win these days is ugly, and against arguably the NFL's weakest division, the AFC South.

Admit it, this one was tough to watch.

And when Adam Vinatieri ended an exhausting exercise of good fortune with a 27-yard field goal in overtime, only then did Indianapolis Colts fans exhale after Sunday's 16-13 overtime win over the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium.

That's because even an optimist must come to the realization that this team was lucky to win. NFL teams don't endure when giving the opposing team's kicker two field-goal attempts to beat you late. But miss the Jaguars did.

So as improbable as it sounds, the Colts (2-2) vault themselves back into first place alone in the beleaguered AFC South Division. Maybe it's a good thing that head coach Chuck Pagano waved the 24-hour rule to celebrate a win, in light of a short week with the Colts traveling to the Lone Star State to face the Houston Texans on Thursday night.

The team and coach can talk about grit and toughness and resiliency all they want, but this one was just plain ugly. It seemed as if nobody was going to win.

That's not to knock the efforts of Colts backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who did just enough in subbing for the injured Andrew Luck to get the job done. But even running back Frank Gore, who set up the game-winning kick with a 22-yard rush but lost an earlier fumble in the red zone, conceded afterward, "We're still not clicking."

No, the Colts are not. Far from it, to be bluntly honest.

The measuring stick has never been this division, in which the Colts tied Miami's NFL record for winning a 15th consecutive game against an AFC South foe. The benchmark for this team was supposed to be the NFL's best.

The Colts might beat the Texans Thursday, not that it will be easy because nothing ever is for this team. We don't know if Luck will be able to return by then, but regardless of who plays quarterback, Pagano's team continues to struggle.

"I'll never apologize for winning," Pagano said.

No, but even he realizes his team isn't playing well.

And after the Texans, as we all are well aware, the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots invade Lucas Oil Stadium. A brutal reality check is on the horizon, no doubt about it. These same Patriots pounded these same Jaguars 51-17 last week in Foxborough, Mass.

More injury issues could make the challenge even harder. Inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman and cornerback Jalil Brown exited early with groin injuries. The Colts' secondary is already depleted with starting cornerback Greg Toler yet to make his season debut due to a neck injury and rookie cornerback D'Joun Smith still on injured reserve with a designation to return after knee surgery.

While the Colts' defense got just enough stops, the group also couldn't get off the field at times as a Jaguars offense amassed 431 total yards to the Colts' 326. Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles was sacked only once while Hasselbeck took three sacks. The Colts' pass rush didn't make life nearly hard enough on the second-year Jaguars passer while Hasselbeck did what he could behind a leaky offensive line that also allowed seven quarterback hits.

That's the quarterback-hit average. Luck has taken 21 hits and five sacks in his three games. So just based on numbers, the protection problems didn't really improve against a weaker opponent.

The Colts lost two more fumbles, bringing their seasonal turnover total to 12, which translates to -9 in turnover ratio. It's nothing short of maddening to see Gore cough up the ball with the Colts seemingly driving in for a go-ahead score midway through the final quarter. Gore lost his second fumble of the season on the Jaguars' 4-yard line and the ball bounced into the end zone, where the visitors recovered for a touchback.

That's why Gore is as frustrated as anyone. He's upset with himself mostly, but he shouldn't be the only one.

"I played hard, but I have to play smarter," Gore said. "When we can put points on the board like on the goal line, I have to run with two hands on the ball and make better decisions. I just have to stop pressing and play football and have fun."

But truth be told, there's been nothing fun about watching the Colts so far.

Perhaps you breathed a sigh of relief Sunday, and then went about your business trying to decompress from the stress of a game that should have gone the other way and fortunately didn't.

If you don't want to think about what's ahead, rest assured, you're not alone.

Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.


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