A two-game losing streak with a challenging Monday Night Football trip to Carolina next had the Indianapolis Colts deviating from the normal work routine.
Monday games usually mean another day off as the work week shifts a day, but head coach Chuck Pagano thought it best to get his players back on the practice field on Wednesday. And considering how the Colts (3-4) have struggled, who could argue with that?
“Maybe later on you might do it Friday or Saturday,” Pagano said of giving his players more rest, “but this team needed to get back to work. We needed to get on the field. There was no better medicine for us then to get back at practice.”
Quarterback Andrew Luck, who is 1-4 as a starter and thrown nine interceptions, agreed.
“I think guys want to get out on the practice field and sort of get moving and playing football,” Luck said. “I think the mindset of the team is great. We realize where we are and then we realize that we’ve got an opportunity this weekend to go out there and play football. Who knows, no one can read the crystal ball. We don’t know if it’s going to be a win or a loss, but we’re sure going to work our butts off to put ourselves in a good position.”
The Colts took two days off in Week 2 before a 20-7 home loss to the New York Jets on Monday Night Football. Luck is 1-3 on MNF in his four-year career.
Inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, who leads the NFL with 79 tackles, admitted an extra day of preparation can’t hurt. The unbeaten Panthers (6-0) have the NFL’s No. 1 rushing offense and are led by quarterback Cam Newton. The Colts’ defense is ranked 32nd in total yards allowed.
“Any extra day of film, extra day of whatever questions we may have get them answered, extra day to take care of your body so the extra day is worth everything,” said Jackson, a 10th-year pro. “You look back at the Thursday night games where you have a short week and you have to do whatever you can to get your body back feeling as healthy as you can but these days here you take full advantage of.”
While the Colts still led the AFC South Division, they’re in the midst of a brutal schedule stretch. They lost to unbeaten New England 34-27 two weeks ago and to New Orleans 27-21 last week, both of those games at home. Now they face the unbeaten Panthers on the road before returning home to face the Denver Broncos, who are 6-0 entering a Sunday night showdown against visiting Green Bay (6-0).
Carolina is 6-0 for the first time in franchise history. Newton is 2-1 in MNF starts.
Luck acknowledges he’s missed on a lot of throws. The three-time Pro Bowl passer missed two games with what the team said was a sore shoulder and is playing the worst football of his career. A lot goes into that, starting with a leaky offensive line that has allowed him to be sacked 12 times. Luck has also taken most of the 51 quarterback hits allowed.
But Pagano assures his quarterback and the Colts “will be fine.” Luck says he takes the approach that he’ll keep working hard and expect himself to throw the ball better the next time out.
“I know the first step for me is making sure I’m taking care of my business and handling my job in a sense,” Luck said. “Again, I’ve said this earlier, it starts with good practice, it starts with sharp practice. It was a great practice today. Guys flying around doing some good things. I realize I’ve got to play better and (make) way less mistakes and hopefully that gives our unit a better chance to succeed.”
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