The lines have become quite familiar, so much so that it’s easy to get lost in a wordy haze when participating in interviews with the Indianapolis Colts after awful losses.
It’s only one game. We just have to move on. Everything we want to achieve is still in front of us. They just made more plays than us. They get paid, too. Our problems are correctible. We just need to be more consistent.
All due respect to the guys, but come Sunday at Jacksonville, I’d prefer to see a little anger. It seems too easy to dismiss a 45-10 embarrassment at Pittsburgh Sunday night by saying in a collective voice, “We’ve moved on.”
The mind-set is week to week in the NFL. Understood. But sometimes losses stick because the mistakes aren’t corrected and that means what players hope to achieve isn’t really in front of them. It’s more the definition of insanity: the same thing is done again and again with the expectation for a different result.
When safety Mike Adams said Wednesday he didn’t watch much film from the Steelers debacle a day after the game, I did a bit of a double take. When head coach Chuck Pagano said Monday the team met and made “a decision” about the way it wanted to go the rest of the season, again, it gave me pause.
The time for talking will soon be at an end. The Colts will prove themselves worthy of something or not. And it won’t be with words.
While part of the grind is to keep the guys psychologically focused on the task at hand, if bad losses don’t provide some motivation and prompt guys to look at themselves in the mirror with a critical eye, well, something is wrong. It’s not like this hasn’t happened before.
Is it necessary to remind about last year? What? Don’t bring it up? Last I checked, there are a lot of players on this year’s roster who were around a year ago, when the Colts lost by 17 at Pittsburgh, by 22 to New England at home, by 35 at Dallas and by 38 at New England, which unfortunately became more about “Deflategate” for many as opposed to the ease with which the eventual Super Bowl champions prevailed at Gillette Stadium.
Colts inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson spoke during training camp about how that AFC Championship Game loss stuck with him throughout the offseason. He mentioned that confetti falling in rainy Foxborough, Mass., as if he were still flicking it off his shoulder pads while standing under the August sun at Anderson University.
That’s the kind of intensity you want to hear from players. And you hope other guys in that locker room get the message, too. We were embarrassed. We didn’t correct our mistakes. It’s unacceptable. The nightmare won’t go away until the Colts make amends.
So far, the Colts haven’t done that. Not even close. They’re 6-6 and teetering on the brink. The Houston Texans have their own issues, too, which is to say the two AFC South Division leaders are flawed. And next week’s Colts-Texans game at Lucas Oil Stadium likely decides the division and a No. 4 playoff seed, regardless of what happens this Sunday.
But, again, if the Colts lose to the 4-8 Jaguars Sunday, only the most optimistic of fans will have any confidence in this team doing much of anything the rest of the way. Sure, as DQ reminded this week, these aren’t the same, old Jags. They’re scoring more points. They’ve got some capable players.
But they also lost 42-39 last week at Tennessee, which had lost nine of 10 before that and improved to just 3-9 with the win. The week before that, the Jaguars lost at home to San Diego, which had lost eight of nine before that and after a loss last week is also 3-9.
Enough with the records and bad football reminders. Good teams find a way to win games like Sunday. And the accentuate-only-the-positive chatter isn’t going to convince anyone of whether the Colts qualify as good.
It’s what we love about the NFL. It gets decided on the field.
If the Colts start slow once again — they’ve trailed in every game but two — then don’t count on another comeback.
If the Colts don’t resurrect a pass rush, everything crumbles because even the best cornerbacks will struggle to cover wide receivers for five, six, seven or eight seconds. Not that the Colts’ cover guys can be considered in that category (with all due respect to the recently re-signed Jalil Brown).
If the Colts can’t run the ball, it puts the onus on 40-year-old quarterback turned season savior Matt Hasselbeck and his receivers (because the tight ends are in the Witness Protection Program). That leads us to if the Colts can’t pass protect and provide Hasselbeck time, or he gets smacked around again and it’s time to summon “Clipboard Jesus,” Charlie Whitehurst, then this trip to the Sunshine State won’t be too warm and fuzzy.
If the Colts turn the ball over, make no mistake, their NFL-record division streak of 16 consecutive wins likely ends.
If that happens, well, we’ll do our jobs again, crowding into the players’ personal spaces so we can share the same stuff repeated in a different week.
And the words will carry even less weight, as inconceivable as that seems, than they did this week.
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.