By Tom James
INDIANAPOLIS — While the Indianapolis Colts were pleased to come away with an 18-15 victory in Sunday night’s National Football League matchup with the New England Patriots, what happens over the next several weeks is far more important to the team’s chances at making a seventh straight trip to the playoffs.
“[The win is] good, but it’s the same thing where if we would have lost [Sunday], we’re not going to make any game too big or too small, but with the hole we’re in, each win is big,” tight end Dallas Clark said after the Patriots’ game.
“But, we have another one next week and the week after that and the week after that, so we’re going to enjoy it. It’s definitely a positive and a momentum builder.”
The Colts will go into this week’s road game at Pittsburgh (4:15 p.m. Sunday, CBS) with a 4-4 record, still with an outside chance of winning another AFC South title. But with the Tennessee Titans rolling along with an 8-0 record, a wild-card spot is the more likely scenario for Tony Dungy’s ballclub.
Indianapolis can’t afford to falter much over the remainder of the season.
The field for a wild-card spot is currently pretty crowded with the likes of San Diego, Denver, Cleveland, the New York Jets, Miami and Buffalo. And teams like Jacksonville and Houston aren’t that far off the pace.
“We feel like every game right now is almost like a playoff game,” wide receiver Reggie Wayne added. “It’s kind of like everybody that’s not leading their division are kind of like in a big ball. So each game is going to be crucial. We also know that everybody that’s in that big ball, most of them have got to come through us. We pretty much control our own destiny. We just want to go out and take it one game at a time.”
The Colts, a franchise noted for their long winning streaks in recent season, will be fighting for playoff positioning for the rest of the year.
“I think you approach it the same way you approach every week which is work hard, keep going and fighting and hopefully things will turn around. There’s no secret or magic formula. The only thing I know how to do is work a little harder and that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to work a little bit harder and hopefully, we’ll figure it out,” wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez pointed out.
Center Jeff Saturday agreed.
“I think [New England] is a game of many that we have to win to stay in this hunt. I think it’s important because it shows our young guys we can beat a playoff-caliber team at home when we play our style of football,” Saturday said.
• Colts-Patriots ratings hit — The Indianapolis-New England game was the highest rated show among television viewers on Sunday night. NBC’s telecast earned an an 11.9 overnight rating and 18 share.
It was a three-percent gain over last season’s Cowboys-Eagles game (11.5/18) and was the highest rated broadcast of the night on any network, beating Desperate Housewives on ABC by 16 percent (10.3/15).
The top ten metered markets for Colts-Patriots were: 1. Indianapolis, 40.1/52; 2. Providence, 29.4/41; 3. Boston, 27.5/41; 4. Nashville, 18.3/25; 5. Washington D.C., 16.0/24; 6. Las Vegas, 15.4/23; 7. Pittsburgh, 14.7/20; 8. Baltimore, 14.4/21; T9. San Diego, 13.9/24; T9. Sacramento, 13.9/21.
NFL Network will air a 90-minute replay of the Colts-Patriots game at 8 p.m. today.
• Dungy says 2008 record won’t determine his future plans — Whether Indianapolis makes the playoffs or not this year won’t be a determining factor in whether Dungy returns for another season as the Colts’ head coach.
“No, I don’t think it will be and it’s one of those things … my wife and I have kind of talked about it every year for the last three or four years. Where are we? Where are we family-wise? I still enjoy coaching. I love it. I love our guys and our organization. So that part is always going to be there,” he said during an interview Monday on Sirius NFL Radio.
“It’s just other things you may want to do, where your family is, and we’ll look at it at the end of the year. But it won’t be, hey, we had a great year, we won the Super Bowl so this is the time to go.”
• Injury list — Running back Joseph Addai (hamstring) and safety Bob Sanders (ankle/knee) apparently came through Sunday night’s game in good shape. Addai and Sanders played the entire game and should be in good shape for this week’s road trip to Pittsburgh.
Weakside linebacker Freddy Keiaho (knee) and cornerback Kelvin Hayden (hamstring) both sat out against New England. Neither player may be available for the Steelers, although Keiaho may be closer to getting back on the field than Hayden. No other injuries were initially reported after the Patriots’ game.
“There’s nothing that was brought to my attention during the game,” Dungy said Monday. “Freddy Keiaho wanted to play. He was out there running in the [pre-game] warmups, trying to show me that he could play. I sense that he’ll be very close [to practicing this week]. Kelvin I’m not sure. He didn’t run before the game, so we’ll see.”
Hayden was due back from knee surgery that was performed last month to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. But he had been bothered by a sore hamstring for several weeks before he incurred the knee injury and apparently tweaked it again last week.
“He did it early on in the preseason I guess. Had a little bit of problems with it lingering. Came back and actually practiced a couple of days and did fine. But it just wasn’t quite a 100 percent. But his knee is fine,” the Colts coach said.
There is no update on when cornerback Dante Hughes (ankle) will be available to be back, although it may be in time for the Pittsburgh game. The Colts are now down four cornerbacks — Hughes, Hayden, Marlin Jackson (knee) and Michael Coe (knee). Jackson (injured in practice last week) and Coe (hurt in training camp) are both out for the remainder of the season.