A lot has changed for the Indianapolis Colts since a 22-17 home loss to Jacksonville on Sept. 23.
For starters, that’s the only game the 1-7 Jaguars have won this season. Indianapolis, meanwhile, has posted wins in four of its last five games and is rolling along with a 5-3 record.
Many Colts point to that loss in the third week of the season. Indianapolis led 14-3 at the half and were ahead 14-13 after three quarters of play.
In fact, the Colts led 17-16 with 0:45 remaining in the game. That’s when Jacksonville quarterback Blaine Gabbert connected with speedy wide receiver Cecil Shorts III on an 80-yard pass play that resulted in the final margin of victory.
If not for that last-second score, Indianapolis could very well be coming into Thursday’s night’s nationally televised meeting with a 6-2 record.
Not bad for a team that some observers figured would be lucky to match last year’s 2-14 mark after a massive roster realignment.
The Colts are feeling pretty good about themselves right now. Indianapolis has won three straight, including Sunday’s 23-20 victory over Miami, and posted its first road win of the year two weeks ago at Tennessee.
Interim coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, though, doesn’t foresee the Colts getting too carried away with the win over the Dolphins.
“It was a huge win. Then to have [coach] Chuck [Pagano] in the lockerroom before and after the game was great. We have to learn from the last time we had an emotional win [a 30-27 over Green Bay on Oct. 7],” Arians recalled.
“We got our brains beat out. I’ll remind them of that. The short weeks are always tough on both teams, especially the one that’s traveling. We have to be able to focus, get focused on practice, meetings, extra meeting time. It’s not a physical week. It’s all a mental week.”
Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck continues to maintain that the Colts haven’t really done anything yet. Arians agrees, adding that he expects Indianapolis to face a fired-up Jaguars team this week.
“If we don’t get their best shot, I’ll be shocked. They have a lot of pride in Jacksonville,” the Indianapolis assistant coach said.
“[Jaguars coach] Mike Mularkey is a hell of a coach. I’ve known him for a long time. We’re going to get everything they’ve got, both barrels. We had better be ready for it.”
The secret to the Colts’ current run of success is rather simple, according to Arians.
“We’re playing hard,” he said. “I think one thing, we have a lot of young guys who have bought into the system. They’re playing hard, playing for 60 minutes.
“We don’t take a bad play and let it get to the next play. Go on to the next play. They’ve all bought in and they have each other’s back.”
• Wayne named to Pro Football Weekly mid-season team — Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne was the only Indianapolis player named to Pro Football Weekly’s 2012 All-Midseason team.
The squad is selected by the publication’s writers and editors.
Wayne has 61 receptions this season to rank second in the NFL. His 835 receiving yards leads the league.
First-year Colts general manager Ryan Grigson, meanwhile, received consideration for the publication’s mid-season Executive of the Year, which went to Denver team president John Elway. Grigson was considered along with Atlanta’s Thomas Dmitroff and Houston’s Rick Smith.
• Injury list — Sitting out Tuesday’s full practice were rookie tight end Coby Fleener (shoulder), cornerback Vontae Davis (knee), outside linebacker Robert Mathis (back), running back Donald Brown (knee), center Samson Satele (back), offensive tackle Winston Justice (knee) and cornerback Jerraud Powers (toe).
Arians has already ruled Fleener, Davis and Powers out of the Jacksonville game. He said that the Colts’ medical staff will wait and see how everybody else does in today’s walkthrough practice before making a final decision on their availability.
“The only guy who will not play [besides Fleener and Davis] is Jerraud Powers. He will not play. Everybody else is probably going to make it. We’ll see right up to game time,” he said.
With Davis and Powers out, Indianapolis will go with Cassius Vaughn and Darius Butler as the team’s starting cornerbacks.
Josh Gordy and Marshay Green, recently signed off the practice squad, will see some time in the Colts’ nickel and dime pass-coverage packages.
• Support for Pagano — Approximately 25 players, along with five members of the team’s administrative staff (one assistant coach and four equipment-room workers), shaved their heads after Tuesday’s practice in support of coach Chuck Pagano.
Pagano began his second round of chemotherapy this week. He was diagnosed with a form of leukemia Sept. 26 and has taken a temporary leave of absence from the team. His doctors confirmed Monday that his leukemia is now in remission.
The first-year Colts coach made a surprise appearance in the team’s lockerroom at Lucas Oil Stadium before and after Sunday’s 23-20 win over Miami.
Pagano wore a team ballcap into the lockerroom after the game but took it off before addressing the team, displaying how much hair he had lost from chemotherapy treatments.
Among the players shearing their locks Tuesday were punter Pat McAfee, placekicker Adam Vinatieri, running back Donald Brown, free safety Antoine Bethea, offensive tackle Anthony Castanzo and offensive guard Joe Reitz.