Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, right, sacks Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck during the first half of an NFL football game in Indianapolis, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
AJ Mast
December 17, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Andrew Luck is embarking on the most critical part of the season.

He has two games to find solutions to the Colts' problems before the playoffs, and there's still too much at stake for the Colts to go into full tuneup mode.

''It's, `Let's go out and win. We need to win,''' Luck said Wednesday. ''There's no holding back, there's no easing off the gas pedal.''

In his short NFL career, Luck has learned momentum matters in the postseason.

Indianapolis (10-4) heads to NFC East-leading Dallas (10-4) on Sunday with a four-game winning streak. A win would give Luck the longest winning streak of his career and could keep Indy's fading hopes alive for a first-round bye.

Yet he still has plenty to prove.

Despite leading the NFL with 4,492 yards passing and 38 touchdown passes and wrapping up his second straight AFC South crown, Luck is just 1-2 in the playoffs.

A year ago, Luck's miscues were the problem. He threw three interceptions in a stunning comeback against the Chiefs and four more in a lopsided loss at New England.

So during the offseason, Luck tried to figure out what went wrong and came back this summer hoping to reduce what he often referred to as ''bone-headed'' mistakes.

Recently, though, the problems have resurfaced.

Indy has had 29 penalties and 12 turnovers over the past four weeks, with opposing defenses scoring three times off those turnovers. Yet Indy has still won each game.

While the miscues cannot all be blamed on Luck, the Colts quarterback is tied for the league lead with 12 fumbles and six lost and has the third-highest interception total (14) in the NFL.

If that continues, the Colts know the deep playoff run they've been hoping for could be short-lived.

''Obviously we've got things to clean up. We've had issues with turnovers, nobody likes that,'' coach Chuck Pagano said. ''We've had issues with penalties. We've left yards out on the field because of penalties. We've stalled drives because of penalties. We've kept (opponents') drives alive because of penalties.

''If we're going to go where we want to go and get to where we want to get to we've got to keep addressing those things and get them cleaned up,'' he added.

So rather than looking ahead to the postseason, as Colts teams have done in the past, Pagano and Luck are going full-steam ahead.

While Indy's defense has played well in victories over Jacksonville, Washington, Cleveland and Houston, and the Colts' improved ground game has helped seal three of those victories, Pagano is hoping to see even better results over the final two regular-season games.

''It's going to be a heck of a challenge to see exactly where we're at,'' Pagano said when asked about Dallas. ''The whole idea is to stay consistent and go play well, play better than we did last week.''

Pagano doesn't intend to sit any healthy starters.

And Luck, for one, doesn't want the rest. He'd rather fight through the miscues, find solutions and keep extending the Colts' winning streak.

''We know we've got to keep improving and it starts in practice when it comes to cleaning up the mistakes,'' Luck said. ''We have a chance to go out and play a good football team this Sunday and try and execute. That's huge.''

Notes: Receiver T.Y. Hilton (hamstring), right tackle Gosder Cherilus (groin), cornerback Vontae Davis (groin), offensive linemen Joe Reitz (ankle) and Hugh Thornton (knee) and linebacker Erik Walden (knee) all missed Wednesday's practice with injuries. Return specialist Josh Cribbs, linebacker D'Qwell Jackson both sat out to rest. ... The Colts signed offensive tackle Tyler Hoover to the practice squad Wednesday. ... Punter Pat McAfee was selected the Colts' man of the year for his community work. ... Playoff tickets will go on sale Thursday at 10 a.m. They will be sold exclusively thru www.colts.com, www.ticketmaster.com and charge-by-phone at (800) 745-3000 until the date and time of the game has been determined.

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

You May Like