INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Maybe the Colts' fortunes are about to turn.
Against New England, they saw what was possible with some good Luck. This weekend, they're hoping for even better results from their improving young quarterback.
''I'd like to think we haven't played our best football yet,'' Andrew Luck said Wednesday. ''Who knows if that's true. The beauty of sports is you've got to go do it on the field.''
And in a season that has been filled mostly with consternation in Indianapolis, the Colts look like they're starting to make progress.
Luck played so poorly through the first three games he had the lowest ranking of any regular starting quarterback in the league. His struggles made the Colts' offense almost unrecognizable.
Then came word that Luck had injured his throwing shoulder after being battered in Tennessee. He was sidelined for the next two games, the first two he has missed in his pro career, and spent nearly three weeks getting treatment while artfully dodging questions about his playing status.
Backup Matt Hasselbeck salvaged the season with back-to-back wins before turning the reins back over to Luck, who reverted to his old form Sunday by going 30 of 50 for 312 yards with three touchdowns and his first turnover-free game of the season. He ran for first downs, led his team on three long scoring drives, and kept the Colts (3-3) close to the Patriots - just like he was supposed to.
Many fans, who had braced for another blowout took that as a sign Indy was getting things righted.
Luck viewed it another way.
''We didn't win the game, so no,'' he said when asked if it was his best game of the season.
But the impact of what happened doesn't appear to be going away.
With a healthier Luck, the Colts showed glimpses of the high-scoring offense everyone expected. Frank Gore ran effectively, and the oft-criticized offensive line protected Luck relatively well for three quarters, perhaps a good warmup as they prepare to face the worst defense in the NFL this week.
Defensively, Indy (3-3) slowed down New England's power-running game and managed to keep the Patriots from topping the 40-point mark yet again.
And while that combination would normally be enough to move beyond a 34-27 loss to their bitter rival, the Colts keep hearing about their bungled trick play.
''As far as that play goes, I want to speak to it one last time. I categorically reject any criticism that has fallen upon any of our players or coaches. Like I said before and I'll say it again, I take full responsibility,'' coach Chuck Pagano said as he arrived for his Wednesday news conference. ''We've been through bigger things. We've overcome adversity, obstacles, circumstances that are a lot bigger than this and we'll overcome this one.''
The players who have been around for Pagano's full tenure understand. Three years ago, they completed one of the greatest turnarounds in league history as their head coach spent 12 weeks fighting leukemia.
Two seasons ago, they rallied from a 28-point second-half deficit to beat Kansas City 45-44 in the playoffs.
Last year, after opening 0-2, they won a second straight division title, pulled off a playoff upset at Denver and reached an AFC championship game nobody thought they could.
So after starting 0-2 again, losing their quarterback to injury and reclaiming the division lead, the Colts aren't about to let one bone-headed moment define their season.
''This is one play,'' said receiver Griff Whalen, who snapped the ball. ''Was it an important play? Yeah. Was it an important game? Yeah. Every game is important. But I put all that behind me Monday afternoon.''
With a little luck against New Orleans (2-4) this weekend, they might finally be able to change the discussion.
''The nature of the NFL is you have to move on,'' Luck said. ''It was a great day of practice, and our focus is on the Saints.''
NOTES: Indianapolis added tight end Sean McGrath and linebacker Amarlo Herrera to the practice squad. ... Linebacker Jerrell Freeman (groin) and safeties Mike Adams (hamstring) and Clayton Geathers (knee) did not practice Wednesday. ... Cornerback Vontae Davis, receiver Andre Johnson and linebacker Robert Mathis were all given an extra day of rest. ... Linebacker Nate Irving (knee) participated in all drills at practice.
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