Colts trying to get season on track after 2 straight losses
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) The Colts have watched all of their ugly, glaring mistakes too many times over the past couple of weeks.
They saw a defense give up too many big plays, not make enough of their own and fail to play a complete game. They saw an offense settling for too many field goals, struggling to convert third downs and unable to create running lanes or protect the quarterback.
After two straight losses by a combined score of 96-26, there's plenty of blame to go around.
''We have to learn from the past and we have to move forward,'' defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said Thursday. ''We're focusing on Houston and getting the right attitude and mindset going into the Houston game.''
Indy (6-7) doesn't have a choice if it wants to hold on the AFC South title.
Despite their obvious flaws, the Colts have managed to fight their way back into a share of the division lead with Houston (6-7),- a tie that will be broken Sunday and give the winner the inside track to a playoff spot.
Now comes the harder part, finishing it off with a banged up roster.
As starting quarterback Andrew Luck continues recovering from a lacerated kidney and a partially torn abdominal muscle, he did light work at his second straight practice Thursday. He's still going to miss his fifth straight game.
Matt Hasselbeck, Luck's backup who won his first four starts this season before getting battered in the last two, returned to practice in a limited capacity after sitting out Wednesday with back and rib injuries. Coach Chuck Pagano continues to be optimistic that Hasselbeck will start and finish Sunday's game, though that's certainly not a certainty as the 40-year-old quarterback waits to see how his injured body feels Friday.
''Monday I thought there was no way (of playing) and then the advice I got from my position coach was, `Hey don't judge it. Don't judge anything. Let's just see where we are, let's come up with a plan Wednesday night,''' Hasselbeck said. ''We'll see what happens.''
If Hasselbeck can't go, the Colts would likely use Charlie Whitehurst, who was claimed off waivers from Tennessee five weeks ago.
Healthy bodies may help, but the bigger problem has been execution.
The defense has given up seven touchdown passes in two games and has struggled to get off the field. The offense, meanwhile, has just one touchdown in its last nine red-zone trips and can't seem to stay on the field.
''We've had some turnovers there. We've had some penalties that have set us back and put us in tougher down and distances and just some execution things,'' offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski said when asked about the red-zone woes. ''Those are the things we need to get better at and work on and turn that back around and get back to playing well.''
Or the Colts could miss the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
''Despite the score of the last game, I felt like there were a lot of big plays to be had on our side that were just a few inches off one way or the other,'' tight end Coby Fleener said. ''So making sure that those plays hit and are successful is kind of the big goal for us so that we can be consistently a good offense.''
Notes: Safety Colt Anderson (ankle), inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson (quad), receiver Donte Moncrief (toe) and cornerback D'Joun Smith (knee) did not practice Thursday. ... Left tackle Anthony Castonzo (knee), cornerbacks Vontae Davis (knee) and Greg Toler (knee and hamstring), tight end Jack Doyle (toe), inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman (hamstring and ribs), right guard Hugh Thornton (elbow), and outside linebacker Erik Walden (foot) were all limited in practice. ... Indy promoted cornerback Tay Glover-Wright from the practice squad to the active roster and waived outside linebacker Daniel Adongo, who was inactive last week after the team issued a statement saying it was ''gathering information'' about a possible criminal investigation involving Adongo.
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