Colts’ Chuck Pagano: This thing ain’t over

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Dec. 20, 2015) – In the span of three hours Sunday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Indianapolis Colts went from having total control of a fourth consecutive playoff appearance to needing serious help.

“It’s out of our hands,’’ safety Mike Adams said in a locker room hushed by a 16-10 loss to the Houston Texans. “We knew it was a must-win and we knew what we had to do to possibly advance. We just didn’t get it done.

“All we can do is just finish strong.’’

Finish strong, and hope.

The Texans evened their record at 7-7 and seized sole possession of the AFC South in the process with two games remaining: at Tennessee next Sunday, home with Jacksonville Jan. 3.

The Colts’ first home loss to Houston after 13 victories dropped them to 6-8. They’re at Miami Sunday, finish at home against the Titans Jan. 3, and it would behoove them to win both.

Houston clinches the division and the No. 4 seed in the AFC playoffs by winning out, and might do so by winning once. If the Texans and Colts finish tied at 8-8, the applicable tiebreaker – strength of victory – would seem to favor Houston.

“This one got away from us,’’ coach Chuck Pagano said. “We’re going to fight. This thing ain’t over. I know what kind of guys we’ve got in this locker room.

“It’s never over till you decide it’s over. We’re not going down that road.’’

Whalen: It sucks: Any realistic chance the Colts had of staging a late comeback evaporated when Griff Whalen lost a fumble following a short reception from Matt Hasselbeck with 2:50 remaining. The play began at the Indy 49-yard line.

A wicked hit by cornerback Johnathan Joseph forced Whalen to lose control. Cornerback Kareem Jackson returned the fumble to the Colts’ 21-yard line. Four plays later, Nick Novak’s 32-yard field goal gave the Texans a 16-10 lead.

“I’m assuming they rolled down into some sort of cover-2 or something,’’ Whalen said. “I didn’t see (Joseph).

“It sucks. The next thing I knew I was chasing the guy.’’

Making matters worse, Whalen suffered damaged ribs on the play. He had a difficult time moving in the locker room after the game.

More medical matters: Along with Whalen and Hasselbeck (jaw/back), safety Winston Guy was forced from the game with a hamstring injury and rookie receiver Phillip Dorsett with an ankle injury.

Teammates praise Hasselbeck: It’s doubtful it served as much consolation considering the abuse Hasselbeck endured at the hands of the Texans, but his teammates appreciated his grit.

Hasselbeck revealed he injured his jaw in the fourth quarter when he was hit by Houston linebacker Whitney Mercilus. He remained on the ground for several minutes and missed the rest of the series before returning.

“He’s a soldier,’’ safety Mike Adams said. “He’s giving us everything he’s got. I tipped by hat off to him. He was in a position where he stepped in for Luck and got banged up. And he’s still banged up and he’s getting right back up and doing his thing.’’

Added linebacker D’Qwell Jackson: “Matt is a warrior. If you can’t feed off what he’s done for us this year, the guy is 40-some-odd years old. He’s won games for us when everyone counted him out.

“He’s banged up, man. He’s been sick, played through it. He’s been hurt, played through it. He’s the epitome of what this league is all about. They don’t make ‘em like him anymore. Typically, if a guy goes down, you don’t see him the rest of the game. He just gets back up.’’

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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