INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The theme for the final two months of a wayward season ricocheted off the locker room walls, from player to player.
Forget what’s happened. What’s important is what’s ahead. It’s on us.
Listen to Dwayne Allen.
“I always preach to my guys, ‘Control what you can control,’’’ the veteran tight end said Monday as the Indianapolis Colts returned from their bye week and resumed what remains a tenuous pursuit of a playoff berth. “We can’t control the way Houston goes out and plays. We can’t control the way Tennessee plays or anyone else in our division.
“All we can control is the way we prepare for each game and go out and execute against them. If we focus on that enough, the chips will fall our way.’’
Or listen to safety Mike Adams.
“It’s still up for grabs. You know it and I know it,’’ he said. “We’ve got to win. We can’t have this roller coaster going on. It’s time to get this consistency off our back.
“We’ve gotta have confidence. We can’t say we’re not going to do it. I’d be a fool to say, ‘Nah, I don’t think we’re going to do it.’ The division is close, so there’s no margin for error for anybody. It’s not just us.’’
While the Colts’ extended weekend off was winding down, they lost ground in the AFC South. Houston (6-3) strengthened its position atop the division by holding off the Jaguars (2-7) in Jacksonville and Tennessee (5-5) overwhelmed the reeling Green Bay Packers in Nashville.
The inability to perform thus far with any semblance of consistency – we’re still waiting for back-to-back wins – and with seven games remaining has left the Colts staring at one stark reality: while there are several reasonable scenarios for them to win the AFC South, everything hinges on finally getting their act together.
And that’s been the problem all season. Too many penalties. Too many dropped passes. Too many late-game failures by the No. 30-ranked defense and the Andrew Luck-led offense.
That has robbed the Colts of absolute control moving forward. In short, they’ll need help to avoid missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1997-98.
Even if they get on a roll starting Sunday against the Titans in Lucas Oil Stadium, it undoubtedly will take at least a 5-2 finish to win the division. Sweeping the three divisional rematches at home is a must. The other four games: home with Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving night, and December road tests against the New York Jets (Dec. 5), Minnesota Vikings (Dec. 18) and Oakland Raiders (Dec. 24).
A sign of optimism? The Steelers, Vikings and Jaguars are dealing with four-game losing streaks. The Jets have lost two straight.
The Texans are vulnerable because of Brock Osweiler, whose 74.1 passer rating ranks 31st among starting quarterbacks. But they hold a two-game division lead over the Colts and would probably hold the pertinent tiebreaker advantages if it comes to that.
“Whether you say it’s a long shot or whether you say it’s a chance, there’s still a chance,’’ Adams argued. “We have to do what we have to do to win.
“You saw the games (Sunday). Playoff football has started when you look around the league, look at all the different games. Whatever we’ve got to do to win, we’ve got to do because other teams are doing whatever they’ve got to do to win.’’
It appears the team regained much of its health during the down period. Among injured players returning to practice were Adams (groin), left guard Jack Mewhort (triceps) and right tackle Joe Reitz (concussion), although Reitz was wearing a red jersey to signify he was off limits to contact. One player who wasn’t seen during the media portion of practice was defensive end Kendall Langford (knee).
“I’m back, baby,’’ Adams said. “I needed the bye. It was good. It was perfect timing for me. Now I’m ready to roll.’’
Mewhort has missed the past three games with the triceps injury, and is eager to return against the Titans.
“I went to the Green Bay game and I’m sitting on the sideline,’’ he said. “I think that’s what was more stressful. I’m kind of on the sideline riding the roller coaster. For my own sake, for my own mental health, I’ll be glad to be back out there.’’