Preview: Rams travel to Indy to face AFC South-leading Colts
Rams seek to end three-game losing streak before heading into bye week
By ASSOCIATED PRESSFS Midwest
Indianapolis Colts maintained their cushion in the AFC South thanks to a stunning comeback in their most recent game.
They might not need such an effort against struggling St. Louis as they try to earn a third consecutive win Sunday by sending the visiting Rams to a season-high fourth straight loss.
Indianapolis (6-2) trailed by 18 late in the third quarter in Houston last Sunday before Andrew Luck threw three touchdowns to T.Y. Hilton over the final 15:05. It was Luck's 10th game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime in his brief career, and his third this season.
The 27-24 win kept the Colts two games ahead of Tennessee in the division and helped them maintain their momentum after sending Denver to its first loss Oct. 20.
With a career-high seven catches for 121 yards, Hilton also perhaps showed that he could step up in the absence of star receiver Reggie Wayne, who is out for the season after tearing his right ACL in the 39-33 win over the Broncos.
The Colts have gone 4-0 against teams that reached the playoffs last year and will face only two more in the final half of the season.
"We feel, obviously, good about where we're sitting right now, but again, we've got a long way to go," coach Chuck Pagano said. "We just stress to our guys (to) take a beginner's mentality. Let's treat it like it's the first game of the season, practice, whatever. You've got to come to work with intentionality, find the things that you need to work on to get better and never be satisfied with where we're at."
The Colts will try to bring a winning streak into a key divisional game at Tennessee next week, and a matchup with St. Louis (3-6) should give them a good chance to do that. The Rams' past two losses, however, have come by a combined 12 points.
They rushed for a total of 360 yards in those defeats with rookie Zac Stacy gaining 261, but they couldn't stop Tennessee's Chris Johnson in a 28-21 loss Sunday. After holding Seattle to 135 total yards in a 14-9 defeat Oct. 28, the Rams allowed Johnson to rack up 150 on the ground and score a pair of touchdowns, including the winner with 2:54 remaining.
Current Rams and former Titans defensive end William Hayes was so frustrated he shattered a mirror with his forearm and needed a few stitches.
"The more (the losses) stack up, I think the more they hurt," defensive end Chris Long said. "Our defense had a chance to win the game and we were out of our gaps."
The Colts are averaging 121.8 rushing yards on the season but have produced 88.0 per game in the past three contests. Trent Richardson has yet to turn in a big game since being acquired from Cleveland in a Week 3 trade, rushing for a team-best 248 yards in six games with Indianapolis.
The Colts, however, are 13-2 in one-possession games under Pagano and have outscored opponents 101-57 in the second half this year. They've also posted a 59-29 scoring margin in the fourth quarter, with 16 of those opponents' points coming from Denver.
Pagano, though, would like to see his team get off to better starts.
"It's the big pink elephant in the middle of the room," he said. "You can walk around it and avoid it, but we don't do that. We'll get the mistakes corrected, get the communication cleaned up and get the technique cleaned up.
"We've got to play consistent football for 60 minutes, and we can't have the kind of start that we had Sunday. We were very fortunate to get out of there with a victory."
The Rams gave up 14 points in the fourth quarter to Tennessee last week after allowing a combined 17 in the prior four games.
"We came back on a short week against a good opponent and didn't get it done," coach Jeff Fisher said after facing his former team.
The Rams have dropped their past two games against the Colts by a combined 87-34. The most recent was Oct. 25, 2009, a 42-6 home defeat.
While they went winless in a five-game stretch last year (including a tie), the Rams haven't lost four in a row in one season since a seven-game skid to end 2011.