NFL

Inconsistent Colts still find ways to win

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP)

The Colts keep giving mixed signals.

They are beating some of the best teams in the NFL, knocking off four of the league's six clubs with four or fewer losses - two of them on the road.

Yet Indy is ranked in the bottom half of the league in five of the six major offensive and defensive categories.

So how good is this Indianapolis team?

''I think that remains to be seen,'' tight end Coby Fleener said.

The Colts (10-5) host Jacksonville (4-11) on Sunday to wrap up the regular season. Then come the playoffs and a test of Indianapolis' prowess.

The Colts went to San Francisco and beat the 49ers in Week 3 and two weeks later handed Seattle its first loss. The Colts also gave Denver its first defeat in Peyton Manning's hyped-up return to Indianapolis.

''We play pretty much all of the elite teams,'' T.Y. Hilton said. ''We pretty much showcase what we have. When the playoffs start, everybody has a clean slate, 0-0, and it goes by who's the better team that day.''

Indy came out of its bye week with inconsistent play.

The Colts went to Houston, fell behind big, and came back late to beat the Texans. Then they got embarrassed in a 38-8 loss at home to St. Louis before they slipped past Tennessee on the road, 30-27, and lost big in Arizona, 40-11.

Still, the Colts haven't lost consecutive games since Andrew Luck was drafted. And last week's 23-7 victory at Kansas City gave Indy its first back-to-back wins since the Colts beat the Broncos and Texans.

Maybe they've figured it out now.

''We were just having problems starting fast back then,'' Hilton said. ''Team started jumping on us, and we dug ourselves too deep of a hole to come back. Right now we're playing good in all three phases and we're only going to get better.''

The Colts rank 19th in the league in yards allowed per game and No. 24 in yards per play. But coach Chuck Pagano says this is the type of defense that could lead Indianapolis to a championship.

''Playing with a ton of confidence right now,'' he said. ''They're having fun. There's certain plays that are being made out there that are sparking this defense and this team.''

The Colts may not be putting up many yards a game - they're No. 17 with 339.3 - and they may have struggled converting on third down (22 percent), but something seems to be working lately.

''It's hard to put a finger on it specifically what's changed,'' Griff Whalen said. ''I'm not sure what that would be. But just kind of offensively, I feel like cohesively we're getting better just at executing our plays, kind of simplifying our game plan, running plays that we know. And that allows everybody to individually know what they need to do and execute it on the field and feel more comfortable with it.''

Tagged: Colts

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