Colts focus on strong finish coming out of bye week
INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts are four games back in the AFC South and two behind in the wild-card race. Only three teams have fewer wins, and star quarterback Andrew Luck is out for the season.
While the natural inclination outside the locker room is to start looking ahead to a potentially busy offseason, the Colts are focused on a strong finish.
“We’ve got a slate of three division games, which are always important. It’s going to be a good run,” left tackle Anthony Castonzo said Monday. “You get late in the season, it’s kind of when teams start to show who they really are. Hopefully, we’ll be able to show that we’re better than what we’ve shown so far.”
Indianapolis (3-7), which was off last weekend, has some recent history when it comes to late rallies.
• After losing its first 13 games in 2011, Indy won twice in five days before dropping the finale on its way to the No. 1 draft pick.
• Two years ago, Indy won its last two games to avoid a losing season, taking the finale with two quarterbacks signed off the street in Week 17.
• Last year, the Colts won two of their last three to finish 8-8, but fell one win short of the playoffs.
Coach Chuck Pagano thinks his team is poised for another strong conclusion. He points to a defense that has strung together three straight solid games and an offense that has put together some positive results over the last month.
“You look at us defensively the last three weeks, we’ve played as good of defense as we’ve played since we’ve been here,” he said.
What the Colts have lacked is a knockout punch. Had they protected second-half leads against Arizona, Tennessee, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, they might be in position for a surprise playoff run.
But Pagano won’t play the what-if game.
“The record is what the record is. We’ve got to finish, period,” he said. “We’ve played good football. We need to finish. When you look at it all, we’ve had opportunities. We’ve had leads going in at the end of ballgames and we haven’t finished. We’ve got to find a way to finish.”
The Colts could get some help for Sunday’s game against Tennessee (6-4). Linebacker John Simon is expected to play after missing the last three games with a neck injury, and safety Clayton Geathers could make his season debut.
Geathers went on the physically unable to perform list before the season opener because of a neck injury. Geathers, who finished last season on injured reserve, is eager to see what he can do.
“Whenever I get that first hit, it’s going to be emotional,” he said. “You don’t know until you get that first one out of the way.”
Pagano also expects to have quarterback Jacoby Brissett in the lineup after he took most of the snaps at Monday’s practice while still in the concussion protocol.
No matter who hits the field for the Colts, they will be looking for a strong finish — against the Titans and for the rest of the season.
“We’ve been speaking about closing out football games since Week 1,” cornerback Rashaan Melvin said. “It gets old, it gets old to the guys who listen to it. But for us, we just want to come in and continue to improve and get better and pull out the games.”
NOTES: Tight end Erik Swoope, who has been out since training camp with a knee injury, returned to practice Monday. … Tight end Darrell Daniels is day to day with an injured hamstring and defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway is week to week with a shoulder injury.