INDIANAPOLIS – Indianapolis overcame a 30-point setback to St. Louis at home two weeks ago by beating Tennessee to nip a possible losing streak and to right the ship as it sailed toward a hopeful AFC South title and playoff berth.
Sunday’s 40-11 loss at Arizona means Indianapolis is operating under the same dynamic as it did recently – needing a bounce back effort under pressure as the season now is down to five remaining games.
“It’s (bonding tightly) very important,” said Bethea. “We win as a team, we lose as a team. That’s all that matters. That’s always going to be our approach, whether we win or lose. We’ll be fine.”
Bethea was a fresh-faced rookie in 2006 when Jacksonville dropped 375 rushing yards on the Colts in a 44-17 December shellacking.
It came one week after Tennessee had administered a beating and two games before Houston did it again as a team once 9-0 limped to the playoffs having lost three-of-four.
Four weeks later, Bethea was hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. That was not the last bounce back in which he participated. This time is the most recent as the Colts have lulled in losing two of their last three.
“No, it’s not,” said Bethea when asked if character is in question. “I don’t know what it is, but we always seem to bounce back and play well the next week.
“That can happen again, but we hate having to do it this way. We want to get on a roll and play well.”
For the fourth straight game, Indianapolis had a slow start. Sunday’s 24-point halftime deficit nearly mirrored the 28-point differential the Colts faced at intermission in a 38-8 home loss to St. Louis.
The Colts recovered from 18- and 11-point halftime deficits at Houston and Tennessee to post wins. Indianapolis hosts all three division foes in December, along with having road dates at Cincinnati (7-4) and Kansas City (9-2).
Sunday’s game in Lucas Oil Stadium could have decided the AFC South title. Had the Colts and Titans had the same fate yesterday and Indianapolis won this Sunday, the divisional flag would be planted locally.
Now, another recovery is needed as the Titans trail Indianapolis by two games with five to go, and Tennessee very much has post-season designs of its own.
“That was not Colts ball,” said Bethea of yesterday. “That was not the team we know that we are. Give credit to Arizona, they played a good game. We have to bounce back.”
“We have another game next week. We can get better. We have a divisional game. We’re still ahead in our division.”
Don Shula, the game’s winningest coach, always tried to take something positive away from each game, regardless of outcome.
It took a battling Bethea less than two seconds to find something to look forward to after Sunday’s loss.
“Shoot, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. There still are five games left. We control our destiny,” said Bethea. “As Colts, we just need to look at the Colts. We have to focus on ourselves and do what we do.
“We have to move forward. We just have to keep punching. We have to look each other in the eyes as men, fight our way through it and start playing better. Regardless of the situation, we’re going to stick together and we’re going to rock out.”