INDIANAPOLIS –Eleven games into the season almost exactly replicates a typical college season.
Thwarting a notion of "rookie walls" was something Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians pre-empted a couple of weeks ago by telling young players they are not rookies anymore, unless they have been here only a couple of weeks.
What Arians and Head Coach Chuck Pagano are selling is that players have been through enough reps that they are considered veterans and the tail end of a season is when things matter the most.
"This is when the big boys play, December," said Arians. "What you did in November doesn't mean a dag-gone thing. It's what you do in December that they remember.
"These guys have a chance to do something special, if they'll just stay in the moment, not worry about the future, take care of their bodies, take care of each day. They're not rookies anymore. They've logged enough snaps to be second- or third-year players by now."
Colts "rookies" closed out November in style on Sunday in a 20-13 victory over Buffalo.
Andrew Luck hit 20-of-37 passes for 240 yards, directing a 15-play, 87-yard drive for the team's lone offensive touchdown. In helping get the team to a 7-4 record, Luck tied Sam Bradford (St. Louis, 2010) for the most wins by a rookie quarterback who was drafted first overall since the 1970 Merger. With 3,205 passing yards, Luck set the NFL rookie mark through 11 games, while joining Peyton Manning (1998) as the only Colts rookies to top 3,000 yards.
Tight end Dwayne Allen had his 11th start, and he has receptions in 10 straight games. Allen had three receptions for 36 yards against Buffalo, tying the same total accomplished by wide receiver T.Y. Hilton.
Hilton has been an emerging presence in the offense. He has at least three receptions in seven outings, and his three 100-yard games tie the club record and represent the most of any NFL rookie receivers. Hilton was the 13th receiver taken in the draft.
It was Hilton's 75-yard punt return for a touchdown that put Indianapolis ahead on Sunday, something Arians felt was close to happening for the dynamic player.
Running back Vick Ballard had 13 rushes for 41 yards, and he tops the team with 427 yards through 11 games. He also has 11 receptions and one touchdown.
Rookie contributions have been plenty in the NFL this year, and Arians cites spring work as a factor here and around the league.
"I don't there's any doubt, (it's the) NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement. Veterans thought they were doing a good thing by shutting down practices for themselves," said Arians. "Rookies were allowed to be here for 10 hours every day. All the off-season, they got all the reps they had never gotten in the past.
"From OTAs to extra rookie practices to rookie practices before training camp, our guys got 200 reps they never would have gotten before the Collective Bargaining Agreement. It has really helped rookies."
Luck, for one, likes the pace at which he has been brought along by the staff.
"I think that's one great thing about Coach Arians, if you show that you can handle the playbook or what he's asking of you, he'll put more on your plate," said Luck. "I think he treats all of us rookies that way. He doesn't call us rookies anymore, that's for sure. It's great to have your coach's trust when you are out on the field."
If December guidance is needed, 10-year veteran defensive end Cory Redding will assist.
"Keep your head down and keep working," said Redding of advice he would provide. "At the beginning of the season we had a whole forest of trees in front of us. The goal is on the other side, the playoffs. Keep on working. You can't get there if you don't chop one tree at a time.
"Right now, we're keeping our heads down. We're chopping one tree at a time, just keep working as a team. As long as we do that, we'll be fine. We'll bring these young guys around. They'll follow our lead, the older heads around here. The leaders will keep pressing on, keep persevering, keep motivating, keep leading and keep playing games."