CINCINNATI –Moments after falling to Cincinnati, 42-28, Colts players and Chuck Pagano were asked if the contest served as a chance for Indianapolis to measure where it is as a football team.
To a man, they credited the Bengals for a game well played. They know the key for the remaining games for themselves is to play better football.
"I don't want to get into where we are, what are we as a team," said Andrew Luck. "We are what we put on film. We'll have to go back and look at that.
"Today, they were the better team. It'd be great if we can see them again. It would mean we're in the playoffs. They were the better team today."
Luck threw for 326 yards and four touchdowns, but he was doing so in trying to help the Colts overcome a 21-0 third-quarter deficit.
Indianapolis shaved the margin to one score before Cincinnati recovered to get three more touchdowns.
"We try to measure ourselves every week," said Chuck Pagano. "Walking out of here you have certain feelings regarding what you did in all three phases and the outcome. We'll go back to work. We'll grind."
Pagano has seen his team respond to nine previous setbacks in two seasons by coming back with victories. Never has the team dropped consecutive games since the start of his tenure.
"We have a resilient bunch, a tough-minded group. They don't ever quit," said Pagano. "They play 60 minutes of football and they care. They're hurting right now, everybody is. They won't shut it down. We'll go back to work."
Cory Redding saw the team's fifth loss as a matter of one team doing its job.
"Judge the fact that they came out and executed today and we didn't," said Redding. "That's pretty much what it was. Don't take nothing from them. They played a great game. They made more plays than we did."
The game saw the Colts struggle in the first half in what has become a recurring habit this season.
Cincinnati had 13 first-half first downs to the Colts' seven, and none of those conversions for Indianapolis came on third downs. The Bengals ran for 82 of their 155 rushing yards in the opening half and had possession advantages in every quarter.
Indianapolis showed some bounce in the second half by having touchdown drives of 74, 48, 75 and 72 yards, all ending on Luck scoring passes.
He says the team's slow starts are not becoming part of its psyche.
"No, I think it's only mental if you let it get to that stage," said Luck. "I know we haven't, and I don't think we will. We'll just keep working at it and execute better."
Luck was pleased with the days of Da'Rick Rogers (six receptions, 107 yards, 69- and two-yard TD snares) and LaVon Brazill (three receptions, 53 yards, 19- and 29-yard TD catches).
"I was happy for them to get some good, positive stuff going," said Luck. "Hopefully, we can keep that as a whole offense.
"We need that positive play earlier. I need to play a lot better a lot earlier in games. Happy for them. It was good to see them get in there and contribute. Those are some special plays they made, some really nice plays."
Those were the first multiple-TD games by Colts wide receivers other than Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton since two by Donnie Avery at Detroit last year.
For Luck, Pagano and Redding, the focus is on getting back to playing well. With the division title secured, it still is critical to sticking to the process of weekly preparation.
"I think so. Every week is its own is challenge," said Luck. "You sure can't look past anybody. You can't look back. You're looking for the next one.
"It's one week at a time. We know we've got to play better ball. We'll be excited to get to practice and get at it."
Said Pagano, "We'll continue to work and grind. We have a lot of football left, a lot of things to come back to work for and try to get this ship righted."
REPLAY OF TOUCHDOWN – Referee Jeff Tripplette overturned a call on the field that went from Indianapolis stopping Cincinnati running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis on a fourth-down run at the Colts' one late in the first half to allowing the score for a 14-0 lead.
"There was discussion about whether the runner was touched down at the goal line or not," said Tripplette in a pool report. "When we reviewed the video at the goal line, there was nobody touching him there, and then he bounced into the end zone."
Josh Chapman appeared to clip Green-Ellis' foot behind the scrimmage line causing him to fall short of the goal-line.
Tripplette saw otherwise, "I don't know about that, what position ... There was nobody that touched him at the goal line. … We looked at the goal line, (those) were the shots that we looked at. …We reviewed the goal line."
Where Chuck Pagano thought his team made the play, Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis expressed no surprise at Tripplette overturning the original call, "He wasn't touched."
Said Green-Ellis, "They have enough camera angles in the league; they can settle anything nowadays.
"I felt my left foot get hit, but don't know if tripped on my own or was hit. That's something I'll have to watch film on and see how it went. It was very crucial. We went into (halftime) with a 14-0 lead. They came out and scored 28 points in the second half, so at that point in the game it was very crucial."