INDIANAPOLIS – When Bruce Arians walked into his postgame press conference on Sunday afternoon, he wasted no time addressing what the win over Cleveland meant to the Colts.
"To start off with, we're obviously excited about the win. To get to 3-3, be in the hunt now in the AFC with a bunch of other teams and start to get healthy hopefully next week and see if we can take this on the road," Arians said.
"A lot of mistakes today that can be corrected, myself included, and we'll go from there. But pretty happy locker room to get to 3-3, that was our goal no matter what."
The "taking it on the road" part will be the Colts' next task moving forward but for now, the Colts realized that a win puts them into a jumbled AFC race.
Of the 16 teams in the conference, nine are either 3-3 or 3-4 after seven weeks of the season.
It is still considered early in the NFL season but getting to .500 was the focal point against the Browns.
"Winning this and getting to .500 shows the young guys, just seeing where we are at with other teams in the AFC, that we still got a chance," safety Antoine Bethea said. "We just have to take it one game at a time and eventually get four, five (wins) in a row."
With Houston (6-1) beating Baltimore (5-2) on Sunday 43-13, those two teams plus New England (4-3) are the only three teams that are over .500 right now in the AFC.
Teams across all four divisions are within a few games of each other, and the Colts added themselves to that group on Sunday.
"It's a big, old, cluster of teams that seem like they are around the same 3-3, 4-3, whatever," wide receiver Reggie Wayne said. "That just puts us right in the hunt, so now we just have to keep on pushing forward and don't look back."
Trying to sustain a winning streak moving forward will be a key for the Colts.
Starting with a road trip to Tennessee on Sunday, the Colts will play three games in 12 days. Indianapolis plays Miami on November 4 and Jacksonville on November 8 following the divisional contest with the Titans.
"It's still just the beginning," safety Tom Zbikowski said. "A lot of AFC teams are 3-3 right now. We are in the thick of things, we just have to keep improving every single week and keep making plays we need to make."
There are 10 games remaining on the Colts' schedule and being able to stay in the thick of AFC will require Indianapolis to win away from Lucas Oil Stadium and in the AFC South.
The Colts have six of their final 10 games away from home, and the Titans game will be the first of five remaining contests against their division partners.
Colts outside linebacker Dwight Freeney was asked on Sunday about surpassing last year's win total after just six games. The Pro Bowl defender acknowledged that he is proud of a young team but knows there are bigger goals on the horizon.
"By no means are we satisfied," Freeney said. "You have to be in the hunt. You have to be able to say every Monday, or Tuesday, or Wednesday or whenever you guys meet, 'Look, we are one game away from first place, two games away from first place.' That's big for us."
That message carried over to Monday when Arians' eyes lit up when hearing that his players have talked about "being in the hunt."
"We're here to get in the playoffs and play the game and go. We're with a bunch of teams right now and it's time to start stringing some wins together and adding to the excitement," Arians said.
"There's nothing like getting in the playoff hunt and coming to practices with a bit more fervor and ready to go every Wednesday. I think our guys will show up Wednesday extremely excited."