INDIANAPOLIS –After 14 games, the Colts are close to doing what very few thought they could do in 2012 – clinch a playoff berth.
Bruce Arians wants to make sure after this Sunday that it is a done deal.
"We need to get into the playoffs. All we're thinking about is getting there," said Arians. We're not there yet."
Arians took the Colts to Houston last Sunday and absorbed a 29-17 loss in a game where the club did not take advantage of opportunities it had done in other victories this year, including three on the road.
The loss to the Texans was precipitated by an offense that scored one touchdown on three red zone ventures, a special teams mistake that allowed a touchdown and a defense that after shutting Houston down for three periods and forced a number of field goals allowed 80 yards to be gained on the ground.
It was a maddening sequence for a team trying to extend a divisional title chase. The Colts narrowed a 17-point deficit to six before losing by 12 points.
"It's easier to get beat 40-0 and say you got (whipped)," said Arians. "(You) throw it away. When you're in a one-score ballgame like we were in, and those are the ones we've been winning, it's disappointing because it was the divisional championship at their place. We had our shot to win the game. Even after the mistakes, we still had a chance to win the game."
Houston joins Denver and New England as division winners. Baltimore (9-5) leads the North by one game over Cincinnati, and the Colts sit at 9-5 and in control of their playoff fate. Sights have been recalibrated.
"We had to reset our goals. Our goal was to win the division. Obviously, we can't do that now," said Arians. "We reset the parameters, and it is to win this game.
"I think when the guys left the building today, they were all focused on the new goal. That's to win this week and get in the dance. We'll play this week and see what happens next week."
Sunday was the fourth time in five losses the team fell by double digits, something that has caused a 9-5 team to be out-scored by 49 points.
Still, a team that was 2-14 in 2011 can reach 10 wins with a triumph on Sunday. It would mark an eight-game jump in one season, and that would tie the seventh-best accomplished in NFL history.
Indianapolis has built its record by not dropping consecutive games all year, and Arians cites the key reason.
"The biggest thing is the veteran leadership. Those guys bounce back," said Arians. "They know how to get the young guys off the 24-hour rule, come right back in and start working."
Arians said linebacker Kavell Conner, safety Tom Zbikowski, center Samson Satele and running back Delone Carter will miss Sunday's game. Center A.Q. Shipley was hurt in the late seconds at Houston, while tackle Winston Justice missed the game. Their availability for Sunday is uncertain.
Arians said Head Coach Chuck Pagano is doing well in fighting leukemia. While a return this year is not guaranteed, Arians revealed something on his list for Santa Claus.
"It's (Pagano's return) still in the air. Maybe this week, hopefully, we'll be able to know something for sure," said Arians. "He feels great. He looks good. His (blood) counts were good. We've got our fingers crossed.
"The perfect thing would be to come in Christmas Eve. It would be a great Christmas present for all of us. Our goal is hopefully he can start (next) Monday."