INDIANAPOLIS – On Sunday, the Colts have the same 60-minute opportunity they have had on nine previous occasions this season.
The Colts are looking for their first victory, and there have been past occasions this year when it has been very, very possible.
What the club needs, in the estimation of players and coaches, is consistent play throughout the duration of a game. The effort is there, but it has been a matter of execution.
On Monday, Head Coach Jim Caldwell and center Jeff Saturday spoke. The origin of the conversation did not matter, but the content of it did. Saturday addressed the full squad with Caldwell's blessing.
"As a matter of fact, he and I discussed it and talked prior to (the meeting). It wasn't just to the offense," said Caldwell. "He's a leader, and that's what leaders do. I try to encourage that, that we have guys that will stand up and certainly be accountable. I think that's good. I have not been around a team yet where the leadership on the inside, from players, is not extremely important. We've always had that around here from (Dwight) Freeney, Reggie Wayne and the rest of the group of guys that do a tremendous job of sort of stepping up and trying to make a difference."
Saturday is a leader, and he is a difference-maker. He is just one of 53 players passionate for victory. Until this season, he had been a part of just one losing season with Indianapolis. The majority of the club's active roster never had experienced a losing NFL season at all until last week's setback to Atlanta sealed the fate.
It is not about the past or the future. It is about the present, and that is Jacksonville on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"Jeff is one of the best leaders I've ever been around," said tight end Jacob Tamme. "When he speaks, everybody listens. There are a lot of things we need to get better at. There are things we have to do better on Sundays. Guys have been working hard. Guys have been preparing well. We just have to find a way on Sunday afternoon to play to the best of our ability and make the plays it takes to win the game. Definitely, it's always good to have guys on the same page and to get things going a little bit."
Quarterback Curtis Painter heard Saturday's remarks, and Painter looked at the talk as a positive. While this is a business, it is about going out to 'play' football.
"He kind of challenged up to keep things going," said Painter. "We need to get better and maybe approach this week with a little bit of fun. In the whole scheme of things, you want to have fun playing. You obviously will (have fun) if you have a little success. I guess it's don't try too hard in a sense that you try to do too much. Just kind of take what's given to you. A lot of times you try to push too hard and you get yourself in trouble."
For the Indianapolis offense, it is about executing plays, converting third downs, trying to extend drives and avoid turnovers. It is a specific aim to maximize possessions. It is an aim that hopefully keeps Indianapolis from having a large deficit early in the game, as it has in the past three outings.
"That's the number one thing, trying to stay in phase and keep mistakes to a minimum," said Painter. "You can't get it all back in one series. You can't get it back in one play. There's a lot of time left in the game. This last game (against Atlanta), there was a lot of time left. I think the biggest we need to do if the situation comes up again is stay patient, chip away at it, not force things on all accounts. Being able to get in a rhythm and stay in phase is a big thing."
Tamme concurs on the need to take full advantage of every offensive opportunity. It has been an area of emphasis for a long time in Indianapolis.
"That's something we've always talked about around here," said Tamme. "It's as important now as ever. We have to protect the ball and execute. If we do that, we'll keep moving it, keep those drives going. When we get them going, keep them going and get to the end zone."
Wide receiver Austin Collie heard Saturday's urging. He like the message and believes it can have an impact in helping the team correct its play. He views Sunday as an opportunity, just as every team views a chance to compete.
"Yeah, I think we've taken a step back, but I expect big things this week," said Collie. "Jeff Saturday kind of took it upon himself to kind of kick the offense in the butt and make sure we get things going. The season is not over with. I think offensively you're going to see a different offense. You're going to see an offense that's going to fight until the end. Obviously, it's (struggling) not fun. It's a bit embarrassing, but it's our responsibility as players to go out there every single Sunday and to perform to our best. We haven't been doing that. I think that's going to change. There's definitely a pep in our step this week, and I think we're ready to turn this thing around.
"I think every week we have an opportunity. This week is no different than last, and this week will be no different than the next. So we just need to make sure that we're ready to play, and ask a little bit more of ourselves each game as we continue."
Tamme concedes it is difficult to look at the standings. The best way to improve is to focus on fundamentals and be on detail. Doing so collectively as a team can provide an opportunity for a different outcome, even against a tough divisional opponent.
"It's tough, it's very tough," said Tamme. "The struggle is to stay focused on this week, because I can't change anything that we've done so far. None of us can. We have to stay focused on trying to go out there Sunday and get a win. That's what we have to do as professionals. We take a lot of pride in what we're doing. That's why it's frustrating. No one's happy with where we're at. At the same time, we're not going to mope around here and give up on this thing. It's time to get better and do the things we need to do to find a way to get a win on Sunday."
Every player focuses on personal improvement. Caldwell looks at everybody. He sees Painter making improvements that others may not see.
"Oftentimes the numbers don't tell the whole story," said Caldwell. "Sometimes there are a lot of factors involved in that. There's dropped passes. There are all kinds of things that occur. You can't look at those (game numbers) strictly. What we have to look at is what he's been doing in practice, how's he developed in his understanding of what we want him to do and whether or not he's getting that accomplished. Regardless of what you see in terms of stats and all that kind of stuff, I'm talking about the nuts and bolts of it. I can see a steady improvement and a maturation process that's developing. Every guy, I don't care who it is, even the great ones have bad games. He may not have performed as well as we'd like to see him in the past ballgame, but that doesn't mean that he's not progressing. I've seen steady improvement. Oftentimes, like a lot of things, we talk about some things here or with a particular individual and I will (say), 'I'm telling you I can see improvement in practice.' Then down the line all of a sudden this guy starts playing a little bit better, and it's like, 'Where did that come from?' It's kind of like that iceberg that the great majority of it is submerged under the water, but just the tip's showing. Then later on, obviously, it begins to rise. I think that's the exact same thing that's happening with a number of our guys out there, Curtis in particular. He keeps improving. He's kept working. We anticipate that he'll keep getting better."