INDIANAPOLIS –The Colts went to Houston last Sunday to extend the AFC South race.
A 29-17 loss to the Texans settled the title hunt – Houston won, while the Colts competed closely and left having to set newer sights on a Wild Card slot.
Indianapolis was up against the AFC's top team by record. In hanging with Houston into the fourth quarter, the club learned a bit about itself.
"It was a good (measuring stick)," said Bruce Arians. "The fact that it was a six-point game to start the fourth quarter, we know we can compete. That's the best team in the AFC."
Indianapolis fell behind at Houston by 10 points, then converted two red zone trips into only three points. After allowing a special teams touchdown, the Colts battled from a 20-3 deficit to within 23-17, but surrendered two field goals in the final quarter without mounting a serious threat.
"I think it was somewhat of a measuring stick of where we are," said Dwight Freeney. "That being said, it's just one game. Regardless of what happened, if we won or lost, it's just about who's better that day, and that's the main thing."
Four AFC and three NFC teams have clinched playoff berths, and the Colts have met three of them. In addition to losing to Houston, the Colts fell at New England, 59-24, and beat Green Bay, 30-27.
The game at New England was like Houston, where the club made errors that sunk a chance at victory. Three returns for touchdowns tilted the scoreboard in a game where the Colts led by seven points on two different occasions.
"In New England, we competed our tails off until we shot ourselves in the foot," said Arians. "We were running up and down the field, and we were in that ballgame until we beat ourselves.
"We feel good playing New England and Houston in phases of the game. Whether or not we can play them for 60 minutes, that's all we have to do. Our guys are very confident they can get that done."
At 9-5, the Colts can clinch a playoff berth with a victory this Sunday at 2-12 Kansas City. Baltimore leads the AFC North at 9-5, with Cincinnati (8-6) and Pittsburgh (7-7) remaining in the mix as division title hopefuls.
Houston visits Indianapolis in the finale, and the Texans are trying to earn home-field advantage. They can do so this weekend with a win or a tie, or if New England (10-3) loses or ties, or if Denver (11-3) loses.
In that event, Houston could choose play certain personnel against the Colts in readying itself beyond the season.
For the Colts, it is about getting in and seeing what can happen.
Freeney has a long list of quarterbacks he has sacked in addition to a long memory of what the playoffs can bring. He vividly recalls an opponent with an inferior record inflicting damage once it qualified. He wants that to be the scenario should the Colts reach the post-season.
"I remember a few years ago (in) 2008, we played San Diego. We were (12-4) that year and they were 8-8, and they beat us in the playoffs," said Freeney. "It's all about who is better that day.
"Obviously, playing tougher opponents like Houston, you want to play well. I think we played well, but not well enough."
INDIANAPOLIS –The Colts today signed offensive tackle Lee Ziemba to the practice squad and released offensive tackle Robert Griffin from the practice squad.
Ziemba, 6-6, 320, played in six games with Carolina last season. He originally was selected by Carolina in the seventh round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
At Auburn, Ziemba set a school record with 52 consecutive starts, starting every game of his career. As a senior in 2010, he earned the Jacobs Blocking Trophy, which is awarded to the best blocker in the conference.
Griffin, 6-6, 330, was signed to the Colts practice squad on December 12, 2012.