NO TIME FOR A LULL

The Colts will play Sunday without not only second-year wide receiver Austin Collie, but Anthony Gonzalez, too. No matter.

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Colts Wide Receivers Expect to Perform at High Level in Absence of Collie, Gonzalez
INDIANAPOLIS – In one sense, Pierre Garcon said nothing changes.

And he said that sense is the only one that matters.

Because while the Colts' third-year wide receiver said the team suddenly has become comparatively thin in recent weeks at a position that once featured experience and depth, whatever the situation, his approach must remain the same.

Yes, Garcon said, the Colts' receiving depth chart looks different.

And yes, more depth would be preferable.

But Garcon said what he can control is what he does – and how he prepares – and he said that's true of a receiving corps that remains a capable, productive unit.

"We're down two guys," Garcon said as the Colts (5-3) prepared to play the Cincinnati Bengals (2-6) of the AFC North at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis Sunday at 1 p.m.

"It's really tough to be in that position, but as a wide receiver unit we have to play better."

The Colts in recent weeks have been hit hard by injuries – "We're down to as thin a situation as I've ever experienced in all my years in professional football," Colts President Bill Polian said this week – and wide receiver as a unit hardly has been immune.

Not only did the Colts place tight end Dallas Clark on season-ending injured reserve recently, they placed wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez on the list this past Saturday.

That left three healthy veteran receivers – Garcon, four-time Pro Bowl selection Reggie Wayne and second-year veteran Austin Collie entering this past weekend's game against Philadelphia. In that game, Collie sustained a concussion and left the game in the second quarter.

Collie, who has continued to emerge this season as a critical and improving element of the offense, is recovering and Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said this week his symptoms are subsiding, but he has been ruled out of Sunday's game.

That left Wayne, Garcon and rookie free agent Blair White -- with third-year veteran Jacob Tamme and third-year veteran Gijon Robinson at tight end – as the healthy receivers with experience.

It's a different group than the Colts had at the beginning of the season.

But it's a group that remains confident in its ability.

"People say, 'Next Man Up,' but it really is a case where, 'He's down – someone else has got to come in and do what he did,'' said White, who signed with the Colts as a free agent shortly after the 2010 NFL Draft and who has emerged as a crucial part of the Colts' offense at times this season.

"There shouldn't be any lull in the offense or anything like that."

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said key to avoiding such a lull is not only having healthy players play well, but having new players play well in the place of those who are out – and having those new players improve quickly. Manning said that can happen one of two ways – by those players improving in practice, and by those players improving with "live" game repetitions.

Manning said the practice time, even during the course of a season, is critical to the process.

"That's one thing about football, other syou're playing a game every night, but in football you've got a week in between," Manning said. "There should be a chance to improve there with the new guys that are playing. We have some newer guys this week, as well.

"The key is using that time in between games to try and improve, work on your weaknesses and let's hope that we'll be playing our best football here late in the season."

Manning said the improvement process during the week is something of a delicate balance.

"You've got to be efficient with your time and guard against just taking a guy and running him into the ground on a Wednesday practice or just overloading him with information," Manning said. "You try to just make effective use of the time you have. It's certainly possible, and I think it's important for us to do a good job of that, not giving them too much where we just overload a guy, overworking them where he gets injured, but giving him enough situations and scenarios where a guy is ready to play. I think you can do it."

The Colts' receiving corps, even with the adversity this season, has produced, allowing the offense to remain one of the most productive in the NFL.

Wayne, a Pro Bowl selection each of the past four seasons, leads the NFL with 60 receptions for 724 yards and three touchdowns, and against Philadelphia Sunday, he caught 11 passes for 83 yards.

Garcon, despite missing two games, has caught 23 passes for 307 yards and a touchdown, and while Collie has missed one game and part of another, he is tied for fourth in the AFC with 45 receptions for 502 yards and six touchdowns.

"I just have to step my game up," Garcon said.

White has nine receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown this season, and one play after Collie's injury Sunday, White caught a 33-yard pass to set up a touchdown. That experience, White said, will help should his role increase.

"It's a world of difference when you can get in there and have a little success," White said. "Past success, getting put in that situation, is going to give you the most confidence of anything. When you have confidence, that's what it's all about."

With Clark out, Tamme has emerged as a receiving threat at tight end, catching 17 passes in two games for 172 yards and two touchdowns.

"I've always been confident that I can get in there and play," Tamme said. "I've prepared hard and will keep preparing hard every week. As long as we do that, I feel like we'll have a chance to win every game. We all have to do a little better, myself included. I have to do a little bit better as far as being able to get the job done so we are able to get the win."

Garcon said that's the approach needed from the entire receiving corps, a group that looks decidedly different than it did a week ago, but one that wants to perform the same as always.

"It's just making plays, making basic things happen," Garcon said. "It's pretty hard to put it into words, but it's back to fundamentals. I've never been part of something like this, but it's an opportunity for other guys to step up.

"It's an unfortunate situation, but you try to make the best of it."

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