After Finishing the Second Quarter 3-1, Colts Move to November/December
INDIANAPOLIS – Jim Caldwell's perspective remains the same.
Caldwell, in his second season as the Colts' head coach, said late last month that in contrast to past seasons when the Colts have at times led the AFC South from start to finish, this season the team "has a fight on our hands."
The Colts are now at the season's midway point.
And Caldwell said the fight is still very much on.
"November and December are huge," Caldwell said Monday, a day after the Colts rallied from a 13-0 first-half deficit before losing to the Philadelphia Eagles, 26-24, at Lincoln Financial Field.
"We just have to get ourselves back to where we are playing consistently well all of the way across the board. We are starting the third quarter this coming weekend."
The Colts, after starting the season 2-2, won the first three games of the second quarter – 19-9 against Kansas City, 27-24 at Washington and 30-17 against Houston at home – before losing at Philadelphia Sunday in a game they entered without at least five starters, not including wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez and tight end Dallas Clark.
Gonzalez and Clark, a pair of former first-round draft selections, each were placed on injured reserve in recent weeks, and the Colts also were without the following players Sunday:
Running back Joseph Addai, running back Mike Hart, linebacker Clint Session, cornerback Jerraud Powers, defensive tackle Antonio Johnson, cornerback Justin Tryon, safety Bob Sanders and tight end Brody Eldridge.
All but Johnson has started at least one game this season. All were inactive Sunday.
"The season's not going to stop," said Colts running back Donald Brown, who started in place of Addai Sunday and rushed for 50 yards on 15 carries. "You have to keep playing and circle the wagons and keep moving forward."
The Colts on Sunday sustained at least one more serious injury.
Austin Collie, the Colts' second-year wide receiver, sustained a concussion when he received a helmet-to-helmet hit by Eagles safety Kurt Coleman with 2:33 remaining in the second quarter.
Collie lay motionless for several minutes, but he was awake and alert moments later in the locker room. Collie accompanied the Colts on the plane to Indianapolis Sunday night, and Caldwell said Monday that Collie's symptoms were "subsiding."
"After he went into the locker room, he was able to sit up, (be) alert, carry on a conversation and obviously the doctors felt good enough about his situation to allow him to travel back with us on the airplane," Caldwell said. "I think that's a pretty good indication that things were trending in the right direction.
"He came back, he was home sleeping, our medical staff had an opunity to talk with him this morning and his symptoms are subsiding. It was a concussion, and he's trending in the right direction, which is great."
Caldwell, who said Collie will undergo the NFL's standard post-concussion tests to determine a schedule for his return, said he was able to inform the team during the game Collie was OK.
"That certainly lifted a lot of spirits, in that regard," he said.
The Colts on Sunday fought through not only Collie's injury, but the absence of other key players, with key performers from former backups and reserves.
Jacob Tamme, a third-year tight end filling in for Clark, caught 11 passes for 108 yards and a touchdown and wide receiver Blair White caught three passes for 42 yards, including a 33-yarder shortly after Collie left the game. White's reception set up a short touchdown by rookie Javarris James.
James, a rookie free agent running back, rushed for the first two touchdowns of his NFL career.
"We have no choice but to (have reserves step up)," Colts safety Antoine Bethea said. "Every guy in this locker room is capable. If they weren't, they wouldn't be here. Like I always say, 'Once you get your chance, your opportunity, make the most of it.'
The Colts' loss Sunday was their first in November since 2007, with five victories in November of 2008 helping the Colts rally from a 3-4 start to make the playoffs as a wild-card qualifier and five more victories last November helping them clinch the AFC South and the best record in the AFC in mid-December.
One week into November this season, the Colts (5-3) share the lead in the AFC South with Tennessee (5-3), with the teams a game ahead of Jacksonville (4-4) and Houston.
The New York Jets and New England Patriots lead the AFC East with records of 6-2, and the Baltimore Ravens lead the AFC North at 6-2 with 5-2 Pittsburgh playing Cincinnati Monday. The Kansas City Chiefs lead the AFC West at 5-3.
"We know what we're playing for, what's at stake," Colts middle linebacker and defensive captain Gary Brackett said. "Right now, everyone is still bunched together. We didn't help ourselves as far as separating ourselves from the pack. We're still lumped together in there. We're still tied for the division with Tennessee and we control our destiny playing those guys twice, so we know November/December – those are months that are going to be make or break. Those months are going to determine who gets to the playoffs."
Said Caldwell, "We just finished up the second quarter. It was a second quarter where we ended up 3-1. We are getting ready to start the third quarter and we know without question, you can see with a number of teams that are still right in there with that same 5-3, 6-2 and 4-4 status in terms of their record.
"In the next couple of weeks things are going to start to shake out a little bit more."