INDIANAPOLIS — Chuck Pagano met with his players Monday morning for the first time in a couple days and had one simple message.
After playing two tough, tough games in a manner of just four days last week, the Indianapolis Colts head coach had a chance to take in the New York Jets — his team's next opponent — in their Week 12 matchup against the New England Patriots on Sunday.
The Jets fought to the bitter end, but ended up falling, 22-17, to drop to 3-8 on the year.
But that 3-8 record is exactly what Pagano does not want his team focusing on as they prepare for their matchup against the Jets on Monday Night Football.
"I told the guys today: throw out the record," Pagano said Monday, in his weekly appearance with Bob Lamey on 1070 The Fan's "Colts Roundtable Live." "Don't even look at it. You look at that game yesterday against the Patriots, that's a really good football team."
The Jets are led by a stout defense, particularly up front, where they rank fourth in the league against the run. But they also have plenty of playmakers on offense, with a veteran quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick that has proven he can get the job done in the NFL.
Like many other football teams, Pagano said, the Jets have been plagued by the turnover bug at times, as well as key injuries this season. But they will be respected throughout the week, whether their record coming into the game is 3-8 or 8-3.
"It's a darn good football team," Pagano said. "Their last three losses they lose by a combined 12 points, and so we'll prepare accordingly, and we're going to have to play our butts off and have a great week of preparation in order to go get this job done."
In all reality, Pagano and his team knows they have no other choice other than to play each and every game the rest of the season as if their postseason lives depend upon it. Although the Colts are coming off a 28-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thanksgiving Night, Indianapolis remains just one game out of first place in the win column in the AFC South Division standings.
It'll take a darn-near perfect finish to get the job done, but for Pagano, the team's goals are still attainable.
"We can only control what we can control, and that's our preparation, how we go about our business, how we practice, and again, how we get ready to play this football game," he said. "And again, we'll take it one game at a time. But it's there for the taking. Somebody's going to get hot and take control of this division, and it might as well be us."
Here's some other highlights from Monday's show, including some calls and questions from fans fielded by Colts general manager Ryan Grigson:
————————————Colts general manager Ryan Grigson:**
Andrew Luck, the concussion protocol: is he progressing, and in your mind, if the game were played Sunday instead of Thursday, could he have played?** You just never know with these things. I mean, every time I think I've got it figured out, I don't. And it's the doctors, and then there's an independent (neurologist); there's a lot of hoops you have to jump through in the concussion protocol — and rightly so, dealing with the brain, things like that. So I think that he'll follow the protocol to the nth degree, and he's on track.Do you feel as long as you can take care of your business this stretch in December that the Colts can make the playoffs? Well I think the margin for error is obviously shrinking, but I think that, you know, we're still in the hunt. There's, again, if you look through all the records in the league right now, I mean, the league, the way it's set up, it's beyond parity. There's so many teams that are in the hunt right now. I mean, the bulk of the teams throughout the league have a chance. But again, it's one week at a time. We've got to focus on the Jets. I mean, they took the Pats to the wire yesterday, and that's a really good football team, and a really serious defense that we'll have to face. So, again, it's about the next opponent, and it kind of parallels what Coach (Pagano) says about, '60 minutes; don't judge,' that whole thing, to where you just keep your head down, nose to the grindstone, and hopefully you've done enough in the end and you've accumulated enough wins and stayed on the right track to at least get in. So we can't think about the past; we've just got to make sure we put our best foot forward here in the future.The Jets yesterday — you brought it up: three wins, eight losses. Throw the record out. What makes that defense so good? They're big. I mean, they're big up front, they get pressure. I mean, it seems like for years that front has been one of the best in the NFL. Like I think Coach (Pagano) had mentioned, there's a lot of first-round draft picks, they've got those young linebackers that can fly — David Harris has been playing really well; I remember he was a guy that we really liked in Philly. You know, we really liked him. He came out the same year as Patrick Willis, and those two guys, man, we were just going round and round about those two guys, because one was a thumper that we really needed in our defense. Patrick Willis, I remember going into Ole Miss, and the kid had an ankle that was wrapped like you've never seen, like a mummy, he had a huge thing on his elbow — he had so many things wrong with him, and he had so many things wrong with him — and he had like 17 tackles against LSU, I remember, and was making plays at the goal line, going sideline to sideline. He was just such a special player. But so was David. So it was a really, really tough decision to make, but he's one of the reasons that defense has always been in-tact for so many years through different regimes.Caller Paul, asking about a lack of protection up front on the offensive line, as well as the lack of coverage on Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown last Thursday?: Grigson: "You know, we're seeing improvement on the offensive line every week. We've got some young guys up there. We think we're going in the right direction. We obviously addressed it in a big way in the draft; we drafted four offensive linemen. You know, the continuity hasn't been great because we've had to deal with injuries, like a lot of teams in the NFL. But we're definitely, I think, going in the right direction. You know, Antonio Brown's the best there is in the NFL. We put our best corner on him; we didn't do a good enough job. You know, Vontae (Davis) went out — and it is what it is, you know? He was not containable. And I wish we could've done a better job, but he got the best of us that day, and elite players have a way of doing that sometimes. So I'm sure we'd like to have that opportunity back, because we didn't get it done."Caller Jerry, asking if the team plans on expanding the running game?: Grigson: "You know, those guys are all here because we think they all have unique skillsets and have the ability to produce for us. Frank (Gore) has been our most consistent guy — he plays a lot, too, because he helps us on third down in pass (protection). Now, if you watch Turbin in the spot duty that he's been asked to play in, you know, he's produced, really, in everything we've asked him to do, whether it be lead blocking, whether it be catching a ball out of the backfield — you know, he catches a pitch – he's got juice, and he's got size, he's not afraid to do the heavy lifting — he'll put his face on somebody – he gets a lot of tough yards between the tackles when they know the ball's coming to him sometimes. So we like that group. And you just saw with (Jordan) Todman, and you saw it in the Green Bay game, the guy's got wheels, and last year, when he was on the Steelers, that's where you really saw him shine. I went and (saw) him at UConn; for a smaller-statured guy, he runs really hard, and, again, he can run. And he's not just a fast guy — it's not like he's a track guy playing football — this guy is a football player, and he happens to be low 4.4 (second 40-yard dash). So we like that group, and again, there's only so many balls to go around, and Coach (Rob) Chudzinski, he's charged with trying to implement all the talent the best he can. It's easier said than done, but I think that we'll see more of those guys, because when they've been called upon, they've showed up."Inbox question, asking if Trent Cole will be the player to come off the IR and return this season? Grigson: "You know, Trent right now, he's been the player that's been designated to return to practice. We'll see how he responds physically over this timeframe. You know, you have, actually, three weeks to activate him or not. So we're just being prudent and making sure that Trent is trending in the right direction and that he'll be able to be effective and play at a high level out there physically."Inbox question, asking how important is the running back position, and is it going to be a target in the draft?: Grigson: "I think we talked about this even last week: I just think it's premature until the season's over to really formulate your plan, because we're still kind of looking at the pool of players that are emerging from the college ranks. There's players that are going to declare, and there will be a whole even bigger pool positionally; some groups that look kind of weak now, with the juniors that come out, might all of the sudden be a top position in terms of volume in the draft. So we'll see how it goes. But again, just speaking on the backs, I think there's talent in that group. And even Josh Ferguson, he's got some growing to do, but we think he's talented, as well. In the offseason, when you have 90-man rosters, it allows you to have more volume and to let those battles happen come training camp."Inbox question, asking if he thinks the Colts can win the division with a 9-7 record?: Grigson: "What (Colts chief legal officer) Dan Emerson always says, you know, 'I left my crystal ball in my jacket at home.' I don't know. It's one game at a time, and again, you hate not being able to control your own destiny and so forth. I've been part of teams that you're praying to God that they go into somebody's place and they'd win, and sometimes they do and sometimes they don't. That's why it's tough when you're not controlling your own destiny. But it's where we're are. But really, I think Coach (Pagano) is always going to make sure this team's not thinking ahead, because we're the last team that should be doing that."Inbox question, asking if there's any explanation to Adam Vinatieri missing field goals in back to back games?: Grigson: "Adam is human. If anybody doesn't know that, I'm here to tell you he's actually a mortal human being. He's going to make a mistake. But I'll tell you what: it's special when somebody makes 44 in a row. And I know Adam is the type of person that this will motivate him. Adam Vinatieri is like those handful of guys that you have as a general manager, as I'm sure Chuck (Pagano) would vouch for, that you don't worry about Adam Vinatieri."Follow-up question, on seeing Vinatieri's brother, Beau, who is serving in the Army and recently returned from a deployment overseas, join Adam on the field to hold the large American flag during the National Anthem on Thursday?:
Grigson: "When I was walking off the field with Jim Irsay, I saw all these little kids in 4 jerseys, and then, as soon as I saw them, it dawned on me that, 'Wow — that was really neat. That was really, really neat.' Again, the people that you come across in life, a lot of times you just look to the family like, 'Why is guy so (special)?' It's usually just tied to how they were raised in their family, and there you go. Here Adam is this first-ballot Hall of Fame kicker who has a brother that I'm sure he'd say what he does is way more important than what I do, and he says it without any hesitation. And it was great seeing him be recognized like that. It's inspiring."