ARLINGTON, TX --- It was a bad game. Everyone knows that. The players acknowledged the poor performance. Head Coach Chuck Pagano did as well.
But there's still time for the 2014 Colts to get it right. They're 10-5 and will host a home playoff game. Things could be worse. Ask the fanbases of the 20 teams who will already be looking forward to the draft in less than a week.
Stranger things have happened. Two years ago the Ravens lost 4 of their last 5 games before winning the Super Bowl. In 2011, the New York Giants were 7-7 after a bad loss to a Washington team that finished 5-11...and won the Super Bowl.
Remember the 2008 Arizona Cardinals who lost in weeks 12, 13, 15, and 16? That included a 47-7 loss on the road week 16. Sound familiar? Despite a 9-7 record, that Cardinals team made it to the Super Bowl and would've won it, if not for maybe the greatest drive in Super Bowl history by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
So even though you'll hear a lot this week about what's wrong with the Colts (which is fair criticism after the Dallas game), and performances will be dissected, that criticism should not spiral into a talk of the season being all but over. History tells us that would be very premature.
Perhaps that's why the Colts talked after the 42-7 loss at Dallas about not just throwing out the proverbial tape but literally watching that tape closely.
"(Coach Pagano) doesn't want us to dwell on it. All he wants you to do is go back in the film room and evaluate yourself," said defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois. "Look at what you did wrong. So the next game you play, that'd be Tennessee, they can't gameplan you and do the same thing the Dallas Cowboys did...24 hour rule, I don't really believe in that. Just look at the film, critique yourself, write your notes, go onto the next game."
"Disappointed, yeah. Discouraged, no," said Head Coach Chuck Pagano after the game. "There's a lot of football to be played. We've got a bunch of grown men in that locker room. We've got great veteran leadership and we'll find a way to get these things fixed."
But to be one of those aforementioned teams that turned their season from the brink to the Lombardi, it will take a few more traits.
"Just playing with heart," said Jean Francois. "Heart, ability, consistency, and being disciplined. If you don't play with those traits, man, almost no need for you to be playing football."
"Everyone has to bring their game to the next level if we want to get to our ultimate goal, and that's getting to the Super Bowl and winning the Super Bowl," said defensive lineman Art Jones.
Sports is littered with examples of teams that were prematurely written off before a run. In addition to the NFL examples, countless college basketball examples of unlikely roads to the Final Four (still have no clue how UConn won the national title last year). Somebody will also still have to explain to me how the Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants reached the World Series. So let's just see how this plays out.
"Our fans deserve the best. Our organization, our owners deserve the best," said punter Pat McAfee. "Next Sunday we're going to put a really good brand of football out on the field and hopefully build momentum towards the playoffs, because if not, we have no shot."
Step one: Breathe. Step two: beat the Titans. The story of the 2014 Colts is still theirs to write.