INDIANAPOLIS – When the Colts offense took the field with 6:09 remaining on Sunday night, the group was about to embark on yet another fourth-quarter, game-winning touchdown drive.
While that in itself is a feat, consider the personnel that made up the group.
The Colts had six second-year players at the skill positions (Andrew Luck, Trent Richardson, Coby Fleener, T.Y. Hilton, LaVon Brazill and Griff Whalen).
On the offensive line, 25-year old Anthony Castonzo was the only member of the offense who played for the Colts prior to 2012.
The unit did not flinch, with a six-play, 52-yard drive to erase an 18-point deficit thanks to their fourth straight scoring drive of the second half, against the league's best defense.
"Everybody's got circumstances that they got to deal with. We're going to deal with a different set of circumstances whether it be during a game, during the week, the health of players, the health of coaches, it doesn't matter," Chuck Pagano said of his team's resiliency earlier this week.
"This team has always bought into the mentality and the mindset of next man up. We haven't wavered from that. They haven't wavered from that. Fortunately, we've been successful and we've been able to overcome it."
Veteran outside linebacker Robert Mathis has been a member of the Colts for over a decade yet there's something different in the resiliency of this team.
"We have a young team that's bought in," Mathis says. "They've completely sold out for the cause. The truth of the matter: we don't know any better. We just know keep fighting, keep swinging and hopefully you'll connect and get that knockout punch."
The next chance to deliver that blow comes on Sunday afternoon when the Colts take on the St. Louis Rams.
Pagano did not hesitate when addressing his number one concern in facing the Rams this weekend.
"From a defensive standpoint, they're number one in the league as far as putting pressure on the quarterback and sacking the quarterback. They've got 29.0 (sacks), which ranks first per pass play. They've got a really good front four. Robert Quinn has got 10.0 sacks and Chris Long has got 5.5," Pagano said in addressing the Rams.
While the Colts have had the luxury of comeback victories the past two seasons, Pagano is hoping this weekend doesn't pan out in such a fashion.
Getting off to better starts is a priority in all three phases for the Colts.
They will try to do that on Sunday, in their lone home contest during the month of November.
The second half of the regular season for the Colts begins at home and for a team trying to earn a playoff bid, controlling the home turf is a must."You know if you can win your home games, you're going to have a fighting chance to hopefully make it in the playoffs," quarterback Andrew Luck said.
"It's always fun to play in Lucas Oil (Stadium), one of the great venues in all of sports. It's fun for us to run out of that tunnel again."INTERESTING MATCHUPSRams running back Zac Stacy versus the Colts defense:The 2013 fifth-round pick has ran for back-to-back 100-yard games and has been a steady force since Sam Bradford's season-ending injury. Playing in a road environment, establishing Stacy would be ideal for a Rams offense that is still getting used to new quarterback Kellen Clemons. A stingy effort by the Colts defense would put a struggling Rams offense into some difficult third-down situations, which would be a welcoming sight to the Indianapolis pass rush.Colts offensive line versus the Rams front seven: The Colts offensive line will once again encounter one of the league's best pass rushing units. The Rams are just one of three teams in the NFL with two players that have at least 5 sacks (Robert Quinn-10.0 sacks and Chris Long-5.5 sacks). Will being at home help out the Colts offensive line from a communication standpoint?Quick Facts
-The Colts have committed the fewest turnovers (six) and penalties (31) in the NFL.
-The Colts are looking for their sixth straight win vs. the NFC.
-Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis (11.5 sacks) needs a half sack to set a new career-high.
-Rams offensive tackle Roger Saffold played at Indiana University and safety Matt Giordano played four seasons with the Colts.
-The Rams lead the NFL in sacks per pass play with defensive end Robert Quinn topping in the NFC with 10.0 sacks.
-Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis is one of three linebackers with 10 sacks (10.5) and 8 interceptions (8).
NOTABLE QUOTESColts Head Coach Chuck Pagano(on the importance of instilling the need to control home field in the NFL):
-"Again, we always talk about win your home games, split on the road and you're probably going to make the playoffs nine-out-of-10 times every year. You've got to dominate at home. You've got to protect your house, so to speak. Our guys, we were 7-1 last year. I think we're 3-1 currently. It's the next game, good football team coming in here, it happens to be at home. Is it a must-win? Yeah. We want to win them all. We prepare to win them all. And again, it seems like it's been a long, long time since we played at home, after the Denver game and the bye and all that stuff. Our guys are really excited. No greater fans in the National Football League. What they've done to this point and what they'll do Sunday at one o'clock will be outstanding, so it'll be great to be back at Lucas Oil."Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano(on an overview of the St. Louis Rams):
"From a defensive standpoint, they're number one in the league as far as putting pressure on the quarterback and sacking the quarterback. They've got 29.0, which ranks first. Sacks per pass play. They've got really good front four, two edge guys. Robert Quinn has got 10.0 sacks and Chris Long has got 5.5. The rest of the guys, they do a great job off the edge. They get after you. They're going to be up in your face. They play press man. They got back end guys. They got corners that can play. They can get up in your face and make things tough on your receivers to work to get off the line of scrimmage. From a defensive standpoint, they kind of smother you. That's going to be a challenge. Offensively, they've got a runner who is emerging as a legitimate number one. He's had back-to-back 100-plus yard weeks. Tough guy. A guy that gets yards after contact, hard to get on the ground. They got playmakers on the outside. They got a tight end, obviously, that they went out and got in free agency and paid a lot of money for. That's a darn good football player and leads their team in receptions right now in (Jared) Cook. Wide receiver crew that is excellent, can beat you vertically. One of the most dynamic young players in football in Tavon Austin, not only as a receiver but as a returner he's legitimately one of the best, going to be one of the best to play at this level. He's a dynamic guy and he can score from anywhere. It doesn't matter how they get him the football, again, he's a threat to score from anywhere on the field.
Colts Quarterback Andrew Luck(on the challenge of the St. Louis Rams):
-"They have two premier defensive ends, the number one sack team in the league I think. You know they can get to the quarterback. I think they have a bunch of athletes, fast, physical guys. We know it's going to be a heavyweight fight, every game in this league is. We're excited for a great challenge."Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher(on what he has seen from his defense so far):
-"Well, we're young. We went from about 14-15 years of experience at the safety position last year to zero. Then we lost T.J. (McDonald), so we're very young at the safety position. The future is bright there. I think the young corners are getting better. I'm pleased with Alec Ogletree's progress and his production. He's an every down player. He's seen a lot. He's still seeing things for the first time. But I think he's got a great future. James (Laurinaitis) handles the inside. Our defensive front, we can rush the passer, but we need to do a better job consistently against the run game."Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher(on if he's noticed a change in T.Y. Hilton's role since Reggie Wayne's injury):
-"I think in time, his numbers will certainly change because of the loss of Reggie which is very unfortunate. It appears that obviously he's able to do the same things. They're moving him around, asking a lot of different things of him. He's got exceptional speed. He can make the tough catch. He's got run-after-catch ability."Rams Linebacker James Laurinaitis(on what he's seen from the Colts offense):
-"I see a lot of balance. Andrew Luck is a stud. He's one of those guys that I think when his career is done, you're going to have to be talking about him as one of the best to play the game. He just seems to have a great awareness of the football game. He seems to have great control and the more mature he gets playing in this league, he's going to be a guy who's going to be able to basically dictate everything he wants to do as a quarterback of a football team. I think both (Trent) Richardson and (Donald) Brown are running the ball pretty well and their O-line blocks extremely hard for them. T.Y. (Hilton) out there on the outside has been making a lot of plays, and I have a lot of respect for their tight end (Coby) Fleener too. So it's definitely a huge challenge for us. You watch film and kind of see them, they do a lot of similar stuff that we've seen from other teams, but they just do it a lot better and they're very consistent. And Andrew's truly a quarterback, and I give him a lot of credit, because with the young guys, they don't do this a lot of times, but he really scans the entire field. A lot of young guys, they'll give them, look here on this half of the field, and if it's not there, scramble. Andrew truly is a full route-progression type quarterback and it's pretty impressive."