INDIANAPOLIS – Since the start of the 2012 season, only one team in the NFL has not lost back-to-back games.
The Colts carry that accomplishment into Nashville this week and have plans on returning to Indianapolis with that streak intact.
"The guys in the locker room, we just come in, make corrections and just go out there and fight," veteran safety Antoine Bethea says of the streak. "That's one thing you can say about this team, we're always fighting. We're standup guys in this locker room and hopefully we can continue to make that happen this week."
Chuck Pagano and Titans head coach Mike Munchak have not shied away from the importance of Thursday night's contest.
The Colts currently hold a two-game lead over the Titans and the two teams will play twice in three weeks, meaning the AFC South picture could be pretty clear, or murky, come the start of December.
"Obviously having a two-game lead right now, sitting at 6-3, to be able to go down there and win a football game is huge," Pagano said earlier this week.
"Our guys understand it. We control our own destiny and we can make things a heck of a lot easier on ourselves by going down there and winning the football game. We talked about it, but we didn't have to say much about it. They know what's at stake and the ramifications between winning and losing this football game."
Also at stake on Thursday night is a chance for the Colts to sweep their divisional road slate of games for the first time since 2009.
Last year's contest in Nashville was nothing short of epic.
The Colts earned their first road win of 2012 when rookie running back Vick Ballard leaped into the end zone from nearly five yards out for the game-winning score in overtime.
That late October missed opportunity for the Titans sent them to a 6-10 record and Munchak knows the importance of another chance this week.
"This is a playoff game for us. We're going to find out real fast what our situation is when you're playing the top team in your division twice," Munchak said.
"We still can take care of business, we still control what happens in the next seven weeks if we go out and play what we're capable of doing, like we had played earlier in the season. So that's what's ahead, that's the window and it's right now. We have no more 'Let's wait until this week or next week.' This is a game that we have to obviously find a way to win."
A few hours north from Titans headquarters, the Colts sentiment isn't much different.
The resiliency shown in previous "bounce back" games is ready to be put on display in a game "that can't come soon enough.
"We're so excited to just get back on the field, and to get past this feeling, this taste out of our mouth," defensive end Cory Redding said earlier this week.
"All of our goals are still ahead of us. All of our dreams are still there. All we got to do is continue to keep getting better, keep fighting, keep playing and the rest will take care of itself."INTERESTING MATCHUPSTitans running back Chris Johnson versus the Colts defense:Unlike many other AFC teams, the Colts have done a very admirable job in controlling the electric Johnson over the years. The Pro Bowl running back has struggled to find consistency in 2013 with being held under 40 rushing yards in six of his last seven games (had 150 rushing yards in the other contest). The Colts did a nice job against Zac Stacy this past week but Johnson's home-run ability poses a new threat.Colts quarterback Andrew Luck versus the Titans secondary: Andrew Luck hasn't had many, if any, days like the one he had last Sunday. He, and the Colts offense, gets a chance for some revenge on Thursday night against a ball-hawking Titans secondary. The Colts haven't lost back-to-back games under Luck's guidance and his play on Thursday will go a long way in seeing if that streak continues.Quick Facts
-The Colts are looking to sweep their road divisional slate of games for the first time since 2009.
-Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is 6-2 with 13 touchdowns and six interceptions in his career versus the AFC South.
-Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis (13.5 sacks) leads the NFL and set a new single season career-high for sacks last week.
-Titans running back Chris Johnson has six career rushing touchdowns of at least 80 yards, which is the most in NFL history.
-Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey leads all defensive tackles with seven sacks on the season.
-Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner leads the NFL in pass deflections (14) and interceptions (5).NOTABLE QUOTESColts Head Coach Chuck Pagano(on if there is a common denominator between the slow starts):
-"It's a little bit of everything. You got to come out and play with energy. You got to do that for 60 minutes. I think the defense, your opponent always plays a hand in it. Offense, defense and special teams, you've got to match their intensity, what they're doing, so they play a hand in it. Certainly we've shot ourselves in the foot plenty enough to not give ourselves a chance. It looks lethargic, it looks like a slow start but you just can't, we talk all the time, you don't win games in the National Football League, you lose them. We're doing everything possible to put ourselves in these holes that we found out last night that we put ourselves in one that we couldn't find the magic to get out of. We talked about it, it doesn't catch up with you until it catches up with you. I think there will be a great lesson obviously learned in last night's ball game. We got to find a way to start fast. And to start fast I mean if we come out and we play our game like we've done in the past, we've beat some really good football teams. And we've lost some football games where we've been out-executed and whatnot and done things to hurt ourselves. I think from an execution standpoint from start to finish is the key."Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano(on the challenges of a short week):
-"It's tough obviously. Guys came in right after the ball game yesterday and started working. Obviously guys break down things. You always get ahead the week before. We've got quality control coaches that break down things. There's information already in the system and cut-ups and things like that. Guys were in here right after the ball game working on this. Again, it is what it is. So you deal with the time that you have, the circumstances that are in front of you and you move forward."Colts Quarterback Andrew Luck(on how much things are condensed this week):
-"It's fairly condensed but you make it work. Everybody's in the same boat with a Thursday game. Maybe you do a little extra especially earlier in the week. There will be no excuse for not being prepared. Our coaches do a great job. Everybody has to play a Thursday game at some point. You do it and hope you prepare well."Titans Head Coach Mike Munchak(on the quarterback position without Jake Locker):
-"Ryan Fitzpatrick will take over and he had a good couple starts when Jake got hurt earlier in the season when we were 3-1 at that point. It's unfortunate what happened to Jake and just bad luck. We obviously got to move forward and we feel very comfortable with Ryan. I think it's a good opportunity for him too, good to come back in now and get a chance to play. The two games he played, he faced some very good defenses in a two-week period. We didn't play so well during that time, so it's an opportunity for him to come back and us to play much better in a situation where at this point in the season we have to put together a winning streak if we want to be involved in this thing in December. We made it hard for ourselves by playing so poorly last week and turning the ball over. This week again, it's not going to be easy because the Colts had a rough game for the same reason and we both, obviously, a big division game on Thursday night."Titans Head Coach Mike Munchak(on the challenge of dealing with a short week):
-"Well, any coaching staff starts, I'm sure like Indianapolis, they started last week squeezing it in on either a Thursday night or a Friday night or a Saturday afternoon, when normally you'd kind of get away from the office a little bit. So you kind of start it then. And even when the schedule comes out, to be a division team, you get a chance to start getting some ideas and start tossing stuff together beforehand, even before you get to this time of the year. You just got to work ahead. Coaching staffs are used to it. It's definitely a grind. The hardest part is on the back end, on this part right now that we're going through after playing. And for both of us coming off losses, it makes it even harder I think mentally, just to regroup after a tough game on Sunday and then go right back into the office on Sunday after the game and start moving your focus ahead to the next opponent. Normally you get 48 hours to kind of work your way through what just happened and how you move forward and you get your energy back by Wednesday. In this case, Wednesday's the night before the game. So the emotions are probably the hardest part, I would think, the emotions, the highs and lows of what happened the week before. The grind, the coaches are used to the grind. And they'll get some time off on the other side of this thing next weekend. It's definitely a challenge but again, and same for the players, I think when they're later in the season like this, it's a little harder on a player because he's obviously much sorer in Week 10 than he was in Week 3 of 4 maybe when a team has it then. So I think that's probably the deal, but Thursday night national TV for the players, it's more the adrenaline's going, they know that after the game they've got a little time off and so there's a lot of positives and the reason why they'll rise to the occasion. That's usually why you see some great football games on Thursday night, because the players are giving it all they got."Titans Running Back Chris Johnson(on differences he's seen in the Colts defense):
-"They've always had a good defense. Those edge rushers. You got (Robert) Mathis on the edge and he's made a lot of plays and a lot of sacks, just making a big disruption. Then you got those safeties back there just making a lot of plays, coming downhill and just making plays in the secondary."