INDIANAPOLIS – Prior to the Colts Week Three meeting in Jacksonville, the talk was focused on the sense of urgency required to win their first game of 2014.
That urgency turned into near flawless execution as the Colts built a 30-0 halftime lead and rolled to a 44-17 road victory.
The win brought the Colts to 1-2 on the season and now they return home this Sunday for another divisional game in closing out the first quarter of the season.
Sunday's contest with the Tennessee Titans marks a three game stretch in 12 days for the Colts with some of the NFL's best interior defenders the opposition.
All-Pro defensive end Jurrell Casey is a disruptive force in the middle of the Titans 3-4 defense.
Center A.Q. Shipley and the interior of the Colts offensive line will see a lot of Casey this weekend. Chuck Pagano announced earlier this week that the offensive line will maintain status quo even with Khaled Holmes returning to practice.
The Colts offensive line has done a tremendous job in giving Andrew Luck ample time to pile up numbers that currently rank among the league's best.
"Everybody knows he's the face of this franchise," Shipley, who will make his fourth straight start this weekend, says of Luck.
"He's what makes this thing go. Our job is to do everything we can, regardless of what the scenario may be, to keep him upright. That's kind of been our approach since day one, at least since I've gotten here. I'm sure it was before I got here. We only go as far as he goes."
While Luck is coming off his third AFC Offensive Player of the Week award, the Colts rushing attack has also seen some promise early in the regular season.
The Colts are the only team in the league with two players sitting at more than 150 rushing yards after three weeks.
This early offensive balance is the blueprint Pep Hamilton wants to see with so many capable skill players.
"We can open it up a lot," Ahmad Bradshaw says.
"We can go over the top, we've got a lot of weapons out wide at the receiver position. Andrew, he just makes a lot of plays happen. I think it's opened the running game up a whole lot. It's kept the defenses honest, the safeties deeper and it helps us to see the holes a lot better."
Sitting just a game behind the AFC South leading Houston Texans, the Colts will get a crack to shake things up in the division over the next dozen days.
The last time the Colts played in front of the home faithful, players felt they let one slip away.
That sour taste is still lingering.
"We owe it to our fans. We owe it to ourselves. We didn't play as best as we could for as long as we could," Dwayne Allen says of a Week Two home loss.
"We know that it's a 60-minute, or however long it takes, type of game and we only played a half or so. Against a very good Tennessee defense we're going to have to play an entire game and that's what we're looking forward to."
INTERESTING MATCHUPSThe Titans running game versus the Colts run defense:Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt said on Wednesday that the Titans will certainly try to establish a power running game on Sunday. That makes sense with what the Titans have gotten from Shonn Greene and Bishop Sankey this year. Toss in the fact that the Titans quarterback situation for the week is in a state of flux and we could see a heavy dose of the ground game on Sunday.Colts quarterback Andrew Luck versus the Titans secondary: The AFC Offensive Player of the Week will face one of the league's best passing defenses in the league on Sunday. It's pretty remarkable that Luck leads the league with nine passing touchdowns yet Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton have been held out of the end zone. How will Luck follow up one of the best performances of his young career?Quick Facts
-The Colts have won their last eight AFC South games.
-Wide receiver Reggie Wayne will be playing in his 200th career game on Sunday. D'Qwell Jackson will be playing in his 100th career game.
-Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, tight end Jack Doyle and inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman have all spent time with the Titans.
-Titans defensive end Jurrell Casey has 5.5 sacks in his past seven games and had two against the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium last season.
-In his only career start vs. the Colts, Titans running back Shonn Greene had 161 rushing yards in 32 attempts in a 2012 Week Six meeting with the Jets.
-The Titans have seven players with at least one sack, which is the second most in the league.NOTABLE QUOTESColts Head Coach Chuck Pagano(on the personnel groupings he wants to see from the Colts offense):
-"Whatever we need to do to win the football game, if we've got to play three tight ends and one wideout, then that's what we'll do. If we've got to go to zebra personnel, which is three wides and a tight end, we'll do it. If we've got to put four wides out there, we've got four guys that we trust and we know that can make plays. Two tight ends, two wideouts, one back, if we've got to go with that personnel group, we've got two tight ends, two wideouts and a back we feel really good about. Our guys do a great job of studying our opponent. Pep (Hamilton) and his staff do a great job of figuring out, 'Okay, if we put this personnel group out on the field, this is how they're going to match us.' If we like that matchup, then that's what we'll go with. If that gives us an opportunity to not only run the football, but throw the football effectively down the field, then that's what we'll do."Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano(on the play of the offensive line):
-"I love the way they're coming together, any time you can have back-to-back games and move the ball the way we moved it. We moved the ball well in the second half of the opener and moved it well against Philly and then over 500 yards last week. I think the chemistry, the continuity of that group, they're gaining confidence with every single snap and every single game and all they'll do is continue to get better. Really proud of those guys. Their coaches are doing a great job with them. Gos (Gosder Cherilus) and AC (Anthony Castonzo), they've got great leadership in there in those two guys. They're leading them and they're all getting better."Colts Quarterback Andrew Luck(on the concerns of the Titans defense):
-"Really good players all around the field. Jurrell Casey is a big monster inside. He can do a lot of things. (Jason) McCourty is a great cover corner. (Benard) Pollard and (Michael) Griffin in the backend so a lot of good players on that defense that fly around. I think they're ranked fifth in the league in total defense, so it presents a lot of challenges."
Titans Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt(on if the Colts look like a 1-2 football team):
-"If you would have asked me what their record was I probably couldn't even have told you. They look like a good football team to me, make a lot of plays on both sides of the ball. Got one of the best quarterbacks in the game. Playing there certainly is going to be a tremendous challenge for our team."Titans Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt(on if the power running game will be part of the plan on Sunday):
-"It'll be a part of our plan. We've run the ball fairly effectively this year, that's something, no matter who we're playing, first of all that is a challenge. Second of all, it's something that we feel is an important part of the game. When we look at Indianapolis, we see a good football team. We're going to try and attack them the best way that we can. That's going to vary from week-to-week. Some of it's going to depend on matchup-wise what we're facing. It's going to change from week-to-week so I can't really give you that confidential information."Titans Quarterback Jake Locker(on what he's seen from the 1-2 Colts):
-"I think it's a team that's played some really good football teams to this point and had some good games with them. They've won our division the last two years for a reason, and it's three games into the year so it's early, it's really early. They still have the respect of the division so we're going to go in there understanding that we're playing the reigning division champ and treat it that way."