INDIANAPOLIS –Observers of the Colts through the years have heard players traditionally use phrases to describe a season.
This year's mantra is to "respect the process." Those are words heard chronically in the locker room by a variety of players, and they get it from their leaders.
"It's always what has been driven in my head, and Chuck (Pagano) uses it. That's the way you do it," said Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians. "When you're on a good football team and you know how to prepare and respect the process of preparation, you should never be surprised with anything on Sunday. Coach (Bear) Bryant would always say, 'Expect the unexpected,' and that's all in preparation."
Pagano and Arians both are leaders who can nurture players and foster relationships while maintaining a direct approach when needed. The focused manner on each day is one that has worked.
"That's the fun part because if you stick with the process, you can reach (goals)," said Arians. "If you start looking at the final goal, you'll probably get beat. I say every week and it gets boring, 'You have to respect the process. Today is Wednesday football. This is what we do on Wednesday.'
"As long as we continue on that path weekly, we'll play well on Sunday and have a chance to win, then come back and do it again. Again, add them all up at the end."
Indianapolis is 8-4, with wins in six of its last seven games. It is doing so with a roster featuring nine rookies, 25 players with no more than two years NFL experience and only 18 players who were with the team prior to 2012.
A hackneyed concept lobbed around is that there are "trap" games on a team's schedule. The term arose Wednesday to Arians, and it was refuted quickly.
"(Laughs) the trap for us is showing up every day, getting the right stuff done on the practice field without me chewing their tails (off)," said Arians. "This team is very resilient. They know what's at stake.
"The veteran leadership has got them in a position to make sure they're ready to go. The young guys don't want to let anyone down. They're going to make sure they get (assignments) done."
With four games to go, the Colts are positioned in the fifth slot in the six-team playoff field, a spot that can evaporate quickly with non-winning efforts.
On another concept, Arians disagreed when asked if the team were playing over its head.
"No. I think there are times we've played below our ability," said Arians. "Other times, we've played more mature than people give us credit to be because we have many young players and rookies. They are mature, solid players.
"Youth was out the window six weeks ago for us. I don't think we're playing over our heads at all."
Linebacker Robert Mathis credits the team's 8-4 performance for its character, for understanding the daily process and then following it meticulously.
"Poise, fight, guys coming to work and punching the clock, letting it be known that you have a job to do, then execute it," said Mathis.