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Ben Smith

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Associated Press
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck wants to use the bye week to examine his play so far.

Rest, refit, get it right

– In some of their minds, surely, Cecil Shorts is still running. Running, running, running. Running like an impala across the savannah. Running, more accurately, like a purse-snatcher fleeing the scene, only the purse in this case is a “W.”

So maybe this is the perfect time for Bye to show up on the Colts schedule.

It gives them two weeks to get Cecil Shorts out of their heads, and to consider again just how hard it is to win in the NFL. They were this close to two Ws in their first three games, a remarkable thing for a young team of strangers still trying to get past the name-tag stage. And then they weren’t.

And then, there went Cecil Shorts right up the seam, and Blaine Gabbert hit him right in the hands, and off he went for 80 yards and a Jacksonville touchdown that took that aforementioned “W” right off the Colts’ plate. And 2-1 became 1-2, just like that.

“How many times did you watch the touchdown pass to Shorts?” someone asked Colts coach Chuck Pagano, the day after Jacksonville 22, Colts 17.

“All night long,” Pagano replied. “All night long in (my) head. It’s like a nightmare.”

And a teachable moment in a season crammed with teachable moments, which is why Bye is the most welcome opponent the Colts could possibly see right now unless the 1976 Buccaneers suddenly burst from a rip in the space-time continuum.

Everyone can go his own way for the weekend to rest and refit and get their minds right. The banged-up offensive line – already new to one another, and now full of backups and backups to backups new to one another – can heal a bit. Pagano can sit his team down and show them how they killed themselves with penalties and blown coverages and other mistakes of both commission and omission, quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen can more fully take Andrew Luck under his wing.

“To me, I look at it as the end of training camp officially,” Christensen said this week. “Everything has been pushed back; we’ve had to accelerate everything so fast in these first three weeks of the season, and now we’ll take a good hard look at what we’re doing rep-wise and how many throws we’re getting him and some of those things.

“I think it’ll be fun to just go back and sit down and take a deep breath and say ‘Okay, where is he? What do we need next?’ ”

And, of course: Where do we go from here?

“You just have to play better technique and fundamentals,” Pagano said this week. “Going into this bye week, that’s going to be our major emphasis. From a fundamental and technique standpoint, if we just play smarter and do some things differently here and there across the board – every position, offense, defense and special teams – we’ll find a way to win those games.”

Luck agrees.

“In looking back recently at this game, there is a third-and-three where Donnie Avery runs a nice slant route against man-to-man and I throw the ball behind him, and I think Jacksonville goes down and scores,” he said this week. “I know there were a couple of those in the Minnesota game. You just have to learn from them, get better in my mind.”

An extra week couldn’t hurt that. And if Cecil Shorts is still running somewhere … well, he won’t be by the time the Colts tee it up against Green Bay on Oct. 7.

“Every bit of game experience helps,” Luck says. “(You) take those as learning experiences, and hopefully bounce back next week.”

And all the weeks thereafter.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.

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