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Ben Smith

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Colts
at Tennessee
When: 8:25 p.m. today
TV: NFL Network

Colts see solution: Move on quickly

– This is what we know now, after picking hurriedly through the ruins of Rams 38, Colts 8:

1. That Tribute to the Rod Dowhower Era was a smashing success.

2. Only Reggie Wayne can be Reggie Wayne.

3. Every time Andrew Luck looks for him out there (and he’s still looking for him), he sees Darrius Heyward-Bey instead.

And so, yes, Rams 38, Colts 8. And, yes, a vertigo-inducing trip in the Wayback Machine to the glory days of Dowhower (5-24 in 1985-86). And, yes, under the circumstances, the best of all possible solutions: A Thursday date in Nashville with division rival Tennessee, which means the Colts must flush the Rams debacle down the memory hole with all due haste.

But first … what happened, there, Coach Pagano?

“Well, (we) turned the ball over, minus-four turnover margin in the game, gave up big plays in all three phases,” he said this week. “You got a strip-sack for a touchdown, give up a 99-yard punt return for a touchdown, give up big plays over the top of your defense, can’t get off the field on third down, can’t convert on third down.”

Pretty succinct, and dead-on accurate. All of the above, in fact, is a veritable instruction guide on how to get planted like a turnip in your own house by a team that, let’s face it, isn’t going to strike fear in the hearts of many.

But there’s a reason why the Colts are still 6-3 and two games clear of the Titans in the AFC South, and it’s because they’re geniuses at compartmentalization. This happened, and then this, and now you move on. You reboot Pagano’s favorite word (“process”). And this week, you do it even more quickly because Sunday afternoon to Thursday night is a very small window of time, and it doesn’t give you much choice in the matter.

“For us, coming off the disappointing loss to the Rams, (we) really can’t get on the field fast enough,” Pagano says. “On a short week you got to be smart, just because of time constraints and things like that, about doing things. But we’re still going to do the things that we need to do in all three phases to give us a chance to win the football game. But we’ll be mindful, as far as the plan in all three phases, of what our guys can handle and can’t handle and trying to do too much in a short period of time.

“We can’t go down there and be thinking in any of the three phases. We got to be able to play fast.”

And forget just as fast – especially if you’re Luck, who has as many turnovers (4) as touchdowns passes (4) since Wayne went down two weeks ago.

“I definitely think you learn from it, but I don’t think it will stick with you,” Luck said of all that this week. “We watched the film this morning, learned from the mistakes, see where we can improve. We’re full steam ahead now on the Titans, and you can’t dwell on anything now.”

“I think all we want is to never play like that again,” tight end Colby Fleener agreed.

Music to Pagano’s ears, if not exactly music that leaves him astounded. He knows his football team, after all.

“They’re a resilient bunch,” he said this week. “They understand that you got to stick to the process. They go back and take a hard look at themselves and figure out and fix the things that caused the problems the week before.”

And move on. Quickly.

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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