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Ben Smith

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Associated Press
Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck passed for four touchdowns last week in a losing effort.

Colts stuck in neutral lately

So now come the Houston Texans, a Hazmat site with feet, in the Luke. And we all know that means.

That means it’s Win Week for the Indianapolis Colts.

Loss Week was seven days ago in Cincinnati, when the Colts’ defense, heartened by forcing three turnovers against the dreary Titans the previous week, got its tires slashed by Andy Dalton ’n’ them. Dalton threw for three scores and ran for another, the Bengals hogged the football for almost 38 minutes, and Cincinnati breezed, 42-28.

So it’s back to the drawing board, sort of, for a dinged-up Colts team whose mantra is consistency and sticking to process, but which is having a difficult time matching actions to words just now.

“We wanted to go down there and win the football game,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said this week. “We wanted to play good football. We wanted to build off of last week’s Tennessee game. We want to start catching fire, if you will.”

Instead, they got flamed. Andrew Luck threw for 326 yards and four touchdowns, scratching a dubious entry in the record book: First Colts quarterback to throw for four touchdowns and lose. The offensive line, for once, did not give up a sack. Of course, the defense didn’t record one, either.

It’s a good news/bad news scenario that’s been the dominant narrative in the six weeks since the bye week. The Colts have gone win, loss, win, loss, win, loss in that span; Sunday, sticking to the script, they lost to the Bengals but clinched the AFC South by default when the Titans lost again.

Win, loss. Win, loss.

“I said, ‘Hey look, there’s only one organization, one team in the National Football League right now that has hats, that has clinched their division. And that’s the Colts’,” Pagano said, shining the best light on it. “We have that in the bank and now we’ll build on that and try to move forward and move to our second goal.”

Which is, first and foremost, getting off the win-loss, win-loss carnival ride.

“We know we’re not playing like we want to at this point,” Luck acknowledged this week. “But we also realize the season is not over and we’ve got a lot of games left.

“I think we are happy about (making the playoffs for the second straight year). But we also realize that we’ve got, I think, three more games left in the regular season to hopefully get back on track in a sense. We’ve got business to take care of.”

That would include beating the 2-11 Texans, first of all, and 4-9 Jacksonville in Lucas Oil Stadium on Dec. 29. And it would also include beating the 10-3 Chiefs in Kansas City, which would be only the third road win for the Colts since September.

As always, the spirit is willing.

“We just have to hit the switch,” outside linebacker Robert Mathis said. “We have to turn it up and we have to get on the right track … You want to be consistent. If you can be consistent, we’re tough to deal with.”

Ditto, says Pagano.

“Right now, we’ve got a lot of things to get better at,” he said. “We go back to work and play good football, consistent football for 60 minutes. This is stick to the process, next game.”

Until every week is Win Week.

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; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.