INDIANAPOLIS — So what now? What's a team to do when Sunday's joy is darkened by Monday's MRI?
The circus has left town for the Indianapolis Colts. The handmade Peyton Manning posters have been tossed away (a personal favorite: "Sack him gently Robert"). The last $30 Broncos-Colts game T-shirts have been sold. Doubtful, the Lucas Oil Stadium entrepreneurs have a new supply when the Jacksonville Jaguars visit.
Oh, it was loud, fun and memorable.
"The energy," Andrew Luck would say afterward, "you could taste it."
But now comes the harder, grittier work as contenders position themselves for the playoffs. And it must be done with part of the heart of the team gone.
Ain't it funny, how irony works? All the week's buzz about great Indianapolis quarterbacks past and present, and an underthrown incompletion could end up the most far-reaching moment of the night. Luck might have put up the costliest bad pass of the NFL season, when a wide, wide, wide open Reggie Wayne blew out his knee trying to scoop up a duck of toss.
It was in the wee hours of Monday morning, that Luck finally addressed the media and delivered his thoughts on Wayne's injury, which came on the 35th Colts pass of the night.
"It stinks, to the Nth degree," Luck said. "I put a lot of that on myself. I don't think there was anybody within a square mile of him."
So the soap opera is over, and now less glitzy but more pressing matters are on the table.
A division must be won. Five of the last nine games are against AFC South opponents so the Colts can either bury the likes of Tennessee for good or leave the door ajar.
Home field advantage for at least part of the postseason must be secured. If you wonder at the possible significance of that, we direct you to Luck's 10-2 career record in Lucas Oil Stadium. So upcoming games at Kansas City and Cincinnati — with their possible tie-breaker scenarios — could be huge.