The Herald Bulletin

September 23, 2013

George Bremer: Colts must make shocker stick


The Herald Bulletin

---- — Maybe we should have seen this coming.

Colts head coach Chuck Pagano spent all of last week telling media, fans and anyone else willing to listen that his team handles adversity as well as anybody in the NFL. Indianapolis had never lost back-to-back games with Andrew Luck under center, and the past two years around this franchise have been full of surprises.

But the Colts' 27-7 victory at San Francisco on Sunday still came as a shock to many outside the team's own locker room. And why not?

Indianapolis beat three playoff teams in 2012 — the Vikings, Packers and Texans — but each of those wins came at home. The team's most memorable road victory with Luck at the helm previously had been the "Motor City Miracle" last-second ambush of the Lions last December.

There was little to suggest the Colts were about to defeat the defending NFC champions by three scores.

"Nobody in the world gave us a chance," defensive end Cory Redding told the media in a victorious postgame locker room. "If you just play every single weekend, you've got an opportunity to win a game."

That last bit will be worth remembering this week.

On Sunday, suddenly high-flying Indianapolis (2-1) heads to Jacksonville to meet a winless division rival. The Jaguars (0-3) announced Monday quarterback Blaine Gabbert will start for the first time since suffering a thumb injury in Week 1.

A year ago, Gabbert connected with wide receiver Cecil Shorts III for an 80-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter of a 22-17 upset victory at Lucas Oil Stadium. Looking back, that play cost the Colts the AFC South championship in a season that finished at 11-5.

Couple the memories of that loss with a tougher-than-expected 21-17 victory against the Raiders in this year's season opener, and Indianapolis will have plenty of motivation to avoid a letdown.

"We have the 24-hour rule in effect," Pagano said Sunday after the most impressive victory in his eight games on the sideline. "We will savor this one. The plane ride home will be fabulous, and then we'll go back to work on Wednesday and get ready for Jacksonville."

For everyone else, it will be difficult not to look forward to the next home game — Oct. 6 against the unbeaten Seahawks and second-year quarterback Russell Wilson.

The Colts' win in San Francisco sent a message that this team can be physical and impose its will even against the best opponents. Pagano called it a "signature win," and it's a sign of what this team is capable of each week.

"This feels real good," running back Trent Richardson said after making his Indianapolis debut. "It has been a long time since I have really felt like this. So it feels real good."

His new fans know exactly what he means.