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Collected coach guiding young Indy comebacks


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Colts coach Bruce Arians shakes the hand of 8 year old Cody Burris of Sellersburg before the game.   Colts vs Titans (Saba) Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012, in Indianapolis, Indiana. STAFF PHOTO BY JOE SABA
Colts coach Bruce Arians shakes the hand of 8 year old Cody Burris of Sellersburg before the game. Colts vs Titans (Saba) Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012, in Indianapolis, Indiana. STAFF PHOTO BY JOE SABA


INDIANAPOLIS — When second-half comebacks are the norm, one can only imagine the halftime animation in the Indianapolis Colts’ locker room.

But if you imagine anything other than a structured environment, your imagination is running wild.

Because when it comes to correcting first-half failures, interim coach Bruce Arians and his staff do so in a business-like manner that defies stereotypes.

“There’s no hollering or screaming and all that kind of stuff. That’s for movies,” said Arians, himself a model of sideline composure. “We get our guys in, we talk about what we need to do, what plays we’re going to run and just address what went wrong and what we need to do to correct it, let’s correct it.

“(Defensive end) Cory (Redding) and a few other veterans, they’ll get vocal. But as coaches, we don’t do that.”

Redding, a ninth-year pro who’s in his first season with the Colts, confirms Arian’s version of the halftime ritual, which almost always focuses on digging out of holes.

“Coaches are talking. Players are talking. I’m talking. That’s why I’m hoarse,” Redding said after the Colts’ latest comeback, Sunday’s 27-23 win against visiting Tennessee. “When men get challenged to stand up, they stand up, and that’s what we’ve done these last few weeks in getting these wins.

“We found another way to win.”

The Colts usually do.

Winners of seven of their past eight games, they are 9-4 overall and one win away from earning a wild-card playoff berth.

Moreover, they are mathematically in the hunt for the AFC South Division championship. Two of their final three games are against division-leading Houston (11-2), which lost Monday night at New England. Indianapolis travels to Houston on Sunday and concludes the regular-season Dec. 30 against the visiting Texans.

Players attribute their firm playoff footing to an uncanny ability to win games in the second half — a tough act the Colts have somehow mastered.

“This is the kind of team we’ve come to be,” veteran safety Antoine Bethea said. “If we need a play on defense, if we need to get a stop, somehow, some way, we’ll get that.

“Offensively, they’ve been doing a great job getting first downs at the end of the game, running the clock out, scoring points when we’ve needed that.”

Much of credit for that goes to rookie quarterback Andrew Luck. Although his stats don’t dazzle, his ability to orchestrate game-winning drives does.

Forget the 74.5 passer rating, which ranks 31st among the NFL’s starting quarterbacks. Unflappable in pressure situations, Luck repeatedly has demonstrated a veteran-like ability to make critical plays late in games.

Because of it, the Colts are on the cusp of the playoffs.

“I don’t know if I do it any better or worse than any other guy in this league,” Luck said of his ability to bounce back from mistakes. “Our coaches preach, ‘on to the next play, good or bad,’ and I try and take that to heart.

“Maybe I’m too ignorant to know any different right now, but (I) just keep on playing.”

Collectively, the Colts have the same mindset, which explains their propensity for second-half turnarounds.

When things go poorly in the first half, as they did against Tennessee, halftime energy is generally devoted to isolating problems and fixing them.

No finger-pointing. No fire and brimstone. Just solutions and corrections, with maybe a few reminders — subtle or otherwise — about effort.

The familiar approach carried the day against Tennessee, when the Colts charged back from a 20-7 third-quarter deficit.

“Hollering and screaming doesn’t get anything done. You’re either ready to play or you’re not,” Arians said. “Our job is to teach. We got some good teaching done at halftime.”

The Colts, per usual, applied the lessons. What’s more, they’re still learning.

“We just have to put a complete effort together. We are so young, but that’s not an excuse,” Redding said. “We are still learning, still building, still growing and just enjoying the moment by working the process.

“Guys are just coming in and doing everything they can to help the team win.”

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