Injuries, inexperience, ill head coach, it doesn’t matter.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, stops the Indianapolis Colts from winning.
Not even themselves.
Take Sunday, for example.
At no point in the first half did the Colts show a pulse, let alone the capability of beating an NFL opponent. Their patchwork offensive line, missing three starters by game’s end, got pummeled. Consequently, so did Andrew Luck.
And, of course, their running game went nowhere.
Defensively, the Colts weren’t much better. They gave up a touchdown on the game’s opening drive and seemed ripe to give up several more.
By halftime, Luck had been sacked three times. He had been smashed countless times. He had been intercepted twice; the Colts had 12 rushing yards, and they were down 20-7.
For all intents and purposes, it was game-over.
But, of course, it wasn’t. It never is with the Colts.
Forget that starting left guard Joe Reitz sat out with concussion-like symptoms. And that center Samson Satele (ankle) and right tackle Winston Justice (biceps) would leave with injuries — as would running back Delone Carter and linebacker Kavell Conner and special teams player Robert Hughes.
Next man up? With the Colts, it’s always “next men up.” And guess what?
Somehow, someway, they always deliver — just like they did in the second half against Tennessee, rallying for a 27-23 win to all but assure themselves a spot in the playoffs.
Controllers of their own destiny with three games left, the postseason is Indy’s to lose; a phenomenal position for a team that could very easily, in light of myriad adverse circumstances, be 4-9 — or worse — instead of 9-4.
Yet 9-4 they are, and looking very much like a threat to do something more than lose in the first round of the playoffs.
Winners of seven of their past eight games and eight of their past 10, the one thing the Colts haven’t shown lately is a capacity for losing.
They haven’t done that since Nov. 18, when they were handily thrashed 59-24 at New England.
“It’s a lot of fun to play on this team, just because guys play football,” said Luck, who has now directed the Colts to six fourth-quarter victories. “No matter what the score, they’re out there playing football. If we put the defense in a bad position, they’ll hold them to a field goal instead of a touchdown. You see a great punt by Pat McAfee, and the next play, six points for us.
“We (offense) try and hold up our end of the bargain, as well, every now and then, but it’s a real fun team to play on.”
Playoff-bound teams always are, especially ones that defy logic and turn conventional wisdom on its head.
No one does it like the Colts. No team ever has. Not under these types of improbable, unprecedented circumstances.
Rookies play pivotal roles, as do a wealth of second- and third-year players. The head coach was diagnosed with leukemia in September and his been on a leave of absence since Oct. 1. On the injury front, at no time have the Colts been anything close to full strength.
But none of it has mattered. The playoffs are there for the taking, and the Colts show no signs fading.
All they do, its seems, is win. Seldom pretty and never easily, they simply find a way.
“We find ways to win when our backs are up against the wall,” defensive end Cory Redding said. “It’s just a reflection of where we have been this whole season, losing teammates, our coach getting hit with leukemia, guys are having almost career-ending injuries and bouncing back.
“Guys are just coming in and doing everything they can to help the team win.”
Rick Morwick is sports editor for the Daily Journal, a sister paper to The Republic. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org