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If there was any thought to the Indianapolis Colts taking their march to futility and the No.1 draft pick in this spring’s NFL Draft in leisure, you’d better think again.
The Peyton Manning-less Colts finally recorded their first win Sunday – defeating Tennessee 27-13 – to win their first game in 13 tries without their star quarterback and avoided going down in history as one of the teams that went 0-16 in a season.
Now, the Colts (1-13) are thinking about starting a two-game winning streak and dropping out of the “Suck For Luck” Sweepstakes. Talk about bad timing for the AFC South champion Texans who head into Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday with a one-game losing streak and facing a Colts team that is surprising up for the challenge of a facing the team that stole their division crown.
“Things have changed,” said Texans offensive tackle Eric Winston, making not of how the Colts have continued to battle through adversity since their Week 1 game at Reliant Stadium. “I give them a lot of credit because it would have been real easy to pack their bags in and take it to the house having gone through a season like this, but they certainly haven’t. They are professionals up there, they play hard and they are going to bring it.”
That’s because players like defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis and receiver Reggie Wayne haven’t forgotten how to play just because there has been no Manning this season. It has just been a matter of putting it all together at once and finally that happened against the Titans.
“With seasons like that, you have to find something that you want to play for and they’ve found something,” Texans defensive end Antonio Smith said after Tuesday’s practice. “They’ve found a spark and they played a good game last game.”
It has seemed almost certain this year the Colts would be bad enough to be assured No.1 draft position to take Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck to be Manning’s heir apparent, but if they remain hot these last two games that may not be the case.
“I’m going to tell you what, that’s impressive after what they’ve been through as a team to see those guys in the lineup week in and week out playing as hard as they’ve played, and they’ve always been that way as players,” said Texans coach Gary Kubiak, whose team’s seven game winning streak came to an end Sunday against the Carolina Panthers . “You can’t help but even gain more respect for them as you watch the film and what they’ve been doing. They’ve been through a tough time without their leader, but those guys have been there all year long and they’ve always been there for that organization.”
And no matter how much the Colts may struggle, the perennial AFC South leaders still have the attention of Texans (10-4) because of the intensity of the rivalry and also because they have never won in Indianapolis in nine previous tries. It’s likely the Colts are still smarting from the season-opening 34-7 drubbing they suffered at the hands of the Texans when they brought Kerry Collins out of retirement.
“They have the same players on defense, same playmakers they’ve always had up there.,” said tight end Owen Daniels. That’s a tough place to play. It’s loud up there, they have good fans up there so they know when to boo and when to be quiet. They will present a challenge and it will be up to us to be on our game.”
Adding even more intrigue to the game will be the Texans facing their former backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky, who guided the Colts to their first win while also getting his first win as a starting quarterback after nine tries with both the Colts and Detroit Lions.
Prior to Sunday, Orlovsky’s last win as a starter came Dec. 27, 2004 when he led UConn to a win over Toledo in the Motor City Bowl.
“You’re happy for any guy that you cross paths with that you have to let go for whatever reason. Dan’s a good guy. He works really hard at the game. [I was] watching film this afternoon before we came over here and he played well in the game and wish him well. He’s done a good job.”