Colts will keep pushing despite playoff status

Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano celebrates after a 25-24 win over the Cleveland Browns in an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Colts head coach Chuck Pagano isn’t quite ready to put all of his focus on preparing for the playoffs.

Indianapolis clinched the AFC South with Sunday’s win over Houston, but before the Colts look ahead to the postseason, Pagano wants to close out the regular season on a winning note.

“Just because we’re sitting where we’re sitting doesn’t mean we’re going to take our foot off the gas,” he said.

So the approach is to win each game whether it has any significance to the overall outcome of the season or not, including Sunday’s game at Dallas and at Tennessee in the regular-season finale.

“We’re going to play 16 games, and we’re going to prepare to try to go win this football game,” Pagano said. “Forget being in the playoffs or not, that’s just our mindset. That’s how we roll.”

Still, with the playoffs just weeks away, the Colts are well aware of the need to find solutions to problems. Pagano specifically pointed out Monday that penalties and turnovers are issues the Colts continue to face.

Indy committed two turnovers against Houston on Sunday, including an interception the Texans returned for a touchdown early in the game.

The Colts have struggled to get off to a fast start, another issue that Pagano acknowledged as a concern. Against Houston, it was nearly halftime before Indy took a lead and the Colts have trailed in the first quarter in four of the last five games.

“If we’re going to get to where we want to get to, take the next step in the playoffs, those type of things, we’ve still got some things obviously to clean up,” Pagano said. “We’ll go to work on that.”

An MRI came back negative for receiver T.Y. Hilton, who suffered a hamstring injury late in Sunday’s game. Pagano said the Colts expect Hilton to return to practice this week.

Hilton is just one of several players with nagging injuries.

Guards Hugh Thornton (knee) and Joe Reitz (ankle) missed all last week and Pagano said both continue to take steps in the right direction.

Receiver Reggie Wayne has also recently battled injuries to his elbow and triceps and Pagano said players can sit out to recover, but the Colts won’t sit players to keep them healthy for the playoffs.

“If we see a window, not only for Reggie, but anybody else who’s got some nagging injuries,” Pagano said. “Between our doctors and our trainers and our coaching staff, if we feel like somebody needs some time to mend . if a guy needs some time because he’s injured and he needs some time to heal up, then we’ll make that decision whatever’s best for the player, whatever’s best for the team.”

The next two games on the road give the Colts an opportunity to fix problems, but also a chance to find ways to win away from home, where they are 4-2. And this week against the Cowboys will give Pagano an idea of where the team is at.

“It will be a great measuring stick to go on the road,” Pagano said. “We know what kind of team they have, and what kind of players they have. We’ve got to go on the road and play a darn good football team.”

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