By Tom James Tribune-Star correspondent
Greensburg Daily News
---- — INDIANAPOLIS - Another home game, another meeting with the Tennessee Titans.
The Indianapolis Colts, fresh off last week’s 40-11 road loss to Arizona, know what’s at stake against the Titans on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Indianapolis is 7-4 and 3-0 in the AFC South. Tennessee, meanwhile, is 5-6 overall and 0-3 within the division. A Colts win would bring them ever closer to the AFC South title. A Titans victory, though, keeps their hopes alive for a berth in the playoffs.
“We’re in the same position as we were the last time we played [Tennessee],” Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said Wednesday. “[We’re] coming off getting our butts kicked [to the Cardinals] and we rebounded with a road win. The only difference this time is that it’s a home game.”
Two weeks ago, Indianapolis went to Nashville’s LP Field after dropping a 38-8 home game to St. Louis. The Colts fell behind Tennessee early, trailing 17-6 at halftime, before rallying in the second half in a 30-27 victory.
This time, there’s another distraction. Colts owner Jim Irsay offered up several tweets on Tuesday in which he challenged his team to do better.
Pagano understands Irsay’s passion. He also knows just how big Sunday’s game means in regards to Indianapolis’ post-season plans.
“We know the magnitude as coaches and players,”he said. “We understand what the expectations are. I knew 30 years ago when I got into coaching. My dad told me what the expectations were going to be no matter what the situation is, no matter where you are.
“So, as coaches, we understand it. As players, they understand it. We’ve got a job to do and we’re going to work to get that job done. This team and this [coaching] staff has done a great job [of] keeping the blinders on and staying focused.”
Outside linebacker Robert Mathis, one of the more influential members of the Colts’ locker room, wasn’t fazed by Irsay’s comments either.
“He’s the only boss I’ve ever known, so it’s the norm for me,”Mathis admitted. “He’s a winner. He’s used to winning. He likes winning. In order to change things, you have to win.
“If you need more motivation than this being your job and the threat of somebody taking your job every week, then you shouldn’t be in this league.”
Losing is one thing. But the fact that last two losses have come in blowouts is tough for Pagano and the coaching staff to accept.
“Yeah, it bothers everybody. It makes you sick to your stomach. That’s why we come back to work. That’s why you stick to the process. You got to do more and you got to do better. You got to execute,” he said.
“It’s all right there on tape, why it happens. It’s easy to see. And so that’s why we came back [to practice], because we have another opportunity.”
Injury list -- Safety Sergio Brown underwent hand surgery on Tuesday after he was hurt during the Arizona game. Brown, who blocked a Cardinals field goal attempt, has not been ruled out of the Tennessee game just yet.
The Colts may be without the services of cornerbacks Vontae Davis and Greg Toler, who are both sidelined with groin injuries. Davis was hurt against Arizona. Toler, meanwhile, has been recovering since getting hurt against Denver on Oct. 20.
Brown, Davis, Toler, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (shoulder) and inside linebacker Kavell Conner (ankle) did not practice on Wednesday.
Fullback Stanley Havili returned for Wednesday’s practice after sitting out last week with a concussion. He has been cleared for practice but is still waiting for final clearance to participate in the Titans’ game. Havili was hurt in the first meeting with Tennessee on Nov. 14.
Fact of the day -- Before coming to Indianapolis, backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was the Titans starter for parts of the last two seasons.
While living in Nashville, Hasselbeck and his family rented a house that had celebrity landlords: country music stars Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.
Thanksgiving plans -- The Colts will have an early practice today before breaking for the holiday.
“Yeah, everybody’s going to get some time. We’ll come in an hour early, start an hour early and go through a normal Thursday, as far as meetings and practice, and then get everybody out of here, coaches and players, so they have an opportunity to go and be with family and spend some time,” Pagano said.
“We all have a ton to be thankful for, and so we’re certainly not going to take any day for granted. We’re not going to take tomorrow for granted. So we’ll get our work done and then we’ll get out of here.”
When asked what his Thanksgiving Day menu consisted of, was he more partial to turkey or ham, the Colts coach had a quick answer.
“Pasta,” he laughed. “There will be a turkey laying around somewhere, but there will be a school of pasta boiling somewhere, and that’s what I’ll have.”
Defensive end Cory Redding, meanwhile, plans to take full advantage of a good holiday spread.
“I don’t watch calories. I have to take on double team all day [in games],” Redding smiled.