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Colts quickly move on to Patriots following wrenching loss

October 2, 2018
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Indianapolis Colts' Nyheim Hines (21) makes a touchdown reception against Houston Texans' Tyrann Mathieu (32) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indianapolis Colts are borrowing an old adage from Bill Belichick this week.

They’re on to the Patriots.

Less than 24 hours after a gutsy fourth-down call backfired in a wrenching overtime loss to AFC South rival Houston, coach Frank Reich walked into the team complex and turned his attention to Thursday night’s game.

“It just appears to me the maturity level of these young players are eager to get on to the next game, just eager to get ready,” Reich said Monday.

“I think the most important thing is how are we going to take care of them physically, get your bodies right and get these game plans in quickly and just get everything focused on New England.”

First, though, Reich did replay the decision in his head repeatedly.

Upon further reflection, he even walked back some of his postgame comments to explain with more clarity what he was thinking.

Players appreciated the fact Reich had enough faith in his offense and defense to take a chance on fourth-and-4 from his 43-yard line with less than 30 seconds left in overtime. Afterward, everyone including Reich acknowledged they didn’t want to settle for a tie.

“I probably should give context to the 10 out of 10,” Reich said, referring to his postgame comments. “I mean it’s probably not a complete absolute as much as it is a mindset of being aggressive. There are always a lot of things to consider. To say it’s an absolute, it was emotional yesterday, a tough loss. The mindset is we’re going to be aggressive.”

Everyone from Andrew Luck to record-breaking kicker Adam Vinatieri backed Reich in a game most figured they wouldn’t even watch on film because of the short week.

But the reality is Reich is here, in Indy talking about New England, because Josh McDaniels isn’t.

Had Belichick’s longtime offensive coordinator followed through on his verbal commitment to take the Colts’ coaching job following February’s Super Bowl loss, this game would be billed as yet another chapter in the long-running pupil-versus-instructor series.

Instead, when McDaniels backed out of the deal, Colts general manager Chris Ballard plucked the offensive coordinator from Super Bowl champion Philadelphia and he’s been a big hit in Indy (1-3) — even in light of Sunday’s risky call.

Beating New England would give fans even more to celebrate early in Reich’s tenure.

But he’s likely to be working with a short-handed roster.

Left tackle Anthony Castonzo has missed all four games with an injured hamstring and it appears unlikely he’ll return this week. Right tackle Joe Haeg went on injured reserve last week and his left ankle is now in a cast.

Pro Bowler receiver T.Y. Hilton left Sunday’s game with a chest injury, returned and then left again in the second half with a hamstring injury. Reich doesn’t anticipate having Hilton at New England (2-2).

Running back Marlon Mack has missed three of the first four games this season with a hamstring injury and the Colts have two cornerbacks, Quincy Wilson and Kenny Moore II, in the concussion protocol. Another cornerback Nate Hairston walked into the locker room Monday with his lower left leg in a walking boot.

Hairston, Hilton, Wilson, Moore, Pro Bowl tight end Jack Doyle (hip), center Ryan Kelly (hand), linebacker Darius Leonard (ankle) and defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway (calf) did not practice Monday.

At least the Colts might have running back Robert Turbin back in the mix following a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancers. He’s been Indy’s top short-yardage runner the past two seasons and could play a key, albeit limited, role if Indy activates him before Tuesday afternoon’s deadline.

“I feel good. I’m ready to roll,” Turbin said. “I just trained like normally do. I always train with pads and a helmet on, and I try to mimic routes and things like that. I got a chance to go back to my high school and run around with those guys a little bit.”

But the seven-year veteran knows the competition will be much different with the defending AFC champions on the opposite sideline.

Houston already appears to be a distant memory.

And all the talk inside the locker room seems to focus on ending a seven-game losing streak to the Pats that dates back to Belichick’s own failed fourth-down decision in 2009.

“You’ve got to move on from this one real fast,” Reich said. “We know how quick a turnaround that is here. A very well-coached team, a good football team. So all eyes on New England.”

Notes: Castonzo, Mack and safety Clayton Geathers (knee) were all limited in practice Monday. ... Tight end Eric Ebron (knee), safety Malik Hooker (hip), kicker Adam Vinatieri (right groin) and linebacker Anthony Walker (knee) were all full participants at practice.

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