INDIANAPOLIS (AP) The complaints are coming in loud and clear at the Colts complex.
Players and coaches don't like what they're seeing on tape. Fans are so unhappy with what they've witnessed, some are calling for firings. Even owner Jim Irsay is urging his team to "wake up."
And all these complaints are over a 7-4 team that is closing in on its eighth division title in 11 seasons.
Strange? Not in today's sports world, where criticism has become part of the daily routine.
"That's expected. People are always going to criticize you," defensive end Cory Redding said Wednesday. "But if I walked around worried about what other people think of me, I'd (stink). We've got to go out and play a game, regardless of what they say."
Instead, the Colts are focused on finding a solution to the list of growing and glaring problems.
The transition to a power-running team looked good when Indy topped 120 yards rushing in each of the first four games. It did so despite losing starting running back Vick Ballard with a season-ending knee injury, and his replacement, Ahmad Bradshaw, with a season-ending neck injury after only three games. In the last six games, Indy has rushed for 120 or more yards only twice.
Andrew Luck, who completed more than 60 percent of his passes four times in the first six weeks, has seen that percentage drop to 55.5 over the last four games. The dip coincided with losing Pro Bowl receiver Reggie Wayne, his favorite target, with a torn ACL in his right knee.
The defense, which Irsay spent more than $100 million rebuilding in free agency, has struggled mightily to get off the field early the last four weeks. The result: Indy has been outscored 93-12 in the first 30 minutes of those four games, yet somehow managed to win twice thanks to Luck's incredible penchant for comebacks.
That's not the payoff Irsay expected.
So after Sunday's 40-11 debacle at Arizona, Irsay expressed his frustration publicly.
"Must find a way 2 win Division,no excuses,no explanations..hide weaknesses,accent strengthens/We gotta ... WAKE UP!" the team owner wrote Tuesday on Twitter.
It's not the first time the boss has complained about his team's performance.
Irsay used his Twitter account to offer fans an apology after another blowout loss in the preseason opener, and urged Indy's rebuilt offensive line to deliver a "better effort" following a 21-17 win over Oakland in September's season opener.
While Irsay's words resonate within the locker room, most players keep the comments in perspective.
"He's writing the checks, he can do what he wants to do," NFL sacks leader Robert Mathis said. "He's a winner, he likes winning. But if you're not motivated by your job, you shouldn't be in this league."
There's no doubt the Colts have not been the same without Wayne, and there's no question in coach Chuck Pagano's mind they have to find a way to overcome Wayne's loss before it's too late.
Indy already blew one chance to put away the division. A win at Arizona would have put the Colts in position to wrap up things with a win Sunday against Tennessee (5-6). Now, they'll have to settle for trying to take a three-game lead with four to play and earning a season sweep of the Titans. That would leave them one win, or one Titans loss or tie, from wrapping up their first division title of the post-Peyton Manning era.
The problem is that Pagano knows there's more at stake than just a playoff spot. He wants the Colts to start building momentum for the postseason, too.
"You've got to play better. You've got to coach better. I've got to do a better job," Pagano said. "We're not going to beat people with gimmicks and this, that and the other. You beat people with sound football: tough, hard-nosed, physical, disciplined. We've got to play with great fundamentals, great technique, great effort, all those things. I know our guys are tough and physical and they're going to play with great effort, we've just got to play more consistent for 60 minutes."
It may be the only way to change the outside perceptions and quiet the naysayers.
"Outside, everybody may feel like the wall is closing in," defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois said. "But we control our own destiny. These next five games will determine whether we're in the playoffs or whether we're at home for the playoffs. We just have to play better."
NOTES: Safety Sergio Brown had surgery Tuesday to repair a broken hand. Pagano said he is considered day to day and did not rule out Brown playing Sunday. ... The Colts also are listing linebacker Kavell Conner (ankle), receiver T.Y. Hilton (shoulder) and starting cornerbacks Vontae Davis (groin) and Greg Toler (groin) as day to day. ... Fullback Stanley Havili (concussion) returned to practice Wednesday. ... Indy also has signed cornerback Corey Lynch, a six-year veteran, to the active roster. ... Linebacker Erik Walden, who was suspended by the league last weekend for ripping off the helmet of Titans tight end Delanie Walker and then head-butting Walker, said he did not expect any retaliation this weekend.
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