Colts hoping to turn things around at Tennessee


Colts hoping to turn things around at Tennessee

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Andrew Luck has no problem doing his homework.

He'd just like to pack up the lessons, put them in a suitcase and pull them out whenever the Colts hit the road.

``I wish I had all the answers,'' the Colts quarterback said Wednesday. ``I think we just need a little more focus, we need to substitute that energy we get from the home crowd and take that on the road.''

Make no mistake, Indianapolis has already exceeded most preseason expectations.

Only three AFC teams - division leaders Houston, Baltimore and New England - have more wins than the Colts (3-3), and Indy has already surpassed its entire victory total from last season. Luck has matched his predecessor, Peyton Manning, victory for victory including wins over surprising Minnesota and Super Bowl contender Green Bay.

It's been good enough to hear words such as ``playoffs'' and phrases such as ``in the hunt'' emanating from this increasingly confident locker room.

But to continue on this course, the Colts know they need to get better outside their home venue, a quest that continues Sunday at Tennessee (3-4).

``We have to find ways to overcome adversity on the field. It's easy to win at home, it's tough to win on the road,'' defensive end Cory Redding said. ``If you don't win on the road, you don't get into the playoffs, period.''

The disparity in Indy's home-road splits has been glaring.

At home, Luck has won three times, led two winning drives, escaped pressure, made accurate throws on the run and been a steadying influence in the huddle and in the pocket.

On the road, he's thrown five interceptions and two fumbles in two blowout losses.

Four turnovers against Chicago led to a 41-21 defeat, and after three solid showings at home, the Colts helped the struggling Jets get well at East Rutherford, N.J., two weeks ago. New York jumped to a 21-6 halftime lead and pulled away for a 35-9 victory, running for 252 yards.

It's all part of the learning process.

``When you're on the road, OK is not good enough,'' Pro Bowler Dwight Freeney said. ``I think when you're home and you have the home-field advantage, sometimes things bounce your way. On the road, you need something extra. We've talked about it; it's something we need to clean up.''

Indy's road woes go far deeper than the obvious numbers: the 0-2 record with an average margin of defeat of 23.0.

In Indy, Luck is 89 of 165 (55.6 percent) for 1,085 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions. In the two road games, he has completed 50.6 percent of his passes, thrown for 589 yards with one touchdown, five interceptions and two lost fumbles.

He's not alone.

Though the Colts are minus-9 in turnover margin, they are just minus-1 at home, and while the defense allowed the Bears and Jets to run for 183 yards per game, opponents have averaged just 119 yards rushing in the four home games.

The explanations vary.

Some of the disparity could certainly be blamed on the massive rebuilding project. Indianapolis opened this season as the NFL's ninth-youngest team, with entirely new offensive and defensive systems and as one of five teams using a rookie quarterback.

Those inside the locker room simply won't accept the excuses.

``You've got to do more than your job,'' interim coach and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said. ``If both teams just do their job, the home team wins. We've got to create some turnovers, we've got to protect the football and we've got to get some big (kick) returns. It's a good challenge, but we've got to get that done. We've got to make something happen.''

Or perhaps they've just been up against overpowering defenses.

Chicago and the Jets have traditionally been two of the league's best and are more than capable of confusing young quarterbacks, even one as well-schooled as Luck.

``It's hard, especially when you're going against two premier defenses liked we did in Chicago and New York,'' Arians explained. ``This one (Tennessee) is another challenge, but this one is not going to be as difficult, I don't think, because we've been there (on the road) and we've got to be better at it.''

But Luck and his teammates understand the point Arians and others are trying to make: If they want to stay in contention for a playoff spot, they fix their road woes now.

``It's nearly impossible to win when you're minus-7 or whatever (in turnovers) on the road,'' Luck said. ``It all goes into the theme of being a little more focused, a little more attention to detail. If we want to be a good football team, we've got to win on the road.''

NOTES: Rookie defensive tackle Josh Chapman started practicing Wednesday, but remains on Indy's reserve-non-football injury list. ... The Colts have signed outside linebacker Monte Simmons to the practice squad. ... Running back Donald Brown and outside linebacker Robert Mathis were expected to participate in Wednesday's practice. Each has missed the last two games with knee injuries.


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John Wall goes through full practice for first time since left knee surgery

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John Wall goes through full practice for first time since left knee surgery

John Wall crossed one of the biggest hurdles of his months-long recovery from arthroscopic left knee surgery on Saturday by participating in his first full practice.

That means Wall went through 5-on-5 scrimmages with teammates that included contact. He is free of restrictions.

Now it is only a matter of days before Wall is ready to return to game action.

"John did everything, he did an entire practice which was great," head coach Scott Brooks said. "I thought he did a great job offensively and defensively."


Wall, who last played on Jan. 25 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, has missed the Wizards' last 24 games. He has been absent for 35 of their 72 total games this season.

In the months he has been out, Wall has slowly worked his way to this point. He still has to get a few more practices under his belt before the Wizards can outline a target date for his return.

Wall was aggressive in testing his knee by attacking the basket, according to Brooks. Wall was moving around well and even lost a few pounds during his time off.

"He looks great and that's not easy with time off," Brooks said. "He will be back in no time."


The Wizards have gone 14-10 since Wall went down, an impressive mark especially considering how tough their schedule shook out. Most of those games came against teams with winning records either holding playoff spots or fighting for them.

The shine, though, is wearing off. They have lost two straight games and seven of their last 11. Their offense has stalled in recent defeats and it's become more and more clear they could use Wall's presence.

"He gives us that edge," Wall said. "When you have him on the floor, you get a lot of easy shots. John creates a lot of attention when he drives to the basket... I think [his teammates] have always appreciated it, but when you don't have him around you definitely miss it."

While the Wizards continue to wait for Wall to return to games, just having him in practices helps. Brooks explained how guarding a player of Wall's caliber, a five-time All-Star, raises the intensity level of their scrimmages. If his teammates do not bring their best effort, Wall can very easily expose them.


There is also something intangible about Wall's presence. The media sees it once the doors open at practice. He is talkative and energetic on the court.

Some of his teammates even described him as "loud."

"Sometimes I tell him that he's a little too loud," guard Bradley Beal said. "But that's the energy that we've missed."

"He brings the juice. He brings the energy level up," Brooks said. "You miss his spirit. You miss the way he interacts with guys. He's fiery and competitive. He gets after guys. He cheers guys on. I like that. I like guys that show emotion and passion on the court."

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Wizards display lack of urgency in loss to Nuggets and Scott Brooks is frustrated

Wizards display lack of urgency in loss to Nuggets and Scott Brooks is frustrated

Following their seventh loss in 11 games and another lackluster performance in key areas, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks reverted back to a critique that characterized many defeats months ago. He called into question the effort of his team, more specifically their urgency. How they could overlook the stakes at this point of the season and with so much on the line had escaped him.

Brooks wasn't pleased following Washington's 108-100 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Friday night. He didn't like their three-point defense, their inability to force turnovers and their lack of zip on offense. But overall, it was the apparent lack of realization that time is running out in the regular season and off-nights cannot be afforded.

"We have to play with more spirit [and] we have to take some pride in our home court," Brooks said. "We’re building our habits going into the playoffs and these are moments where we need to take advantage because it’s playoff implications in every game."


Pride is something Brooks has referenced after the Wizards' worst defeats since he took over. This one didn't qualify, as they only lost by eight points and had opportunities late to write a different ending. But they were playing a team fighting for their own playoff position in the opposite conference and for the most part did not match their intensity.

The Nuggets, to put it plainly, are among the worst defensive teams in basketball. They were missing their leading scorer, Gary Harris. And they tightened their rotation to just eight players.

Yet the Wizards only managed 100 points, six below their season average, and committed 17 turnovers. Aside from their 33-point third quarter, the Wizards' offense was effectively stalled. 

"We can’t have guys that are not going to participate with hard cuts and hard setups and good screens. We need everybody. It’s not one person, it’s all," Brooks said.


The Wizards only forced 10 turnovers on the Nuggets and only three in the first half. That held back their offense in the sense they had few opportunities for fastbreak buckets.

"That’s where we get most of our offense from anyways, getting stops, getting out in transition," forward Otto Porter said.

The Wizards have lost two straight games. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers and Pacers both won on Friday night.

The Wizards are sixth place in the East and just 1 1/2 games out of fourth, but there is a huge difference in those spots. Sixth could mean meeting the Cavs in the first round and they have won three straight since Kevin Love returned from injury.


The Cavaliers could quickly become the most dangerous team in the Eastern Conference. Their record is deceiving due to Love's injury and they still boast LeBron James, the best player on the planet. No one can control a playoff series quite like he can.

An argument could be made the Wizards would be better off moving down than up, as the seventh spot would match them up with the injury-riddled Boston Celtics. The Wizards are just 1 1/2 games ahead of the seventh-seed Miami Heat.

The Wizards, though, would prefer to move up and they still have a chance to get into fourth, which would mean home court advantage.

John Wall will return at some point, likely soon. In the short-term, Brooks would like to some urgency and for his team to get back to the trademark ball movement that allowed them to go 10-3 in their first 13 games when Wall went down.

"We can get it back, but it’s not going to come back. We have to go get it. It’s time to do it; it’s time," Brooks said.

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