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Colts winning but not looking past opponents


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No one has to remind Dwight Freeney that the Indianapolis Colts are a work in progress.

But at the same time, the seven-time Pro Bowler applauds the work — however imperfect — that has produced a 4-3 record heading into Sunday’s home game against the Miami Dolphins.

“I don’t think we’ve put a complete game in yet. We’ve won, and we aren’t apologizing for anything,” said Freeney, a defensive end turned outside linebacker. “Wins are hard to come by, and they all mean a lot.

“Obviously, yeah, they haven’t been the greatest performances across the board, but sometimes you win like that.”

In a bottom-line business, nothing else matters. And with a win against the equally surprising Dolphins (4-3), who’ve had seven losing records the past eight seasons, the Colts can fortify their footing in the AFC playoff race.

Indianapolis, Miami, Pittsburgh and Denver have identical records in a cloudy postseason picture. Denver has a one-game lead in the AFC West. The Colts, Dolphins and Steelers are in second place, respectively, in the AFC South, East and North divisions.

Though delighted to be part of the playoff conversation as midseason approaches, the Colts understand their position is fragile. They’ve played well enough to win four games, including last week’s 19-13 overtime thriller at Tennessee, but not necessarily well enough to secure the postseason.

Yet they are confident they can.

“There’s definitely a lot of stuff that can be corrected,” offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo said. “It’s crazy where we are at. We aren’t even close to our potential. I don’t think we’ve really put together that complete game yet.

“And when we do, it’s going to be pretty scary.”

Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, who engineered the winning drive at Tennessee, shares the view. To a point.

“I think it’s great to have a winning record. Obviously (we) would much rather be where we are than 3-4 or 2-5,” Luck said. “I think we realize that we have so much more to improve and also realize you can’t overlook any opponent by any means. We haven’t earned that right.

“I don’t think we’ll ever earn that right.”

But the Colts can earn a playoff spot by continuing to build on what has got them to this point.

Despite a roster packed with first-, second- and third-year players, the Colts have, for the most part, avoided the rash of mistakes that traditionally trip up rebuilding teams. They’ve risen to offensive and defensive challenges at critical times and have demonstrated a collective poise that belies they’re inexperience.

They’ve also committed turnovers and had offensive and defensive breakdowns that led to two blowout losses on the road (Chicago and New York Jets) and cost them a likely win in the closing minute of a home game against Jacksonville.

“I think you have to win the games, and sometimes a ball bounces (your way). We’ve obviously had some bounces against us,” interim coach Bruce Arians said. “Any one that bounces for you, you take it with a smile and go on. But I don’t think there’s any destiny involved with this team.

“We’re just trying to live day-by-day.”

Or more specifically, trying to stay in the playoff race. Winning is the only guaranteed path.

“That’s the major thing right now, building some momentum, stacking these wins,” Freeney said. “It’s been a while since we’ve done that around here. Hopefully, we can continue that this week.”

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