Indianapolis hoping to shift gears, get back on right road during road trip to Tennessee

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.

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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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