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October 22, 2013

LOPRESETI: Colts must carry on without Wayne

(Continued)

The running game still has to work better, and the overall performance must be steadier each week. The same team that put up 39 points on the Broncos put up nine at San Diego.

“I think we can play with anyone in the NFL,” tight end Coby Fleener mentioned. “But that said, we need to be more consistent.”

And everything must be accomplished without Wayne, an enormous loss for a team that so openly values cohesion and chemistry. Listen to Luck describe after the game how the Colts had maneuvered so well through last week’s Manning-palooza.

“We didn’t let the outside spheres of influence creep into the locker room,” he said. “We couldn’t let other things distract us or else they would expose us. We’ve got great leadership. Robert Mathis sets the tone, Reggie sets the tone. We just follow them.”

The Colts just lost half of those tone-setters, not to mention a favorite Luck target. Wayne gets the torn ACL and Luck a gnawing guilt.

So Manning Week was not a destination, but merely a Week 7 layover that happened to come with a gazillion cameras and microphones. To be sure, the momentous nature of the occasion Sunday night guarantees it must occupy a favored spot in Luck’s mental scrapbook of his career.

“I haven’t given it a thought,” he said, “but probably.”

But the verdict of this Colts’ season will be decided by how they finish and how they carry on without one of their spiritual leaders.

The voices in the Indianapolis postgame locker room Sunday night understood the benefits of what the Colts had just done.

“This game couldn’t have come at a better time,” cornerback Darius Butler was saying. “Prime time, after we laid an egg on prime time last week.”

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