INDIANAPOLIS — There was a change in the Indianapolis Colts' locker room this week.
A sense of urgency permeated the air, with perhaps a whiff of concern that something precious might slip away.
That's the kind of effect a 35-point loss with most of the nation watching can have on a football team.
"Maybe it was a wakeup call," veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne said. "Maybe it gave us the opportunity to look in the mirror and say, 'Maybe our stuff does stink,' you know? Sometimes you need that slap in the face."
The Dallas Cowboys provided the impetus by scoring on their first four possessions en route to a 42-7 shellacking last week at AT&T Stadium.
Andrew Luck and the Colts' offense went three-and-out on their first three possessions and didn't mount a legitimate drive until late in the second quarter. That effort ended with the first of two interceptions for the third-year quarterback, this one thrown into triple coverage in the end zone.
Luck left the game midway through the third quarter with Indianapolis trailing 35-0 and finished with a 41.7 quarterback rating, the lowest of his career.
Photographers' cameras captured a look of disgust mingled with determination on the signal caller's face as he left the field following the traditional postgame handshakes. As is his custom, the 25-year-old put much of the blame on his shoulders.
"It was not fun," Luck said. "My performance was bad. You've got to respect a coach's decision when he pulls you. You don't have to be happy with it, but it's the way the game works. It's the way the world works. Thankful we have this game, the playoff game and hopefully some more after that."
The defense bears its share of the burden after again being torched by a top-flight quarterback. Dallas' Tony Romo had twice as many touchdown passes (4) as incompletions (2) against a Colts defense that previously surrendered more than 500 yards and six touchdowns to Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger.
But the Colts' postseason hopes lie in the lap of an offense that has tumbled from first in the league in scoring to fifth during the past three weeks. Indianapolis has turned the ball over nine times during that stretch and scored just six touchdowns, numbers that need to change immediately.
That's part of the reason why Indianapolis (10-5) is not blowing off today's regular-season finale at Tennnessee (2-13). And why the veterans called a players only meeting early in the week to make sure everyone is on the same page.
"I think ultimately as an offense we want to be more effective and more efficient," said tight end Coby Fleener, who has set career highs for the second consecutive season with 718 receiving yards and six touchdowns. "So that means getting into manageable downs and distances throughout the game and not just relying on a big play here and there. We want to be consistent throughout the entire game."
That begins with Luck, who has thrown five interceptions in the past three games and failed to reach the 200-yard passing mark in each of the last two.
The quarterback needs 100 passing yards today to surpass Peyton Manning's single-season franchise record of 4,700 yards set in 2010. Luck needs 399 yards and two scores to join Manning, Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford as the only players ever to throw for 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns in a single season.
The three-time Pro Bowler's ability to get back in rhythm and shake off three consecutive subpar passing days is the single biggest key to getting the struggling offense back on track.
"He always finds a way to battle back," offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said, citing the second-half comeback three weeks ago at Cleveland as one recent example. "If you put him in a position where you can put the ball in his hands at the end of games and give him a chance to win it for you, he's shown that he can do that."
Indianapolis will take a win any way it can find one today.
But the emphasis is on execution and efficiency. The Colts lead the league in dropped passes, and drops cost the team several times in the first half last week.
Tight end Dwayne Allen, who dropped three passes against the Cowboys, won't play against the Titans because of a knee injury. Right tackle Gosder Cherilus will miss his second straight game with a groin injury, and outside linebacker Bjoern Werner is out with a knee injury.
Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (hamstring), inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman (hamstring) and offensive lineman Joe Reitz (ankle) are listed as questionable. Everybody else is expected to play.
"We're treating it just like any other football game," coach Chuck Pagano said. "It's the last regular season football game. It's a division game. It's a game that we need to play well, and we need to execute in all three phases. We need to go try to win. We need to get this taste out of our mouth, and we need to go into the playoffs feeling good about ourselves."