INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Two weeks ago the Indianapolis Colts wanted to prove they could beat New England. On Sunday, they showed the NFL they would not succumb to a letdown after an abbreviated week of preparation.

Now comes the next big test for the NFL’s last unbeaten team: Playing two of the AFC’s top teams in back-to-back weeks amid the increasing hype of an unbeaten season.

Coach Tony Dungy has little doubt the Colts will take the perfect approach.

“This team has done a good job of playing to our best level of football and doing it week in and week out,” Dungy said Monday, a day after the Colts improved to 9-0. “That’s quite hard, but we’ve continued to do that.”

Dungy’s unflappable demeanor has set the tone for these Colts, but the coach attributes most of the success and consistency to veteran leadership.

After watching New England go 14-2 last year and then travel to Pittsburgh for the AFC championship game, two-time MVP Peyton Manning came to training camp telling teammates they may need to go undefeated to clinch the conference’s top seed.

So far, so good.

Former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Corey Simon and Dwight Freeney, last year’s sacks champion, have helped the defense maintain an aggressive approach on the field and an easygoing style off of it — a combination that has helped Colts defenders remain both focused and relaxed.

It’s hard to quibble with the results.

Indy is off to a franchise-best start and seven wins have come by double digits. It has won 16 of 17 regular-season games — the only loss coming in a meaningless contest at Denver last year when most Colts starters rested — 10 straight at the RCA Dome.

The success, however, has changed little in Indianapolis and even Dungy now welcomes the question that has not gone away: When will the Colts lose?

“I think it’s good for the NFL to have story lines, and I’d certainly rather have them talking about something like that than Terrell Owens,” Dungy said. “This is the first time I’ve ever been through this situation, so I’m going to enjoy it.”

No NFL team has gone undefeated since the 1972 Miami Dolphins, and the Colts are a long way from that title.

Their toughest stretch begins this weekend with a trip to Cincinnati (7-2). The Bengals are coming off a bye and hope to stamp their successful season with a victory that would erase any lingering doubts about their turnaround under coach Marvin Lewis.

After that, Indy hosts Pittsburgh (7-2) in a Monday night battle that pits the Steelers’ powerful running game against the Colts’ smallish defense.

The Colts also travel to Jacksonville (6-3) and Seattle (7-2) and host rival Tennessee (2-7) and San Diego (5-4) next month before closing out the season at home against Arizona (2-7).

But it’s the old-school approach that has helped Indianapolis keep its perspective.

“I really think we do a good job of treating every opponent the same,” Manning said after Sunday’s 31-17 victory. “Coming off the short week, that’s a challenge. We took that this week and it carried over on the field for a good win against a division team.”

The Colts have built both momentum and confidence.

Their offense has risen to No. 2 in the NFL, and is again resembling the scoring machine it had been in past seasons. Manning has now thrown 17 touchdown passes, second only to Cincinnati’s Carson Palmer in the AFC. Edgerrin James has topped 100 yards in five straight games, and Marvin Harrison continues his move up the career receiving charts.

The difference this year has been Indianapolis’ defense. Ranked No. 29 last year, it is now up to No. 4 and has allowed 115 points. Only Chicago has given up fewer points.

Rather than talking a good game, like some Bengals have been known to do, Indy prefers playing a good game.

“It’s about going out there, no matter who you’re playing,” linebacker Cato June said. “People try to put hype on it like they did last week, like it was the biggest game ever. No it wasn’t. It was the eighth game.”

So with the Bengals and Steelers up next, Dungy expects little to change.

The Colts realize these next two weeks could be their most challenging tests all year, and they’re out to prove they can again earn perfect scores.

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