This year it’s fast starts that are the key to Colts victories

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Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton takes off downfield after making a 2nd quarter catch against the Bengals at Lucas Oil Stadium.

INDIANAPOLIS – If you were a Colts fan in 2013, it might have been a good thing if you choose to arrive fashionably late.

In ten of their regular season games last season, the Colts started out trailing their opponents. Sometimes it was by just three points while others were double digits.

Somehow Chuck Pagano’s team was able to pull out a rally in six of those games  for a victory and then in the playoffs against the Chiefs in epic fashion -rallying from 28 down in the second half to advance to the divisional round.

The “Cardiac Colts” made for some memorable moments but tested the nerve of their fans and players.

“We’ve had some issues in the past of starting slow,” said cornerback Darius Butler. “But I feel like we’ve always done the same thing, stuck to the process.”

By doing so, they’ve completely flipped the script in 2014. This time they’ve become a dominant first half team and its lead to a complete turnaround of their season.

In the Colts last five games they’ve outscored opponents 54-0 in the first quarter which has led to a five-game winning streak in which the team has yet to trail and opponent. In fact the team has not been tied during this stretch of victorious outings.

“We have a great strategy, but I think a lot of guys just want that fast start and know how good it does for our team,” said Ahmad Bradshaw of the quick starts.

The biggest question, of course, is why. It’s not something that brings a consistent answer but one thing that is for sure is that the offense has been more effective early than in 2013. Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton credits the unit’s personnel for bringing the necessary change to the start of the game.

“I think it’s really just a testament to the playmakers that we have on the field,” said Hamilton. “The biggest difference in this year and last year is Reggie Wayne, Ahmad Bradshaw, Dwayne Allen, the plays that those guys have made along with T.Y. (Hilton) continuing to make plays.

“But it helps our team to be able to start fast.”

So has the Colts defense which has pitched a shutout over the last five games in the first 15 minutes while also allowing no points to Jacksonville and Cincinnati in the first half during that stretch. In the other three games the unit only yielded 27 points and each time the Colts went to the locker room with the lead.

But defensive coordinator Greg Manusky couldn’t give a definitive answer on why the team has been quick out of the gate.

“Don’t know. Just happy to be a part of it to tell you the truth.  Last year, it wasn’t I think. Then the second half it was,” said Manusky. “Who knows? We go out there and play and play at a high level each and every snap that we’re out there.”

They’ll have to against at Steelers team that broke up a great start by their opponent on their home field Monday night. Down 13-0 to the Texans, Pittsburgh struck for 24 unanswered points late in the second quarter which proved the difference in the victory.

For Bradshaw the key to preventing such an outcome is to continue to play complimentary football-which has helped the Colts start fast even if one side of the ball struggles coming out of the gate.

“We plan on starting every game fast and if the offense doesn’t do it than the defense backs us up and stops their offense to give us the ball back,” said Bradshaw.

So far its a strategy that’s easing the heartburn of those fans of the horseshoe.