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History repeats itself for the Colts: They dig a hole, then climb out of it

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Jerrell Freeman #50 of the Indianapolis Colts celebrates with Darius Butler #20 after recovering a fumble during the second half against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on November 22, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Nov. 23, 2015) – Say this for the Indianapolis Colts: there’s seldom a dull moment.

That’s generally the byproduct when a team insists on climbing on a roster-coaster week after week after week. Even though there are disturbing lows, often they’re followed by exhilarating highs.

Latest case in point: Sunday’s meeting with the Falcons in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome.

The lasting memory was indelible, and included D’Qwell Jackson’s fourth-quarter pick-6 of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and Adam Vinatieri’s dead-solid-perfect 43-yard field goal with 52 seconds to play that delivered the 24-21 victory.

But let’s not give the Colts a pass on what preceded the late-game heroics. Sloppy play contributed to them trailing 14-7 at the half and 21-7 early in the third quarter.

To their credit, the Colts persevered and overcame. Again.

But they were more than a little responsible for having to do so. Again.

“I don’t like to fall behind and stuff. I don’t think anybody does,’’ Coach Chuck Pagano said Monday. “It’s not good for our health. It’s not good for your heart. Not good for anybody. It’s one play at a time. It’s a 60-minute ballgame and they never think for one second or one minute they’re ever out of a ballgame.’’

Since 2012 and including the playoffs, the Colts have trailed by at least 7 points at halftime 24 times. That’s tied with Jacksonville for second-most in the NFL, and one behind Oakland.

The Raiders are 1-24 in those games and the Jaguars 2-22. Other teams unable to deal with a one-touchdown deficit at halftime during that stretch include the Tennessee Titans (1-20), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-19), Buffalo Bills (1-18), Cleveland Browns (2-20), New York Jets (2-20), Houston Texans (2-19) and Miami Dolphins (3-19).

The Colts are 9-15, and the total wins are two more than the next in line (Dallas with 7).

Win the close ones. Find a way. Make plays when they absolutely have to be made.

One more telling stat: since 2012, the Colts are a league-best 23-7 in one-possession games. The Denver Broncos are next (17-7).

Clearly, there’s no substitute for having experienced the adversity of playing from behind. And it helps to have an Andrew Luck, who has directed 14 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter and overtime, and an Adam Vinatieri, now with 26 game-winning field goals on his Hall of Fame-caliber resume.

“We’ve been here before,’’ Jackson said after the game. “Every one of our games, whether we’ve won them or lost them, we’ve somehow dug ourselves a hole early on in the fourth quarter. For whatever reason we play better, and there was no panic on the sideline. That was the conversation, ‘We’ve been here before. We do our job.’ But we can’t win a ton of games if we’re going to continue to put ourselves in holes, and we’ve got to be able to start fast and finish faster.’’

The Colts have scored 100 of their 224 points this season in the fourth quarter and overtime.

“The team knows how to finish,’’ Pagano said.

And it knows how to play from behind.

 

Medical update: Lost amid the post-game euphoria was an injury to left tackle Anthony Castonzo on the Colts’ final drive. An MRI determined the offensive line’s cornerstone suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee.

His status is week-to-week, according to Pagano, which normally translates into an extended absence.

Castonzo, who had elevated his game recently after a shaky start, has started 66 consecutive games, 72 including the postseason.

“You hate to lose anybody, especially your starting left tackle,’’ Pagano said. “Hate it. Sickening ‘cause he don’t miss.

“He is a rock, but it’s next man up. They aren’t cancelling the game next Sunday. We’ll find a way.’’

When Castonzo left the game, right tackle Joe Reitz replaced him, left guard Jack Mewhort replaced Reitz and Lance Louis came off the bench and replaced Mewhort.

“We’re still discussing it,’’ Pagano said. “We’ve got some options.’’

Using the group that finished the Falcons game makes the most sense. Reitz is the best option at left tackle and Mewhort started the first two games of the season at right tackle, even though he struggled and the coaching staff replaced him with Reitz and returned Mewhort to left guard.

The main issue while Castonzo heals is depth at tackle. That small group includes rookie Denzelle Good, who’s been inactive for all 10 games, and veteran Todd Herremans, who started 24 games at right tackle during his 10-year career with Philadelphia. Herremans started the first two games this year at right guard, but has been a healthy inactive in four of the last seven games.

Also, cornerback Vontae Davis is considered day-to-day after injuring his right hamstring against Atlanta. An MRI determined no damage.