INDIANAPOLIS – The descriptions vary, but not what’s on the line Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
It’s the Indianapolis Colts, 0-1 and eager to atone for yet another season-opening stumble, versus the Minnesota Vikings, 0-1 after being overwhelmed last Sunday by the Aaron Rodgers-led Green Bay Packers.
“We’re at home, can’t go down 0-2,’’ Pro Bowl wideout T.Y. Hilton said Thursday on a Zoom conference call. “We let one get away and right now we’ve gotta come out with that mindset that we’re hungry and we’ve gotta protect home turf.
“You’ve got two teams that’s fighting for one thing, and that’s to bounce back and get a win.’’
So, it’s bounce-back Sunday.
Or it’s start anew Sunday.
Wednesday, Philip Rivers wore a Colts hat – horseshoe framed on a charcoal background – on a video conference call, but his life maxim was stitched on the side: nunc coepi.
It’s a Latin phrase for “Now I begin.’’
It applies in every facet of Rivers’ life. And it applies as he prepares for his first start at Lucas Oil Stadium as the home team’s QB1 after the opening loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“I think it applies all the time: week-to-week, game-to-game, play-to-play,’’ he said. “It applied the other day in the game after an interception. Shoot, after the first dropped touchdown.
“We have to begin again. You’re always beginning again. I think you have to make sure you begin again when things are good and not just when you have bump in the road. Sixteen teams are taking the field (Wednesday) undefeated and the other 16 are 0-1. That’s this league.
“The only thing different about our season now than was before Sunday is we can’t win ‘em all. Other than that, everything is still out there. It will all still be out there for a good while.’’
The Vikings represent a bounce-back situation, or an opportunity to begin again. Whichever you prefer, it’s imperative the same bottom line is achieved. And that’s the Colts exiting Lucas Oil Stadium 1-1.
The alternative isn’t the least bit encouraging.
Since their relocation to Indy in 1984, the Colts have gotten off to an 0-2 start 14 times. They’ve regrouped and reached the playoffs just once in a non-strike season. That was 2014 when Andrew Luck led them to an 11-5 record and an appearance in the AFC Championship game.
The Colts also recovered from an 0-2 start in the strike-impacted ’87 season and worked their way into the postseason, in large part because they won two games with replacement players.
Since 1990, only 30 of 247 teams that opened 0-2 managed to work their way back and reach the playoffs. That’s 12%. Just 12 of 104 – 11% – have done it since ’07.
Frank Reich never has allowed his vision to stray from the task at hand.
“It’s really not that tough,’’ he said. “I mean every week is its own deal. We talk every week that it’s about the preparation, it’s about the process.’’
Focusing on anything else – including the prospect of falling to 0-2 – is detrimental to that process.
“They can just become a distraction,’’ he said.
Hilton finally ‘out of funk’
Players generally live by a 24-hour rule. That’s how long they give themselves to enjoy a win or agonize over a loss.
It took T.Y. Hilton a bit longer to get over the opening 27-20 loss at Jacksonville.
“I got over it Wednesday, got out of my funk,’’ he said. “I’m feeling good, ready to go, ready to bounce back in a major way.
“They better try to stop me.’’
Hilton basically stopped himself on two key plays against the Jaguars. A pair of dropped passes in the final 59 seconds sabotaged a drive that had reached the Jacksonville 26.
His response after the game: “I lost the game. Two drops. Never should’ve happened.’’
He’s taken time to review the plays more than once.
“I watched both of the plays about 70-plus times. Just trying to see what I did wrong, what happened,’’ he said. “The first one, I caught it, put my two feet down and I turned and the ball came out. Just fluke stuff.
“The last play, think I just missed it.’’
An opportunity for atonement looms. The Vikings bring a young group of cornerbacks to town Sunday. Minnesota’s top four corners are 23 or younger. Cameron Dantzler is a rookie. Rodgers exploited that youth in the 43-34 victory, passing for 364 yards and four TDs. Wideout Davante Adams had 14 receptions for 156 yards and two TDs and Marquez Valedes-Scantling added 96 yards and one TD on four catches.
“It’s going to be a challenge,’’ Hilton said. “They got beat up on last week, but we know we’re going to see a different team come this week. They’re going to try everything they can to get their hands on us, try to beat us up at the line.’’
Hines on Mack
A season that held so much promise ended for Marlon Mack in the second quarter of the opener. He ruptured his right Achilles tendon.
Nyheim Hines, one of Mack’s best friends on the team and one of his running back cohorts, could only shake his head as he considered the scenario.
“Honestly, it’s just tough,’’ he said Thursday. “That was super tough. This is his fourth year, you know. He had a great training camp and I was thinking he was going to have a great year, and that happened.’’
Hines talked with Mack after the Jaguars game and carried his bags to the team bus, but has yet to see him this week. He’ll make it a point to visit Mack in the hospital following his surgery.
“I was telling him I was here for him, if he needs anything let me know,’’ Hines said. “Things like that and tough situations like that, sometimes you just have to tell people you’re there for them and kind of let them be.
“If I was in that position I wouldn’t even know how to feel. Even on the way home – just driving home thinking about it – it was real tough. Marlon’s a good friend on mine. It’s just so unfortunate.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.