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Injury, poor execution key to Colts skid

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Over the past two weeks, the Indianapolis Colts have exchanged their championship ways for a survival mode approach.

A combination of injury and uncharacteristically sloppy execution has the Colts in this unfamiliar and rather uncomfortable position.

Not that the Colts have lost confidence after tough back-to-back losses, rather reality is setting in that tougher times may be ahead for a depleted squad.

The team is making no excuses for falling to 7-2, a single game ahead of Jacksonville and Houston in the AFC South. With career setting interception totals, botched field goals, lousy special teams coverage and plenty of blame to go around, how can they really?

But in terms of what they cannot control, the Colts’ injury list resembles a MASH unit, adding Dwight Freeney to a list that already includes Marvin Harrison, rookie left tackle Tony Ugoh, linebackers Freddy Kiaho and Tyjuan Hagler.

A part of the game absolutely, but the team’s many injuries are also certainly a contributor to the Colts ugly play.

Entering this week’s action, the personnel losses have been most felt on the offensive end. Harrison’s absence has affected the Colts’ usually crisp timing on offense. The offensive line has lacked continuity, and as a result, so too has quarterback Peyton Manning when met with intense pressure. The All Pro has struggled mightily of late, more than doubling his season interception total in a single game Sunday versus the San Diego Chargers.

Considering the unit’s recent history, expectations for a speedy recovery from an “offensive” offense remains realistic.

Given the tone of the Colts beleaguered quarterback following his monumentally poor performance last week, the recovery could not come quickly enough for Manning and company.

“It’s been a long time since we had lost a game, to lose two in a row is disappointing,” Manning said. “We have no choice but to get ready for Kansas City at home and try to get a win. That’s the best remedy for a two game losing streak.”

Defensively, the team is holding together with reserves such as linebacker Clint Session filling in nicely for Keiaho and Hagler.

With Freeney expected to miss a “significant amount of time” with a foot injury sustained Sunday, the Colts on Monday acquired three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Simeon Rice off waivers, Colts President Bill Polian said.

Rice, a 12-year veteran and the third overall selection in the 1996 NFL Draft, has 121 career sacks, second only to Michael Strahan of the New York Giants among active players. He played in eight games with two sacks last season before being placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.

“Simeon obviously knows our system,” Polian said. “He has played for Tony (Dungy) before. He fits like a glove.”

Polian said the move was similar to last season’s midseason trade with the Buccaneers for defensive tackle Anthony “Booger” McFarland.

Still, entering their Week 11 contest, the defense has proven its reliability despite turnovers. If the Colts special teams can contain opposing team field position, the team remains a tough win for any of their remaining opponents. Their two opponents provide excellent opportunity to get right.

This weekend, the struggling Kansas City Chiefs return to the site of last year’s playoff exit likely without their best player in running back Larry Johnson.

The Colts follow up the home game with what should be a dirty bird Thanksgiving feast in Atlanta. The Falcons have improved of late, but are far from playoff contention.

To this point, the Colts have not looked ahead, approaching each match up on a week-to-week basis.

But the fact remains that despite a short week, the Colts are heavily favored to return to division play in December with familiar swag.

Just as the team makes no excuses for its recent hardships, they make no apologies for thinking win regardless of their next opponent.

“Even though it is two tough losses, we’ve got to continue what we do and then get a streak going,” said safety Antoine Bethea.

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