Indy hoping to protect home turf against Titans

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Andrew Luck hears the instructions every week.

Avoid turnovers.

Get the ball to his cast of playmakers.

Win at home.

It's been a proven plan for years in the NFL, and now, after blowing a 14-point second-half lead in their home opener two weeks ago, the Colts' franchise quarterback knows his team cannot afford another misstep on its home turf. Especially against a division rival.

"You have to win your home games and protect that turf," Luck said. "We take that to heart and we know we need to get back on the right track."

Indy (1-2) took one step last week by beating up on winless Jacksonville to snap the first two-game losing streak of Luck's career.

Now comes reeling Tennessee (1-2), which is 0-6 at Lucas Oil Stadium.

On paper, Sunday's game looks as if it's two teams going in opposite directions.

Luck seems to be getting in sync, having reduced his interception total in each of the first three weeks while taking the league lead in touchdown passes (nine).

The Colts' ground game has provided balance, the makeshift offensive line is playing with more cohesiveness, they are coming off their first turnover-free game of the season. And a defense that limited Peyton Manning to seven second-half points and Philadelphia to six first-half points put together its most complete game against the Jaguars.

The Titans' defense, meanwhile, has allowed 59 points in two straight losses after opening the season with a win over Kansas City.

Things aren't about to get any easier.

For the second straight week, Tennessee faces a defending division champ on the road, this time potentially without starting quarterback Jake Locker who injured the wrist on his throwing arm.

But coach Ken Whisenhunt is more concerned with making corrections.

"I think we need to cut penalties out. We've had way too many of those," Whisenhunt said when asked about fixing the defense. "We've got to play better, as far as some of the technique things that we're doing to try and keep teams from having sustained drives on us."

The Colts will try to get back to the basics of Chuck Pagano's hometown plan.

"We've got to stack wins together," Luck said. "We dug ourselves a bit of a hole with those first two weeks, but I think we're on the right track. Hopefully, we can keep this momentum going."

Here are some other things to watch Sunday.

THE LOCKER ROOM: Whisenhunt and Titans doctors will closely monitor Locker's health before making a decision. Locker completes 56.4 percent of his passes and is tied for the league high in interceptions (four). If he doesn't play, longtime journeyman but little-used Charlie Whitehurst would likely make his fifth career start. Whitehurst hasn't thrown a pass since 2011 and has a career completion rate of 54.2 and more interceptions (four) than touchdowns (three).

DIVISION CHASE: Sure, it's early, but the Colts are already in the midst of a key four-week stretch with three games against AFC South foes. A sweep would allow the Colts to take control of the division race. And it could happen. Indy has won eight straight over division opponents, the longest active streak in the league. Against Tennessee, the Colts have been even better — winning five straight and 10 of the past 11.

SLOW STARTS: A year ago, Indy had to perpetually dig itself out of slow starts. Now, it's the Titans' turn. Tennessee has been outscored 16-0 and 19-0 in the first half of its past two games, and if the Titans fall behind early again Sunday, it will only compound the potential problems for a team that won't be at full strength — with or without Locker.

GROUND CHUCK: Pagano has the one-two punch in the ground game. Ahmad Bradshaw is healthy, running hard and catching passes. Trent Richardson has shown steady improvement. The combination has allowed Indy to rush for 313 yards over the past two weeks. Tennessee's struggling run defense must find a way to slow down the suddenly efficient Colts.

WAYNE'S MILESTONES: Reggie Wayne could turn this week's game into another personal showcase. He needs three receptions to pass Isaac Bruce for seventh on the NFL's career list, 24 yards receiving to pass Henry Ellard for No. 10 all time. A three-catch day would extend Wayne's NFL record to 75 straight games, and it could all come in his 200th game.


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