INDIANAPOLIS — Andrew Luck's body was bruised Monday. His emotions, not so much.
Less than 24 hours after completing another draining comeback that may have saved the Colts' season, Luck showed up in the locker room smiling, sore and relieved that the two-game losing streak was over.
"You're going to enjoy it. Each one is different," Indy's quarterback said Monday. "It can be a little less stressful if you get up and maybe hold a lead. But there is maybe a certain excitement that comes from coming behind."
Especially when that win is so desperately needed.
All week, the Colts (1-2) talked about the importance of playing with pride, passion and purpose. They talked about the necessity of winning division games and digging themselves out of this early hole. So trailing by 13 points with 12:20 to play and 98 yards from the end zone, Luck and the offense somehow got in sync and turned things around. The Colts scored two touchdowns in 56 seconds, then hung on by stopping a 2-point conversion with 47 seconds left in the game.
Afterward, the emotional toll showed. Luck looked and sounded spent.
Coach Chuck Pagano thanked his players with a short, loud celebratory speech in which he rubbed his eyes and paused several times to collect his thoughts. He called the 35-33 victory at Tennessee as big as any he's ever celebrated — and this coming from a man who won his first game back after taking a 12-game leave of absence in 2012 to battle leukemia.
"These guys have been straining and fighting their guts out trying to get on the board and get a victory," Pagano said Monday. "Again, it was one of the greatest wins I've ever been a part of. That's why we do what we do. It's for moments like that."
But one win is not a cure-all for a team that has visions of playing in the Super Bowl.
The problems that cost Indy in the first two weeks were there again Sunday.
Indy was nearly done in again by penalties, including five holding calls against the offense, and the defense still struggled to get off the field.
Luck ran his league-leading interception total to seven, putting him on pace for the second-highest interception total in league history behind George Blanda's 42 in 1962 in the pass-happy AFL, and Luck is ranked 32nd among in passer rating (65.1).
And now there are even questions about whether Luck is healthy.
"Some games are less physical than others, and that's sort of the nature of it. This past one certainly was physical," Luck said, dodging a question about injured ribs. "There are a bunch of guys I'm sure in both training rooms recovering from stuff, but for me it's sort of business as usual. Go out there, get over those bumps and bruises, those sort of nicks, and get out there and play."
When asked if he expected to be on this week's injury report, Luck responded: "I don't think so."
Indy's veterans know that a good Luck makes all things possible. They also realize they can't count on late-game heroics every week.
"He's the motor to our vehicle. We go as far as he goes," outside linebacker Robert Mathis said. "Once he's going, we know the sky is the limit for us."
For now, the aim is a little lower — cleaning up things. But at least they can go to work with a victory.
"Not by any stretch of the imagination," Mathis said when asked if this means the Colts have fixed everything. "But it (the win) makes you feel better."
NOTES: Pagano said he believes TE Dwayne Allen (left ankle) and nickel CB Darius Butler (hip) will practice Wednesday or Thursday. He still called starting CB Greg Toler (neck) week to week, though he could return to full practice this week, and injured OLB Trent Cole (knee) is considered day to day.