Usually, at this point in the season, players get an extra day off as a reward for winning games. Not this week, and certainly not after blowing a chance to become the NFL's last remaining unbeaten team for the third straight year.
"You lose, you've got to come to work," middle linebacker Gary Brackett said. "It's been a long time."
Longer than most of these players probably care to remember.
The Colts' last loss, before Sunday's 24-20 defeat to New England, came last season on Dec. 24, when Houston's Kris Brown booted a 48-yard field goal as time expired for a 27-24 victory. coach Tony Dungy still gave his players Monday off because it was Christmas Day.
So the last time they missed out on a potential break was Dec. 11, 2006, a day after Jacksonville gashed the defense for 375 yards rushing in a 44-17 rout.
For the Colts (7-1), Sunday's loss to their old nemesis stung just as much, maybe even more because of what they couldn't finish.
The defense blew a 10-point lead in the last 10 minutes and let Randy Moss and Donte' Stallworth beat them deep in the closing minutes after not allowing a play of longer than 19 yards in the first three quarters.
"That hurts the most," cornerback Kelvin Hayden said. "The main thing we have to focus on is the fourth quarter, and that's something we've got to learn from."
Meanwhile, the offense settled for field goals when it had a chance to score touchdowns early, and Peyton Manning fumbled twice when he was sacked in the final five minutes, the second ending any chance of a second straight late comeback against the Pats.
What the Colts must do now is not let this loss affect their future performance as they did a year ago when they lost four of six and the coveted first-round bye after starting 9-0.
A similar hangover this season could do even more damage. The Colts head to San Diego (4-4) for a Sunday night game this week, with improving Tennessee (6-2) just one game back in the AFC South. Jacksonville (5-3) is two games back, and although the Colts have beaten both teams on the road, Dungy is warning that more slip-ups could endanger its shot at a fifth straight AFC South title.
"We had the same situation last year when we went to Dallas and had the lead and couldn't hold it and then we got into a stretch where we didn't play very good football," he said. "This is the same thing as last year. So we've got to bounce back and do it a little better than last year."
Dungy laughed when a reporter pointed out this was his team's worst start in three years, after going 13-0 and 9-0 the past two, and players seemed more inclined to learn from Sunday's mistakes rather than wallow in them.
"I'm not worried about this team falling apart after one loss," Brackett said. "It's one game. Obviously, we've got to work on finishing teams out and we've got some things we can improve on."
They face the AFC West co-leaders, San Diego and Kansas City, the next two weeks, then have a Thanksgiving Day game at Atlanta. After that, they get their three division foes -- Jacksonville, Houston and Tennessee -- at home and have December road trips to Baltimore and Oakland in consecutive weeks.
If that's not enough to keep players focused on what lies ahead, there's always this: A possible postseason rematch with the Patriots.
For now, though, it's merely time to get back to work.
"It would have been nice to have the day off, but it is what it is," cornerback Marlin Jackson said. "We're still in good position and we still have a great chance to get to the playoffs and win the division. We just have to make some corrections."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press