INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -The Indianapolis Colts spent a rare Monday back at the team complex.
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.
The punt coverage unit also had trouble containing Wes Welker, whose 23-yard return set up the Patriots winning score.
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.''
While disappointed with the result, the Colts' mood was far from dour.
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.''
The league's schedule-makers haven't made it any easier on the Colts.
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.''

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