Even if the AFC South-leading Indianapolis Colts were feeling a bit overconfident, Andrew Luck says coach Chuck Pagano wouldn't allow it.
Indianapolis is remaining grounded through its early success and will seek a fourth consecutive victory in Monday night's road matchup with the inconsistent San Diego Chargers.
Luck is the first Colts quarterback other than Peyton Manning to lead the team to sole possession of first place since his former Stanford mentor and current San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh had 4-0 Indianapolis atop the AFC East for the week of Oct. 13, 1996.
The second-year star finished 16 of 29 for 229 yards and two touchdowns in last week's 34-28 win over previously unbeaten Seattle, helping the Colts (4-1) erase a five-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter.
"I don't think it's in the DNA of a Pagano-coached team to hang your head or to get too high when you're doing something well," Luck said. "His approach is very methodical."
Pagano believes his team understands the season is still young. Following this game, the Colts will face Denver in Manning's return to Indianapolis next week before their bye. They then visit two-time defending South champion Houston on Nov. 3.
"I don't think you'll see any of these guys walk around with their chest puffed out like a robin, walking around the yard after a big rain storm, bunch of worms out there, all robin-ed up," Pagano said. "We're not going there. We'll keep reminding them it's a short ride from the penthouse to the outhouse."
The Colts rank fourth in the league with 142.0 rushing yards per game, but they suffered a blow after learning Ahmad Bradshaw opted for surgery on his injured neck and will miss the rest of the season.
He sat out last week as Trent Richardson ran 18 times for 56 yards and Donald Brown added 37 and a touchdown. The Chargers, who rank 24th with an average of 117.2 rushing yards allowed per game, are expecting Richardson to carry the load again Monday.
"He's a powerful runner that a lot of times doesn't go down with the first hit," linebacker Larry English said. "We have to do a great job this week tackling, we've talked about that. We need 11 players rallying to the ball and playing aggressive defense."
San Diego (2-3) held Oakland to 299 yards last week, but it committed five turnovers and couldn't overcome a 17-point halftime deficit in a 27-17 defeat.
"It doesn't matter what level you're at, when you turn the ball over five times, it's tough to win games," coach Mike McCoy said.
Philip Rivers finished 35 of 48 for 411 yards and two touchdowns in his third 400-yard game of the season, but he also tossed three interceptions after throwing two in the previous four contests.
The Chargers lost two fumbles, and running back Ryan Mathews suffered a concussion that could possibly keep him from playing Monday. If he can't go, Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown will be tasked with helping improve a running game that finished with 32 yards on 19 carries last week.
Indianapolis has forced 10 turnovers, but it ranks 30th in the NFL with an average of 129.0 rushing yards allowed.
"They play great team defense," Brown said. "They always have that bend-but-don't-break mentality, so on offense we have to go in and not give them any extra possessions. We have to make sure to hold onto the ball and take care of our fundamentals."
San Diego has forced only two turnovers this season and ranks 27th in the league with 406.0 yards allowed per game, and it knows it has a tough task ahead in trying to contain Luck.
"He can definitely run and move out of that pocket, but he'd rather sit back there and throw the ball," defensive end Corey Liuget said. "He's a heck of a quarterback."
Defensive end Lawrence Guy blocked a field that was returned for a touchdown for Indianapolis last week, but the Colts released him less than 24 hours later. The Chargers claimed Guy off waivers Monday.
San Diego has won five of the last six meetings, including twice in the postseason. Rivers went 19 of 23 for 185 yards in a 36-14 victory in the most recent matchup Nov. 28, 2010, at Indianapolis.
The Associated Press News Service
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