Kicker Adam Vinatieri is congratulated by holder Pat McAfee after making the decisive field goal with eight seconds left in a 23-20 win over the Vikings on Sunday. (US Presswire)

Defensive tackle Fili Moala sees it as soon as he walks into the Indianapolis Colts’ complex.

“I think the biggest difference now is that guys are more excited to come to work,” he told the Associated Press. “It wasn’t as if anyone turned on each other [last year]. Players, as a whole, had each other’s backs. But this year, even though we haven’t really done anything yet, it’s a relief to get a win under our belt.”

That certainly wasn’t the case last year. The Colts started 0-13 en route to a two-win season that gave them the first pick in the NFL Draft, which they used to take Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck to start the Chuck Pagano era under first-year general manager Ryan Grigson.

New quarterback? Check.

New coach? Check.

New general manager? Check.

New start after the end of the Peyton Manning era? Check.

The Colts, who played so poorly last year they rekindled memories of the pre-Manning years when the team’s nickname “Colts” might as well have stood for “Count On Losing This Sunday,” are 1-1 with winless Jacksonville coming to Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.

The Colts have one victory, but it’s a significant one. The Colts persevered by rallying for a 23-20 victory in a game in which they squandered a 14-point lead in the final six minutes. Luck, however, led the team on a game-winning drive capped by Adam Vinatieri’s 53-yard field goal with eight seconds left.

How big was the win? Enormous, said defensive tackle Cory Redding, who made the playoffs with Baltimore in each of the past two seasons when Pagano was an assistant under John Harbaugh. Two seasons before that? Redding was on Detroit’s 0-16 team in 2008.

“It’s a huge factor,” Redding told the AP when asked of the importance of an early win. “Guys aren’t playing within the scheme of the team concepts because they’re doing what they can to make a play. I’ve been part of that, and the guys start to say ‘Forget this.’”

Here are two factors why the Colts are 1-1 and in second place in the AFC South behind Houston (2-0):

  • Luck isn’t playing like a rookie. He’s completed 43-of-76 passes (56.5 percent) for 533 yards, 3 TDs and 3 INTs. He has a 75.2 passer rating. By comparison, here are Manning’s numbers through his first two games as a rookie in 1998: 42 of 70 (60 percent) for 490 yards, 2 TDs, 6 INTs and two losses.
  • The Colts can stop the run. It’s not a misprint. A year after ranking 29th in the league in rushing defense (143.9 ypg), the Colts held Adrian Peterson to 60 yards on 16 carries and the Vikings to 95 yards on 26 carries, an average of 3.7 an attempt. In Week 1, Chicago’s Matt Forte ran for 80 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, as the Bears finished with 114 yards rushing on 33 carries, an average of 3.5 per attempt. The Colts are 14th in the league in rushing defense (104.5 ypg), well behind league-leading San Diego (41.5 ypg).

The Colts’ schedule sets up nicely. After facing the Jaguars, Indianapolis has its bye week before hosting the Packers in Week 5, playing at the Jets, hosting Cleveland and visiting Tennessee in Week 8.

They’re brimming with confidence after rebounding from a 20-point loss to the Bears with a dramatic win over the Vikings, who defeated the Jaguars in Week 1.

“It’s huge for the locker room, huge for morale, huge for everything moving forward,” Pagano said.

Question of the day: Quarterback Andrew Luck has never suffered an injury to his left knee, so why does he wear a brace on it?

It dates to his days at Stanford, where his coach Jim Harbaugh, who now leads the 49ers, had all his Cardinal quarterbacks wear a left-knee brace.

“It’s sort of a Harbaugh thing,” Luck told the Indianapolis Star. “[It’s about] stability. The theory behind it is that’s the lead leg as a quarterback when you’re throwing. You’re stepping and that’s sort of where bodies are flying in the pocket.’’

Luck said wearing a knee brace “probably saved me [getting injured] three or four times in college.’’

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