Saints, Colts eye return to .500 after tough losses

The New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts have both lost their past two games, and both are coming off losses decided in the final minutes.

Both at 3-4, the Saints and Colts will be trying to bounce back on Sunday afternoon when they meet in Indianapolis.

The Colts have lost consecutive games for the first time this season, and three of their four losses have come by a combined 17 points.

“I think in this league it comes down to the details,” first-year Indianapolis coach Shane Steichen said. “I think we need to maintain the focus and the preparation. I think we’re doing a lot of good things.

“When you get into November, December, you find out teams that either are climbing or they’re going to start falling off, so we’ve got to make sure as a football team that we’re climbing.”

Indianapolis lost 39-38 to visiting Cleveland last Sunday when the Browns scored a touchdown with 15 seconds remaining.

Gardner Minshew made his second consecutive start in place of rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson, who has undergone season-ending shoulder surgery. Minshew passed for 305 yards and two touchdowns and ran for two more scores.

But he threw an interception, lost three fumbles and has turned the ball over eight times in his past two starts.

Minshew filled in for an injured Jalen Hurts with the Philadelphia Eagles on New Year’s Day and threw an interception that Marshon Lattimore returned 12 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown in a 20-10 New Orleans victory earlier this year.

“The No. 1 thing we have to do moving forward is protect the football,” Steichen said. “You know these are all close games and you’ve got to find ways to win them at the end.”

The Saints trailed the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars 24-9 entering the fourth quarter last Thursday. They scored 15 straight points to tie it, then after the Jaguars scored a tiebreaking touchdown, New Orleans drove to the Jacksonville 6 before turning the ball over on downs with 21 seconds left.

“We’re getting better and we’re going to be OK,” Saints quarterback Derek Carr said. “But there’s no more time. The emphasis is on now. We have a lot of hope and encouragement, but we do feel the pressure to get a win.”

New Orleans coach Dennis Allen said the added time between games allowed the coaches and the players “to talk about a lot of different things.”

“We had a lot of good conversations,” Allen said, “but now it’s time to do it.”

This will be New Orleans’ third game against an AFC South opponent in two weeks. The loss to the Jaguars was preceded by a 20-13 setback at Houston four days earlier.

Two Saints starters — running back Alvin Kamara (illness) and offensive lineman James Hurst (ankle) — missed practice Wednesday. Starting tight end Juwan Johnson (calf), who has missed the past four games, was one of nine players limited in practice.

New Orleans wide receiver Chris Olave is expected to play against the Colts despite being arrested for suspicion of reckless operation of a motor vehicle on Monday night.

Three Colts starters — cornerback Julius Brents (quad), tight end Kylen Granson (concussion) and tackle Braden Smith (hip/wrist) — and leading rusher Zack Moss (elbow/heel) missed practice Wednesday.

Brents, who has been the Colts’ top cover corner since Dallis Flowers tore his Achilles in Week 4, is expected to be out for more than a week after injuring his quad in Sunday’s loss, according to the Indianapolis Star.