You would think when your team puts up 35 points that you would come out with the win, right?
Instead of entering the locker room high and mighty after Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions, the Colts were left with their eyes glued to the floor wondering what had just happened. I’ll tell you what happened: they got thoroughly embarrassed in front of 70,000 plus people.
Not just the offense, not just the defense, but the coach as well.
The Colts, and their head coach Chuck Pagano, have no idea how to start a game, or season, for that matter. What do I mean by this? They come out flat way too often. Is that coaching? The player’s fault? We don’t know, but someone, or something, isn’t getting them ready to start games.
Let me explain.
In the 2014 season the Colts started 0-2, losing at Denver and then to Philadelphia at home. That season consisted of games where they started themselves in a hole, going down 24-7 at half against the Broncos and 28-0 at the half against the Cowboys.
Then in 2015 they once again started the season going 0-2, losing to the Bills and Jets. The 2015 campaign consisted of games where the Colts were caught looking at the scoreboard down 17-0 against the Bills, 10-0 against the Jets, and 20-0 against the Saints, all at halftime.
Do you sense a trend?
And then there’s yesterday’s game, where the Colts saw themselves once again down 21-3 and fighting to keep the game in reach minutes before halftime. They lost, started the 2016 season 0-1, and have the reigning Super Bowl champions in the Denver Broncos for week two. Oh, and that game is at Denver, by the way. I’m not saying they are going to lose by any means, but that’s no easy task.
In those six games combined, before counting the touchdown the Colts scored with five seconds to go in the first half yesterday, Pagano and his gang are looking wide-eyed and utterly astonished at a 120-10 deficit in the first half alone. If you just muttered holy (bleep) to yourself under your breath while reading this, you’re not alone.
And then that leads us to Pagano’s press conference, where it seems as if he’s almost saying the same thing time and time again.
“Slow start, again. We got to find a way to get that fixed,” Pagano said. “We can’t come out going three and out — and then give up a 9-10 play drive for a touchdown, and then go three and out again. Then the defense goes out there and we have a 15 play drive, and then we go three and out again, and the next thing you know it’s 21-3 and you’ve dug yourself a huge hole, which has happened too many times.
“I know this team knows how to finish, but we need to figure out a way to start.”
I’m fed up with the slow starts; the laid-back, slow pace of the offense in the first half, and I’m not alone.
“I’m tired of talking about slow starts. I’m tired of being apart of slow starts, disappointed in myself in being apart of a slow start,” Andrew Luck said in annoyance after the game. “We know at home we have to start faster to give us a chance to win. It’s hard to win in the NFL, it really is, and when you go down 21-3 to a team, it’s that much harder.”
Maybe they should start taking the words they say literally, and actually start playing faster. In the last drive before the half, where Donte Moncrief caught a two-yard touchdown pass with five seconds left, the Colts offense played with a sense of urgency and the results showed. Smoothness, like Mozart on the piano, everything flowed in perfect rhythm. That carried into the second half.
There are more troubles to this team than just slow starts. The Colts defense couldn’t tackle yesterday, and Pagano has no idea how to manage the clock at the end of games. He is also clueless on when to or not to challenge calls, but that’s a statement that will be discussed another time.
“If you expect to win in this league, you can’t give up that many points,” Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said, via Mike Wells of espn.com. “Any other team, that would have been a blowout. Defensively we played like s— and we have to play better.”
Well D’Qwell, thanks for your honesty. You aren’t wrong.
Now some are making excuses. The defense can’t tackle because they’re missing this guy and that guy and so on. I don’t do excuses. No one gives a damn about excuses. Excuses get you nowhere. Yes they’re beat up. Yes they’re missing Vontae Davis and Jerrell Freeman, who might be their two best tacklers on the team. I don’t care. Next man up. You’re getting paid because Ryan Grigson thinks you can get it done. Tackling is one of the most basic, fundamental aspects of the game. Do your job.
“Defensive 101, have to make tackles,” Robert Mathis said via Wells. “You do things like that, you breathe life in the offense. Have to do a better job getting guys on the ground. You always want to be trusted to close the game. Wasn’t able to do that.”
Also, Pagano, do your job.
What in the hell is he doing taking a timeout with 1:15 left with the Colts on the Lions’ 12-yard line?
“We felt like it was more important at that time to get back, get gathered, get a call in and get settled because we still needed the touchdown,” Pagano said. “We felt like they still had to go however far they had to go to get in field goal range and we can close it out.”
Well, he’s not wrong. But why call the timeout so fast? It was after a pass to T.Y. Hilton for no gain that Pagano immediately rushed over to the ref to call a timeout. Why not wait a little and run some valuable time off the clock? Or why not wait and see if Jim Caldwell, head coach of the Detroit Lions, is going to use one of his three remaining timeouts?
Instead, Pagano called the timeout and gave a nonsense excuse after the game. You wanted to get the right personnel? Run the clock down and then call your timeout. There was no business at all that the Colts should have given the ball back to Matthew Stafford with 37 seconds left and all three timeouts, especially with the way that defense was tackling. If you’re the Colts, you’re going to win or lose the game on that drive. You’re either going to score a touchdown to win the game, or you’re going to turn it over on downs. It’s as simple as that.
Of course it wasn’t all negative Sunday afternoon. Luck answered critics that he was just fine, throwing for 385 yards and four touchdowns, with a passer rating of 119.5. The offensive line played better than expected, giving Luck plenty of time in the second half to find the right receiver. Offensive Coordinator Rob Chudzinski called a good game in the second half, finally getting the tight ends involved.
But that doesn’t matter, because the Colts started with a loss instead of a win. It’s time to get to work.