Mistake-prone Colts searching for answers after loss to Jets, 0-2 start
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Andrew Luck delivered his statement with a disgusted glare.
Chuck Pagano resorted to a terse tone and sharp words.
Either way, both made their point clearly: It's past time to correct the mistakes that are threatening to turn Indianapolis' season into an early bust.
"You can't turn the ball over. You've got to protect. You've got to give him time, you've got to give him a clean pocket so he can step up and not get hit when he's releasing the ball and we've got to get it fixed," Pagano said after Monday's 20-7 loss to the Jets. "You can't drive the length of the field, a 10-minute drive, and get to the 1-yard line and put the ball on the ground. You can't do it. You're not going to beat Zionsville (High School) doing that."
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Pagano's not-so-subtle references were to Luck, Indy's poor pass protection and Frank Gore, who gave away a scoring chance by fumbling into the Jets' end zone.
Most of Indy's troubles have been self-inflicted.
Luck has already thrown five interceptions and had six giveaways this season, running his league-leading total to 28 turnovers over the past 18 games. That's not a new phenomenon. Luck came into this season with the league's fourth-highest turnover total since 2012 - perhaps because he was hit more than any other NFL quarterback in the league, too, according to STATS.
Indy (0-2) also drew 11 penalties Monday, many of which brought back big plays and stalled drives. They had a similar problem in the season opener at Buffalo.
It's confounding twist for a team that expected to be one of the NFL's highest-scoring offenses. Instead, the Colts have more turnovers (eight) than touchdowns (three) and head into Week 3 trailing Tennessee (1-1) and Jacksonville (1-1) in the AFC South. The Colts play at Tennessee on Sunday.
"You just got to take care of the football, make great decisions and take care of the football. It's not that hard, it's not trigonometry," Pagano said of Luck, who started the postgame news conference by blaming himself for the miscues.
The Colts' franchise quarterback isn't the only one having trouble, though.
Dropped passes, tipped balls, the lack of a consistent ground game and playing two of the NFL's better defenses have put Indy at a disadvantage, too.
"It's tough when we put ourselves in third-and-longs. That's when it's tough," Luck said. "If we can stay ahead of the chains on first and second down and get third-and-manageables, then we've got a chance. Third-and-long makes it hard."
But the Colts have overcome other obstacles.
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In 2012, they reached the playoffs after being dubbed the worst team in football and despite losing Pagano for 12 weeks as he battled leukemia.
Last season, Indy won the division title and reached the AFC championship game after starting 0-2.
This time, there's a different feel.
With the offense out of sync, Luck off the mark, the defense lacking playmakers and even the usually reliable Adam Vinatieri 0 for 2 on field-goal attempts, fans booed heartily as things went awry against New York.
Behind the scenes, Pagano is in the final year of his contract and there's a rumored rift between Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson - something both men and team owner Jim Irsay deny.
And if this early stretch reminds longtime Colts fans of anything, it might be 2001 when Edgerrin James got hurt, the Colts missed the playoffs, coach Jim Mora and general manager Bill Polian couldn't see eye-to-eye and Mora screeched the infamous "Playoffs? Playoffs?" after critiquing Peyton Manning's four-interception game against San Francisco.
Strangely, that also was Manning's fourth season in the league.
But inside the locker room, the focus seems to be more about finding answers than assessing blame.
"We were right here last year, same exact deal. Go on the road and get beat, come home on Monday night and get beat, 0-2," Pagano said. "We got things figured out then we ripped off five straight (wins). So our full intention is to go back to work and do the same damn thing."