INDIANAPOLIS – Colts coach Chuck Pagano spent Sunday night and Monday morning sifting through the wreckage of a season-opening blowout.
He saw rookie quarterback Andrew Luck get sacked three times and knocked to the ground repeatedly. He saw his defensive backs draw four pass interference calls and a holding penalty in the first half. And, of course, he couldn’t escape the most obvious flaw of all, five turnovers.
Hey, maybe this is as bad as it will get for Pagano and his young team.
I told them today that anytime you’re minus-4 (in turnovers), you won’t beat Carmel High School or Zionsville (High School), that’s exactly what I told them today, Pagano said. You won’t, I don’t care who you’re playing.
The revamped Colts looked nothing like the team fans have been watching for more than a decade.
Instead of running the precision, no-huddle offense that Peyton Manning perfected, Indianapolis played like a team still trying to get in sync. And with 20 players in their first or second year in the NFL, new offensive and defensive schemes, almost a brand new coaching staff and a new quarterback, it’s no wonder things didn’t go smoothly.
It was a tough start – especially for Luck.
The No. 1 overall draft pick was 23 of 45 with 309 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions and a 52.9 rating in his NFL debut. He also lost a fumble.
Pagano tried to explain those mistakes were not necessarily Luck’s fault.
The lost fumble came after the pass protection broke down and just as Luck was cocking his arm to throw.
The first interception came when Luck threw deep after he thought the Bears had jumped offside. No flag was thrown.
The other picks came courtesy of former Colts cornerback Tim Jennings, who broke up one pass and tipped the ball to oncoming safety Chris Conte, then made a spectacular leaping catch right in front of Luck’s intended receiver.
The two-time Heisman Trophy finalist blamed himself for the miscues.
That’s definitely the thing I thought about last night, this morning, after the film again, four turnovers, Luck said. You can’t have that, especially when all four of them are on you.
Colts fans can take some solace in this: Luck’s debut was a virtual carbon copy of Peyton Manning’s NFL debut. Indianapolis also lost that game, 24-15 to Miami at home in 1998, with Manning finishing 21 of 37 for 302 yards with one TD, three interceptions and four sacks.
Indianapolis has far bigger concerns than Luck – or the inevitable comparisons with Manning – heading into Sunday’s home opener. After struggling in pass protection against the Bears’ stout defense, Indianapolis’ offensive line will now face reigning sacks champion Jared Allen and a Minnesota defense that tied for the league lead in sacks last season (50).
The Colts also must contend with a stronger-than-expected Adrian Peterson, who rushed 17 times for 84 yards and two TDs in the Vikings’ season-opening 26-23 overtime win over Jacksonville. Chicago ran for 114 yards and three TDs in Sunday’s victory.
And the Colts may have to face Minnesota without two key starters. Outside linebacker Dwight Freeney was still awaiting MRI results Monday night on his sprained left ankle, and right tackle Winston Justice was diagnosed with a concussion. Neither returned to the Bears game, and Pagano gave no indication how much time either player might miss.
Indianapolis did try to shore up its offensive line Monday by signing former Steelers guard Trai Essex, a Harding grad.