INDIANAPOLIS – Colts owner Jim Irsay and general manager Ryan Grigson made the offseason mission perfectly clear.
They were going to run the ball more effectively and keep Andrew Luck on his feet more often in 2013.
Now, after making a big financial commitment to revamp the offense, they’re still waiting for the payoff.
While the Colts managed to rush for 127 yards and average 4.9 yards per carry, a positive sign for a team that has ranked among the league’s worst over the past several seasons, Indy also struggled to sustain second-half drives or keep Luck clean in the pocket in Sunday’s 21-17 victory over Oakland.
There’s always going to be, especially in the opener, some things to clean up. They’d all tell you they’d be the first ones to tell you that we’ve got to play better and we will play better, coach Chuck Pagano said.
It’s some communication things, some technique things. Again, it’s the first ballgame and we’ll be better as far as run-blocking and protection going into the second week.
Fans expected more.
For months, Colts players and coaches raved about the power-running scheme and double-tight end formations favored by new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton.
The fans interpreted that to mean the Colts had fixed the problems that caused Luck to be sacked 41 times, hit more than 100 times, complete 54.1 percent of his passes and throw 18 interceptions a rookie. Combined with Luck having a full offseason to work in the system and with teammates, they figured the numbers would improve dramatically.
Some did on opening day. The second-year quarterback completed 78.3 percent of his passes and still had the AFC’s third-highest average yards per attempt (7.74).
Luck threw two touchdown passes, no interceptions and scrambled 19 yards for the winning score with 5:20 to play. Only Peyton Manning (141.1) and Colin Kaepernick (129.4) had better first-week passer ratings than Luck (127.9).
The problem was that Luck also was sacked four times, escaped a couple of others and got knocked around a handful more times by an Oakland defense that had nine new starters.
Colts players and coaches asked for patience.
A couple of weeks ago, new left guard Donald Thomas called the line a work in progress. On Monday, he noted things were improving.
I feel better than when I said it the first time, and that’s progress, Thomas said. Each week, we’ll get better and hopefully, we’ll be playing our best football in February.
It didn’t help the transition that the Colts lost right guard Mike McGlynn for the last two preseason games and left tackle Anthony Castonzo for all but one series of the final two preseason games because of injuries. Both were back in the lineup Sunday.