NFL Wire News

Luck frustrated after loss; OC Hamilton fired


The Sports Xchange

INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is usually one of those players who stays on an even keel despite a win or a loss.

But in the aftermath of Monday night’s 29-26 overtime road loss at Carolina, a game in which Luck had three interceptions, the frustration on his face after the game was easy for everyone to see.

Luck’s final interception of the night, a pass intended for Stanford teammate Coby Fleener, was deflected and intercepted by Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly midway through overtime. The play set up the eventual 52-yard game-winning field goal for the Panthers.

That last throw by the Colts quarterback typified the kind of season that Indianapolis is currently having.

Struggle early, battle back to get into contention in the latter stages of the game and then find a way to lose late. That’s where the 3-5 Colts are right now heading into this week’s Lucas Oil Stadium meeting with yet another undefeated team, the Denver Broncos.

Denver will be the third unbeaten team that Indianapolis will have faced, along with New England and Carolina. Luck knows that all eyes are looking at him for a big reason why Indianapolis has lost three straight games. Too many mistakes. Too many turnovers. Sloppy quarterback play.

On the attempted pass to Fleener, he waited too long to get rid of the football. That’s been a big issue all year.

“I went through the progression. I tried to hit Coby. Waited too long to hit him. Should have moved on,” Luck said after the game.

And then he also admitted the obvious.

“It’s my problem. And it’s hurting the team. And I’ve got to fix it or else it’s tough to win doing it. Disappointed in myself,” Luck acknowledged.

“It’s hard to find perspective right now. We lost. At the end of the day, that’s what matters. We did some decent things to give ourselves a chance (to get back in the game). But messed it up at the end by throwing an interception.”

Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was asked after the Carolina game if he ever had thoughts of pulling Luck out of the game and replacing him with backup Matt Hasselbeck. Hasselbeck led Indianapolis to two wins this season while Luck was nursing a right shoulder injury.

Pagano’s answer came quick: No, at no time during Monday night’s game did he consider sitting the team’s franchise quarterback.

“It’s tough, the National Football League. It is for grown men, whether you are playing or whether you are coaching. Andrew is as tough a competitor as I have ever been around,” the Colts coach said.

“He is going through a stretch right now. We are all going through a stretch right now. We win as a team and we lose as a team. I am not worried about Andrew Luck. Together we will get this thing fixed.”

Those words came before the late Tuesday afternoon announcement that Pagano, supposedly, had fired offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton and replaced him with Rob Chudzinski, who had been the team’s associate head coach.

In a statement, Pagano said, “Through the first eight weeks of the season, we have felt our offense hasn’t performed at the consistent level that we need. Because of this we’ve decided to go in a different direction and relieve Pep Hamilton of his duties as offensive coordinator.

“As head coach of this team, it’s my responsibility to make sure I’m doing everything we can to put us in the best position to succeed. We thank Pep for his service to the team and wish him all the best.”

Hamilton had been a member of the Indianapolis coaching staff since 2013, when he replaced former Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. Arians had left to become the head coach of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals.

Prior to coaching with the Colts, Hamilton had been the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Stanford. While there, he worked with three future Indianapolis players — quarterback Andrew Luck, tight end Coby Fleener and wide receiver Griff Whalen.

Chudzinski and Pagano are longtime coaching associates going back to the University of Miami. They also coached together with the Cleveland Browns. Chudzinski was the Browns’ head coach for one season in 2013 before he was fired.

He has been the offensive coordinator for the Hurricanes in the college ranks in addition to serving in that capacity with the NFL’s Browns and Panthers.


–PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus. QB Andrew Luck began Monday night’s game at Carolina struggling. He completed 5-of-13 throwing with two interceptions and a passer rating of 14.9 through the first three quarters. In the fourth quarter and overtime, however, he was 18-of-34 for 191 yards and two touchdowns. For the game, Luck was 23-of-47 for 231 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. WR Andre Johnson had four receptions for 81 yards and a TD. WR Griff Whalen came off the bench to catch five passes for 48 yards. TE Coby Fleener had seven receptions for 43 yards and a touchdown.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: B-minus. RB Frank Gore rushed 22 times for 70 yards. RB Ahmad Bradshaw added 31 yards on seven carries. Luck scrambled for 35 yards on six rushing attempts. As a team, the Colts ran for 136 yards while averaging 3.9 yards per carry.

–PASS DEFENSE: B-minus. Panthers QB Cam Newton completed 16-of-35 passes for 248 yards, two touchdowns and had one pass intercepted. OLB Robert Mathis got both of the Colts’ sacks against Newton. TE Greg Olsen was the biggest thorn in the side of the Indianapolis pass defense with six catches for 79 yards and a TD.

–RUN DEFENSE: C-plus. Jonathan Stewart paced the Carolina running game with 82 yards on 24 rushes. He also ran for a touchdown. Newton added 41 yards in 10 carries for the Panthers. His runs kept Carolina drives going for most of the game. The Panthers ended the game with 140 total rushing yards, averaging 3.9 yards per attempt.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus. PK Adam Vinatieri booted four field goals for the Colts, connecting from 47, 34, 24 and then his 50-yarder in overtime. P Pat McAfee averaged 39 yards on six punts, with two downed inside the Carolina 20-yard line. WR Quan Bray did a nice job on punt returns in his first game handling that assignment. Bray had four returns for 31 yards. The Colts’ coverage units held the Carolina return game in check all night.

–COACHING: C. Now at 3-5 for the season, the pressure on head coach Chuck Pagano and his coaching staff is getting heavier. The Colts have now lost three straight games and the reasons why Indianapolis has been losing remain the same – ill-timed turnovers, too many penalties and slow starts. The Colts keep digging themselves into holes and then have to battle to get back into striking distance. Things don’t look good for the future of this coaching staff. Even if Indianapolis were to get hot over the remaining weeks in the regular season, it might not be enough to save jobs. Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton was the first casualty.

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