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Poor start disconcerting for the Colts

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INDIANAPOLIS — What in the world has happened to the Indianapolis Colts? That’s a question that a lot of people would like to know the answer to right about now.

In the wake of Monday night’s lackluster 20-7 home-field loss to the New York Jets, the Colts have begun 0-2 for the second straight season. But last year, Indianapolis had a pair of close losses to Denver (on the road) and Philadelphia (at home).

This season, however, the Colts haven’t looked much like the potential Super Bowl contender that many National Football League observers had predicted during the offseason.

A 27-14 road loss to Buffalo in the NFL’s opening weekend was an inauspicious enough way to begin the year. But the way the Colts lost to the Jets in the team’s 2015 home opener was a head scratcher.

The normally reliable Indianapolis offense coughed and sputtered for most of the game. Quarterback Andrew Luck never got into a rhythm, having one of his worst games since entering the NFL as the Colts’ No. 1 draft pick in 2012.

Luck, who completed 21-of-37 passes for 250 yards, was responsible for four turnovers, throwing three interceptions and fumbling once. He’s had six turnovers over the team’s first two games.

Throw in a goal-line fumble by running back Frank Gore and a missed 29-yard field goal by kicker Adam Vinatieri that bounced off the right upright.

And then there were the 11 penalties for 84 yards, mostly for offensive and defensive holding, and it’s easy to see how the Colts lost the game. Indianapolis has been penalized 16 times through the first two weeks of the season.

Now 0-2 for the season, Indianapolis doesn’t have a lot of time to prepare for their AFC South opener Sunday at Tennessee. The Colts’ next three games are against division opponents.

“We’ve got a short period of time. We’ve got a game in six days. But that could end up being a good thing,” head coach Chuck Pagano said. “Because we’ve got a short period of time, we can’t sit around and dwell on this game. We’ve got to move on. We’ve got to fix what we can fix and then go down and play Tennessee.”

Trying to figure out how to keep from turning the ball over is at the top of the coach’s to-do list. But that may be easier said than done.

“You can’t do it. You can’t turn the ball over. You’ve to give (Luck) time, you’ve got to give him a clean pocket so that he can step up and not get hit when he’s releasing the ball. We’ve got to get it fixed,” the Colts coach said.

“You can’t drive the length of the field 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 (and Indianapolis high school) doing that.”

And Luck has to protect the ball better.

“Just make great decisions and take care of the football,” Pagano said. “It’s not that hard. It’s not trigonometry.”

REPORT CARD VS. JETS

–PASSING OFFENSE: C-plus — QB Andrew Luck completed 21 of 37 passes for 250 yards and a touchdown. That’s the good news. But Luck also had three interceptions. While he was not sacked in the game, he was pressured all night and had several passes tipped or knocked down. Drops by receivers also continue to be an issue. WR Donte Moncrief had a good night, catching seven passes for 122 yards and a TD. WR T.Y. Hilton added four catches for 45 yards. WR Andre Johnson has yet to get going. And the Colts’ tight ends did not catch a pass.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: C-plus — RB Frank Gore certainly had some flash plays and looked like the Frank Gore of old on a couple of runs. He ended the night with 57 yards in 15 carries and had an 18-yard run from scrimmage. Gore, though, also had a goal-line fumble after it appeared as if he had a free lane to the end zone. He was not hit on the play. Luck added 24 yards on four scrambles, fumbling once. Rookie RB Josh Robinson chipped in with 12 yards in five carries as the Colts totaled 93 yards on the ground and had a 3.9-yard average.

–PASS DEFENSE: C-plus — Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick had all day to throw the football, completing 22-of-34 passes for 244 yards. WR Brandon Marshall continues to be a major thorn in the side of the Colts, catching seven passes for 101 yards and a touchdown. Marshall also drew several defensive holding penalties against the Colts. WR Eric Decker was the major target early in the game and ended the night with eight catches for 97 yards and a touchdown. It was somewhat surprising that the Jets didn’t take more advantage of the fact that Indianapolis was missing their top four cornerbacks in the second half and were forced to play backups the rest of the way.

–RUSH DEFENSE: B — RB Chris Ivory rushed for 57 yards on 14 carries while RB Bilal Powell added 38 yards on 12 total rushing attempts. As a team, the Jets had 101 yards on the ground. The Colts did a nice job of stuffing the Jets rushing attack for most of the night. Rookie DT Henry Anderson continues to impress with five total tackles, a sack and two tackles for loss. Rookie NT David Parry added three tackles and a tackle for loss.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: B-minus — K Adam Vinatieri missed a makeable 29-yard field goal, bouncing the kick off the right upright. It was his only attempt of the night. P Pat McAfee averaged 49.7 yards both net and overall on three punts and had one kick downed inside the Jets’ 20-yard line. He also had two touchbacks on kickoffs. Rookie RB Tyler Varga may have found a home as one of the Colts’ primary kickoff returners, averaging 24.5 yards on four returns, including a 27-yard run. WR Griff Whalen handled punt-return duties against the Jets and had three fair catches. Indianapolis had good coverage on punt and kickoff returns.

–COACHING: C — The Colts have not started games out well for the past two weeks. Turnovers, penalties and curious offensive play-calling continue to haunt Indianapolis. Head coach Chuck Pagano saw his team start out 0-2 last season and then win five in a row on the way to an 11-5 regular-season record. Can the Colts do that again? Good question. And then there’s those pesky rumors of a tiff between Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson that won’t go away. The Colts’ head coach showed a bit more fire in talking to the media after the Jets loss. He wasn’t pleased with the outcome of the game and how the current season is starting out.


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