Colts’ notebook: Well, at least the run defense showed up

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – What we saw during the Indianapolis Colts’ season-opening 46-9 loss to the Rams Sunday in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum that was every bit as embarrassing as the 37-point spread indicates. It marked the second-worst loss in the Chuck Pagano era (since 2012), trailing only the 45-7 setback to New England in the 2014 AFC Championship game.

  • First, the good: This won’t take long. The Colts have been committed to upgrading their run defense, and maybe – just maybe – that’s been accomplished. The only bright spot in an otherwise futile business trip to the West Coast was the defense limiting Rams running backs to 63 yards on 33 carries. That’s 1.9 yards per attempt. Todd Gurley, the 2015 Offensive Rookie of the Year, needed 19 carries to generate 40 yards.

The Colts out-rushed the Rams 75-63.

Like we said, that didn’t take long.

  • So bad everywhere else: Don’t take our word for it. Listen to Chuck Pagano.

“Obviously we got dominated in this football game in all three phases,’’ he said. “Out-coached in this football game. It’s my responsibility and it falls on me.

“It all starts with me and I didn’t do a good enough job of getting this team ready to go. We got our asses kicked.’’

The offense finished with 225 total yards, 10 first downs and was 0-for-10 on third-down conversions. The pass protection allowed four sacks. Tolzien had two interceptions returned for touchdowns. T.Y. Hilton lost a first-quarter fumble.

A new-look defense looked awfully familiar. Although the Rams were unable to run, it mattered not at all. They dominated Indy with 373 total yards and 19 first downs, and scored on six of their 11 legitimate possessions (three TDs, three Greg Zuerlein field goals).

Quarterback Jared Goff, the first overall pick in the 2016 draft and 0-7 as a rookie starter, carved up the Colts’ defense: 21-of-29, a career-high 306 yards, one touchdown. Either credit the Rams’ pass protection, or blame a Colts’ pass rush that managed just one sack (Margus Hunt) and four QB hits.

And special teams? Adam Vinatieri ricocheted a 38-yard field goal attempt off the left upright, then missed a PAT, just the 14th of his career on 800 attempts.

  • More of the same: If nothing else, Colts Nation should be getting used to this team stumbling its way into a season. Indy now is 1-5 in openers under Pagano and has dropped four straight. And not to pile on, but the Colts need to bounce back Sunday against Arizona to avoid their fourth consecutive 0-2 start.

Pagano’s defense mechanism was churning after the mauling by the Rams.

“One game does not define a season unless we allow it,’’ he said.

Was Sunday an aberration?

“Absolutely,’’ Pagano said.

Why?

“Because we’ve got the right guys. We’ve got the right character in that locker room,’’ Pagano said. “I’m not going to make any excuses. We’re not going to make any excuses as a football team that we don’t have this, we don’t have that, we’re missing this guy, we’re missing that guy.

“That’s a bunch of bullcrap. There’s not one guy in that locker room that will slide down that pole. I’m not going to slide down that pole. Our assistant coaches are not going to do it.

“We got our asses kicked, period.’’

  • Historic loss: At the risk of piling on, we must offer a little perspective to Sunday’s loss.

The 46 points surrendered to the Rams were the second-most on opening day in Colts’ history. In 1954, the Rams – yes, the Rams – rolled the Colts 48-0 in Baltimore.

The 37-point loss was tied for the eighth-largest in team history and the second-largest in the Pagano era. The biggest Pagano-related blowout loss was the 45-7 flogging at the hands of the New England Patriots in the 2014 AFC Championship game.

Since 2012, the Colts have lost six games by at least 35 points.

One more: in the last two meetings the Rams, the Colts have been outscored 84-17. The St. Louis version overwhelmed Indy 38-8 in 2013.

  • No challenge, no TD: Rookie Marlon Mack notched his first NFL touchdown in the fourth quarter, a 3-yarder. It should have been his second.

In the first quarter and with the Colts trying to cut into a 10-0 deficit, Tolzien hit Mack with a pass in the right flats. Mack tip-toed the right sideline near the pylon, then appeared to cut just inside the pylon before going out of bounds.

Instead of challenging the spot, the Colts tried to catch the Rams unprepared with a quick snap on first-and-goal at the 1. Mack was smothered for a 1-yard loss on a play that never should have happened. A no gain by Mack and Tolzien’s third-down incompletion forced the Colts to settle for Adam Vinatieri’s 20-yard field goal.

Had Pagano challenged the ruling on the field, the replay booth most certainly would have overturned what turned out to be Mack’s non-TD.

“That’s squarely on the head football coach,’’ Pagano said. “Try to catch them off guard and should have waited and let them look at that thing, let us get a good look at it.

“Hindsight’s 20/20 obviously, but that’s on me. It was a bad call on the head football coach and I take ownership of that.’’

Medical update: Defensive tackle Al Woods appeared to injure his right knee in the fourth quarter when a player rolled onto it. He returned later in the quarter.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.