‘Friendly Fire’ puts the Colts on early hot seat after loss

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Cory Redding looks on as the Eagles celebrate a 30-27 win over the Colts on Monday night.

INDIANAPOLIS – For a half, they were the team they were all cracked up to be.

They had a spiced-up offensive attack that utilized a number of formations and personnel at unique positions. The Colts rushing attack looked as if it was indeed ready to attack and the defense was making timely plays in the first half and not the final moments.

Take a picture of the the first half the Colts had against the Eagles and what you have is a portrait of what this team could be in 2014.

“We came out and we played the exact type of game we wanted to play in the first half,” said head coach Chuck Pagano of his team, which led 20-6 at halftime. “We had scoring drives, we got off the field on defense, we held them in the red zone. We bottled up the run game.

“We gave up a few big plays, but again they stiffened their neck in the red zone and held them to two field goals.”

Notice it’s just the first half that’s being talked about here? It didn’t quite continue that way because the Colts got in their own way a number of times in the final 20 minutes.

What would eventually grow to a 14-point lead early in the third quarter evaporated in the final 20 minutes of the game amid turnovers, controversial calls and the fast-paced offense that would eventually prove the team’s undoing.

“The friendly fire, it will kill you. Just like I told them in there, it’s so hard to win at this level. It doesn’t matter how good you play, all the games come down to one-score games. It doesn’t matter,” said Pagano. “You’ve got to eliminate friendly fire and you’ve got to finish games. You’ve got to put people away.”

Turnovers will be the one thing that will stick with the Colts the most after Monday night, which dropped the team to 0-2 for just the second time since 1998. Trent Richardson, who was enjoying his finest game as a Colt with 79 yards rushing, fumbled deep in Eagles territory after they had just scored a touchdown.

Philadelphia capitalized on the turnover and tied the game.

“Hit it with the helmet,” said Richardson when asked how the fumble happened. “I was going through a crowd, I should have covered it with two hands but he hit it right on the ball with the helmet. It’s one of those plays when your in a crowd you can’t even go for the ball, it’s one of the worst feelings in the world when you fumble and you can’t even reach for it.

“I’m slapping myself in the face right now because I blew it.”

The Colts still rebounded from that to score a go-ahead touchdown and were driving for another when on 3rd-and-9 at the Eagles’ 22 the Colts elected to pass. T.Y. Hilton was knocked down by defender Brandon Boykin as the pass from Andrew Luck came his way and it was easily intercepted by Michael Jenkins.

Many questioned whether the Colts should have gone for the pass and been more conservative with a field goal in sight but Pagano defended the call.

“I think everybody saw what happened on the play. The last thing we said to the quarterback was, ‘Take care of the football.’ If a guy gets whatever, gets tackled and drugged down, whatever it was, there’s nothing the quarterback or anybody else can do about it,” said Pagano. “Your thinking is not wrong. Our thinking was the same thing. We’ve got the field goal, take care of the football. It didn’t work out.”

It did lead to the demise of the Colts who allowed Darren Sproles a 51-yard reception on the following drive that led to a touchdown. A three-and-out by the Colts and 42 quick yards on a drive by the Eagles in the final minutes set up the Cody Parkey game-winning field goal.

For a team that has lived and died on second half comebacks in the Pagano era, this one is extra puzzling and painful.

“Had the opportunities, didn’t take advantage of them. When you’re up on a good team, you better stay up,” said Luck. “You can’t turn the ball over in the red zone when you’re about to make it a two-score game.

“It was stupid by me, so yeah, same story in a sense.”

We’ll at least for one half it wasn’t. Too bad they couldn’t tell it for another 30 minutes.