The Colts have still yet to “Decide” ten games into their season
INDIANAPOLIS – For weeks in the quiet setting of Anderson University, the word was hard to miss.
Heck, if any fan took a look at one of the practice fields which the Colts would frequent during their preseason training camp they’d struggle to miss the newest motivational tool by head coach Chuck Pagano.
Located on the back of their short-sleeve black t-shirts was a picture of a Vince Lombardi Trophy along with the word “Decide.”
The reference is really a question–and for Pagano that decision was ready to be made.
“It’s just one of those things. You look for things every single year, and we made a step, the next step last season and we all know what the expectations are this season, our own expectations,” said Pagano of the shirt back in August. “We know what the outside expectations are, but we have our own.
“We’re chasing that Lombardi and that’s our goal.”
Yet three months and ten games into their season, the answer to “Decision 2014” remains as mixed as the political races that wrapped up about two weeks ago.
Games against the Ravens, Bengals and Giants would seemed to indicate an answer in the affirmative. A brutal loss to the Steelers and the 60 minutes of football on Sunday night against New England would tell the opposite.
So after ten games the Colts sit at 6-4 after being schooled by the Patriots 42-20 in front of a full house at Lucas Oil Stadium and a nationally televised audience whom they dazzled in a defeat over the Giants 13 days earlier.
It seemed like they decided then that they were ready to stay firmly in the conversation as a Super Bowl contender after a dud at Heinz Field in which they allowed a team-record 639 yards of offense.
Their play against the Patriots has that status wavering again.
“To be honest, it really doesn’t matter how you folks look at this team,” said quarterback Andrew Luck when asked if people should look at the Colts differently after this loss. “To us, what matters is we lost a game, we’ve got to fix what we did wrong and go out and try and win our next one because that’s the biggest one now.”
If that’s the Colts’ decision, then their mind is set on the 1-9 Jaguars who are years away from the decision the Colts are still trying to make with their play on Sundays. A blowout win won’t do much to Pagano’s team to sell people on the idea that they are serious January contender.
That chance was Sunday and their answer was terrible. With two weeks to prepare for a game–as it was in January when the two teams met in the playoffs–Bill Belichick had the Patriots ready with a balanced attack from the start.
Playing the role of game manager instead of world beater as he has been the past few weeks, Tom Brady led the Patriots to 501 yards of total offense and 33 first downs. He completed what for him is a pedestrian 19-of-30 for 257 yards and two touchdowns along with a pair of interceptions by Mike Adams.
Show that to a Colts fan pregame and he or she would have taken it, but there was plenty of “Gray” area when it came to those passing statistics. The pun fits perfectly for New England’s Jonas Gray, who returned to the state which he played college football two-and-a-half miles up the road at Notre Dame.
Nearly three years to the day that he tore his ACL in a win over Boston College in South Bend, he scorched the Colts for 199 yards on 38 carries and a quartet of touchdowns that provided answers to every Colts positive play.
Any good answers as to why that happened?
“I don’t know what to call that performance from a defensive standpoint,” said linebacker D’Qwell Jackson. “I thought our offense drove the ball down the field. They were able to create points, special teams did what they had to do and defensively, we didn’t do anything versus the run.
“We couldn’t stop it. It was a horrible performance from the defense.”
Running was a bad topic for the Colts on Sunday period. The offense gained just 19 yards on 17 carries. Ahmad Bradshaw left the game with a leg injury and Trent Richardson left the field without a yard of rushing on seven carries.
“We felt like going in that we could, we knew we had to run it and stop it, and we did neither,” said Pagano. “We had 14 yards rushing at half and they had 143. I think they finished with at least 250 on the ground.
“Any time that happens, you’re going to get beat like we got beat today.”
Which only makes the Colts need to make a contender decision with their play sooner rather than later. Indianapolis got three inches of snow on Sunday and January is fast approaching. An answer is overdue.
“We have to get better. We have to get better stopping the run,” said Adams of Sunday’s performance. “Not just our front seven, everybody. All 11 players, we got to swarm to the ball. We can’t let teams do that to us, we just can’t.”
Not if they want to answer in the affirmative to the question posed to them on a t-Shirt in Anderson.