Different country, same missteps for Colts

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(Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

LONDON, England – Maybe the United Kingdom hadn’t been privy to the first month of the Indianapolis Colts’ season.

You know, the faulty starts followed by flashes of brilliance by the offense.

The alternately awful and just-good-enough performances by the defense.

The missed tackles and numskull penalties.

The closing seconds of games that have elevated everyone’s heart rate.

And, way too often, the inability to make enough plays to make a difference.

Being friendly folks from across the pond, the Colts offered a three-hour refresher course Sunday at Wembley Stadium. Perhaps it was fitting they did so in front of the largest crowd they’ve ever entertained with their latest brand of good, bad and ugly football: 83,764.

Jacksonville 30, Colts 27.

It marked the fourth consecutive game decided in the final 2 minutes, and the third time the Colts didn’t do enough right and too much wrong.

Once again, there was plenty of blame to spread around.

“It’s penalties. It’s miscues. It’s everything negative about football that we’ve got to get better at,’’ offered Andrew Luck, clearly perturbed by the latest error-filled outing. “We’ve got to be more professional, in a sense, as players and understand our role, our job, and do our job.

“And the positive thing is I think we can. I think we can, but it’s certainly something that has to be fixed. It’s pretty obvious to anyone who watches the game.’’

Luck seemed to choose his words carefully.

“I don’t want to make this more than what it is,’’ he said. “It’s a loss. We didn’t play well. Go back and fix what we need to fix.

“We’ve got really good football players in the locker room, really good coaches and a great culture. We’ll be all right, but this does not feel good, and it shouldn’t.

“We lost.’’

There were so many recurring issues, but the Colts still found themselves – again – in position to erase their negatives with a frantic finish. Instead, they provided some serious fodder for water-cooler discussion on Monday. Trailing by 3 with 1:48 to play and facing a third-and-10 at the Indy 42:

  • Luck hit a crossing T.Y. Hilton. Instead of cutting upfield, Hilton flashed to the sideline and dove as he neared the first-down marker. He came up short.

“I thought I had it,’’ Hilton said. “I took off and they said I didn’t have it. But I thought I took off inbounds. Ref called it.

“If I had stopped, I would have slipped. The grass was kind of real slick. I dove. I thought I had it. Evidently I didn’t.’’

  • Luck stepping up in a congested pocket on fourth-and-1 and opting to throw over the middle to tight end Dwayne Allen rather than tucking the football and trying to move the chains with his legs. The pass was just a hair off, forcing Allen to hesitate on his route and allowing cornerback Josh Johnson to close and get a finger on it. Incomplete.

“There’s a million decisions every game in hindsight you look at and say, ‘I wish or I should have or could have,’’’ Luck said. “We can all play Monday morning quarterback.

“I know I make every decision that I think is going to be the best for the offense. At that time I thought the best way to get that first down was to pop it to Dwayne. Guy made a nice play. Wish I had put a little more oomph on the ball.’’

Allen shouldered the blame. Asked if Johnson defected the football, he shrugged.

“It doesn’t matter. It hit my hands. I count that as a drop,’’ Allen said. “It was one costly drop to start it and another one to end it.’’

So here they are, 1-3. It’s easy to imagine the level of disappointment being felt by owner Jim Irsay. He conceded he was extremely upset over the season-opening loss at home to Detroit, and he spent the last couple of days stressing the importance of his team putting on a successful show on the international stage.

Instead, four dropped passes according to ESPN Stats and Information. Seemed like more, right? According to ESPN, 19 teams had a total of four drops or fewer in their first three games.

Luck finished with 234 yards and two touchdowns, but had just 82 yards after three quarters. He was sacked a career-high six times playing behind an offensive line that featured three rookie starters and suffered an interception on a tipped pass.

There were seven penalties for 78 yards, including a pair of flags thrown at cornerback Antonio Cromartie that aided Jacksonville’s field-goal drive at the end of the first half. He also was beaten twice for receptions by Allen Robinson on the drive.

And so much more.

After the Colts closed to 23-20 on Luck’s 2-yard TD pass to Hilton, cornerback Rashaan Melvin whiffed on a tackle in a one-on-one situation along the right sideline. Instead of a short gain, Jacksonville’s Allen Hurns scooted 42 yards for a touchdown and a 30-20 lead with 5:03 remaining.

The Colts countered with a lightning bolt of their own when a botched assignment in the Jacksonville secondary allowed Phillip Dorsett to run free and under Luck’s 64-yard touchown.

The defense forced a three-and-out, but the offense ran out of late-game miracles – the incompletion on fourth-and-1 with 1:36 to play – and ultimately was unable to overcome so much of what had transpired before.

“(The Jaguars) made the plays down the stretch,’’ linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “Fourth-and-1? I take our offense against anyone in the National Football League. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it.

“It’s frustrating. We’ve got to cut down on the penalties. We can’t shoot ourselves in the foot. We can’t get behind so early in the football game and expect to come back every single game.

“We can’t continue to do that. We have to play more of a clean, solid football game for four quarters.’’

Coach Chuck Pagano offered a similar postscript.

“Too many penalties. Too many missed opportunities. Too many dropped balls,’’ he said. “We didn’t tackle well. They ran the ball well. We didn’t do our job on the defensive side when it had to be done.

“We had our chances. Too little, too late.’’

Different day, same story.