INDIANAPOLIS – The statement was one of honesty yet perhaps some concern for those who may here it.
In his opening statement at his Monday news conference following the Colts’ 29-point loss to the Cardinals, Chuck Pagano humbly summed up an unsuccessful trip to Arizona.
“The things that we knew we had to do we just didn’t execute well and get them taken care of,” said the Colts head coach in a bit of a wrap-up of the effort-the second double-digit loss for the team in just three weeks.
As you might expect, the team was downplaying the idea of panic and concern on Monday yet at the same time continuing to search for an answer to a few questions that will follow them into the final month of the NFL’s regular season.
“There’s no special pill or anything to be able to take. You can’t go to Wal-Mart and buy a pill for this,” said linebacker Jerrell Freeman. “You got to go out there and work and just work towards our goals and we should be okay.”
That’s true. If the Colts’ beat the Titans on Sunday, the AFC South Championship is all but theirs. Indianapolis would hold a three-game lead in the division with just four games remaining in the regular season. To finish the season, the Colts still have two-win Houston and Jacksonville coming to town, so the odds of the team winning the division would be extremely high.
“We got a huge game coming up at home at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday,” said Pagano. “So we got to put it behind us and we’ll go back to work Wednesday in preparation for Tennessee.”
Many of the same issues will be on the docket for the team this week as they face the Titans. First and foremost–as it was for the last time they played Tennessee two-and-a-half weeks ago–is the team’s poor starts. In the last four games, the Colts have yet to score in the first quarter and have allowed 93 points in the first 30 minutes.
In that span, the offense has only scored 12 first half points. It’s important to point out that this stretch coincides with the season-ending injury to Reggie Wayne–the team’s leading receiver–who is missing his first game action since the 2001 season.
Finding a replacement for Wayne figured to be by committee-and the search continues four weeks in.
“We’re going to get help. We’re still coming around,” said receiver T.Y. Hilton of the receivers trying to set up their game in Wayne’s absence. “We’re still learning but this week they’ll be there to make the plays.”
Until then, Pagano admits, the team will have to improve their level of football while still finding a way not to appear over-cautious.
“The margin for error is small right now. And I think it’s regardless. Everybody we play is good, you know that. Every team that you play is good, they all got great players and so forth, so the margin for error is minute,” said Pagano. “But that doesn’t mean that we’re going to go out there and play cautious and those type of things. I think we just got to get back to playing football and playing better fundamentals and techniques and doing the things that we did early in the season.
“Doing the things that we did to beat the football teams that we beat early in the season, the teams like Denver and Seattle and San Fran and those type of things.”
Repeating those performances will do just fine in putting a Colts team in flux back into the playoffs for a second straight year.