As much fun as Andrew Luck's incredible nine fourth-quarter or overtime comeback wins have been for the Indianapolis Colts, there's a less satisfying dark side.
If the Colts didn't find themselves down so often, they wouldn't need a comeback.
Indianapolis spotted the Seattle Seahawks a 12-0 lead (which could have been 17-0 if a safety had been ruled a touchdown) before getting on track in their biggest win this season Sunday.
The Colts (4-1) play at San Diego (2-3) in second-year quarterback Luck's first career appearance on ESPN's Monday Night Football.
“Certainly, we don't want to continue this trend of slow starts, so we'll make a note of that and go to work on fixing that,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “We'll try to start faster, obviously.”
In the Colts' 34-28 win over the Seahawks, the Indianapolis offense's first three series were as anemic as it gets: three plays, no yards; three plays, 2 yards; and three plays, 7 yards.
“It'd be nice to get (Luck) in a rhythm (early),” Pagano said. “Again, they were loading the box. They made it very hard for us to run the football and so, whether it's miscommunication here or there or an incomplete pass first play of the game, guys have got to be on the same page.”
The Colts were able to generate some offense after the start, with a touchdown and a field goal (along with a defensive touchdown) to close the gap to 19-17 at the half.
In the second half, the Colts scored on three of their four full possessions, not counting their kneel-down at the end. They put up two touchdowns, a field goal and drives of 80 and 86 yards.
So as concerning as it is to start slow, the positive remains the Colts offense's ability to maintain a focus on the next play and next series as the game progresses.
“Nobody flinches around here; no players, no coaches,” Pagano said. “They just stick to the motto, the process of 'one play at a time, all you've got, 60 minutes, don't judge.' …That's the foundation we built this thing on. Again, we're going to take body blows and we're going to invest in body blows and we're going to be able to run it and stop the run.”
Pagano exhorted his team at halftime of the Seahawks game to run the football better and tackle better, and said the difference would show.
Trent Richardson, whose role becomes even more important with Ahmad Bradshaw lost to the season with a neck injury, said he can sense a resolve in the team even in his short time in Indianapolis.
“It doesn't matter how you start, it depends how you finish,” Richardson said. “So we played all four quarters, we played together, special teams included. And everybody had that spark.”
Lighting the spark a little quicker on offense might slow down Luck's late-game heroics, but breathing easier in the fourth quarter has its benefits, too.
“We've been down before,” wide receiver T.Y. Hilton said. “For some reason, we just like playing from behind and we always come out flat. We've got to change that and correct that.”