INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts have a lousy offense.Now there’s a sentence I never expected to write this season.
Here’s another one: Andrew Luck gets compared to a lot of quarterbacks, but the one he most resembles so far this season is Jay Cutler, albeit with more upbeat facial expressions.
And this one: The Colts are 0-2 after a 20-7 loss to the Jets on Monday at Lucas Oil Stadium and seem to be marching toward NFL records for turnovers and penalties.Something stinks in Indianapolis, and it’s the football team.
So the only real question is whether the aroma can be changed.
"We have to get this thing turned around," safety Mike Adams said. "It’s only the second game of the season, but I don’t want to be sitting here saying, ‘It’s only the sixth game of the season’ and be in the same spot. We have to get it fixed."
So it’s urgent to win at Tennessee this Sunday?
"I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s urgent, but we need a win," Adams said.
That sounds like a fine line.
"It's a fine line," Adams said.
The strangest part of this whole ugly start to the season is the fact that the biggest issue is the ineptitude of the offense. The line can’t seem to give Luck the time he needs, Luck can’t seem to get in sync with his receivers – other than on a couple drives – and the Colts can’t seem to keep the ball in their own hands. Also, they need to review the rules on holding.
The Colts turned the ball over five times against the Jets and four of them were on Luck: three interceptions and a fumble. The other fumble belonged to Frank Gore, who simply dropped the ball outside the 1-yard line with the Colts on the verge of completing a 10-minute scoring drive that would have cut the deficit to 10-7.
Luck was asked what’s wrong with the Colts’ offense.
"My play – turning the ball over, fumbles, interceptions – is a pretty glaring issue," Luck said. "I don’t want to take anything away from what the Jets did on defense, but we continue to shoot ourselves in the foot with penalties and turnovers. If we don’t clean those up, it’s hard to win."
Colts coach Chuck Pagano followed Luck into the postgame interview room and he was in a mood not seen from a Colts coach since Jim Mora was at the helm.
"You can’t penalize yourself," Pagano said. "You can’t turn the damn ball over."
"You can’t do it," Pagano continued. "You can’t turn the ball over. You’ve got to protect, give (Luck) time, give him a clean pocket so he can step up and not get hit when releasing the ball and we’ve got to get it fixed. You can’t drive the length of the field, have a 10-minute drive and get to the 1-yard line and put the ball on the ground...You can’t do it. You aren’t going to beat Zionsville (High School) doing that."
Pagano was asked what Luck needs to do to reduce his turnovers.
"You’ve just got to take care of the football," Pagano said. "Make great decisions and take care of the football. It’s not that hard. It’s not trigonometry."
The mood in the Colts locker room was less raw, more philosophical than Pagano, who also seemed to imply that the offensive line issues in pass protection are nothing new. ("That’s been the case for three years now, has it not? He should be comfortable dealing with that he’s dealing with.")
In looking for a voice of reason in the locker room, it’s always helpful to check with Adam Vinatieri, the NFL’s oldest player who had a rough night of his own in missing a 29-yard-field goal.
Vinatieri has been on a lot of good teams. And he’s seen some good teams playing bad football. So he knows these things can pass.
"It’s a short week and we can’t dwell on this too long," Vinatieri said. "We’ve got of good older leaders and good young guys, talented guys. When we play well, we’re a good team. We just haven’t played well the last two games."
The Colts’ defense saw the return of outside linebacker Robert Mathis, who played in passing situations, sometimes rushing and sometimes dropping back in coverage. The defense held strong for a long time, despite losing cornerback Vontae Davis to a concussion, leaving the secondary with all sorts of inexperience.
But, lest all the blame be put on the offense, the defense buckled at the most inopportune time. Luck led the Colts on a 91-yard scoring drive to pen the fourth quarter, hitting Donte Moncrief for a 26-yard touchdown pass. The Colts defense responded by giving up a seven-play, 80-yard drive with Ryan Fitzpatrick putting in a dagger with a scoring pass to Brandon Marshall to push the lead back to 17-7 with 6:20 left.
"We’d be here talking about a totally different game if we had that stop or held them to a field goal," Adams said. "We held our own for the most part, but at the end of the day, I don’t want to say they wore us out, but that last drive took us over the edge."
Colts fans are likely on the figurative ledge today, wondering if this alleged Super Bowl-contending team is nothing but a pretender.
Manning’s fourth season in 2001 ended up being an underachieving 6-10 affair that was also Mora’s final season at the helm. Is there a bit of déjà vu going on for Luck and Pagano in their fourth seasons?
Yes, it’s too early to tell. Yes, it's too early to panic. No, it's not too early to be very concerned.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at firstname.lastname@example.org.