INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts have a bad case of the terrible T’s.
In Week 1, they couldn’t tackle. In Week 2, they let two takeaways result in immediate touchdowns. And now, for the third consecutive season, those problems have left the Colts in a 0-2 hole.
“We had a lot of opportunities that we didn’t take advantage of,” coach Chuck Pagano said Monday, less than 24 hours after Indy’s 34-20 loss at Denver. “Still at the end of the day, you get the ball back with 1:51 to play, you have a chance to go down the field and win the football game.”
Instead, Super Bowl MVP Von Miller has an almost free shot at Andrew Luck, knocks the ball loose and Shane Ray scoops it up for a 15-yard TD return. Game over, again.
Of course turnovers are a point of emphasis in every NFL locker room.
In Indianapolis, it’s something they’ve made a concerted effort to fix since they started planning their offseason program.
A year ago, Luck threw 12 interceptions and lost a fumble in just seven games and was on pace to easily shatter his previous career high for interceptions (18), set during his rookie season 2012.
Through the first seven quarters of the season, Luck was virtually flawless taking care of himself and the ball.
He’d thrown it away when necessary, slid when it was wise, ran out of bounds when possible and avoided making big mistakes.
All that changed Sunday, with the Colts trailing 16-13 early in the fourth quarter. Luck took a chance by trying to squeeze the ball into Frank Gore only to see Aqib Talib undercut the route, pick it off and run 46 yards for a touchdown.
After the game, it was one of the plays Pagano said the Colts would like to have had back and one Luck was still lamenting Monday.
“We had a chance in the fourth quarter to go and get a win and we didn’t make it happen,” he said. “So credit to the Broncos for making it happen on their end. We just have to capitalize on more opportunities.”
While the Colts refused to let that momentum-swinging play take them completely out of the game, the miscues that followed certainly did.
After trimming the deficit to 26-20, the Colts battered defense couldn’t prevent Demaryius Thomas from stretching for a first down on third-and-11, forcing the Colts to burn their last two timeouts before giving the ball back to Luck and the offense, trailing 26-20.
But with Miller running flat out, Luck never had a chance to set up or protect the ball before it was jarred loose.
“Obviously, the plan is don’t let that guy wreck the game,” Pagano said. “We gave the help and did the things we were supposed to, and he made a phenomenal play, he made a great play. That’s why he’s who he is.”
Now, after two miserable weeks of poring through game tape of what went wrong, Indianapolis is looking for solutions.
The good news on defense is key players could return to practice Wednesday and could play next weekend San Diego (1-1). That group includes defensive end Henry Anderson (knee surgery), cornerbacks Vontae Davis (ankle) and Patrick Robinson (concussion) and safeties Clayton Geathers (foot) and T.J. Green (sprained right knee).
Offensively, the Colts could try to explain that they were not at full strength against perhaps the best defense in football. Starting receiver Done Moncrief (shoulder) left in the first half and right guard Denzelle Good (back) left late in the game. Both are scheduled to have MRIs on Monday night.
But that’s not something the Colts will do.
Nope, they’re going to back to work and trying to figure out how to clean things up by eliminating the turnovers.
“We had a chance sort of at the end of the game and we made just enough plays to hang in there against a very good team,” Luck said. “We didn’t make the plays when it counted though.”
NOTES: Pagano also said cornerback Antonio Cromartie (shoulder) should be all right and outside linebacker Trent Cole (back) will continue to be evaluated on a daily basis. Cornerback Darius Butler is listed as week to week with a grade 1 sprain of his right hamstring. … Indy also made a change on its practice squad, releasing cornerback Tay Glover-Wright and signing outside linebacker Deiontrez Mount.