“The sun came up. Unbelievable.”
These do indeed seem like strangely dark times for a team with a 6-3 record and a two-game lead in the AFC South, but such is the nature of the beast, and this one is limping into a Thursday night game against the second-place Titans (4-5) in Nashville.
Against the NFL’s best teams, the Colts have looked unstoppable, beating the Broncos, Seahawks and 49ers.
Against the bottom of the barrel, they’ve been unbearable, losing to the Rams, Dolphins and Chargers and needing a late rally to beat Oakland.
Where doe the reality lie with this team?
We may find out soon.
The short turnaround this week offers little time to prepare for Tennessee, but also gives the team the opportunity to cleanse the memory of the most lopsided home loss in 20 years. Problems that they overcame – barely – to pull out a narrow victory in Houston two weeks ago grew even bigger Sunday and resulted in a 38-8 loss to the Rams.
“We didn’t do much of anything to give ourselves a chance in any of the phases,” Pagano said. “Certainly we’re not going to bury our head in he sand on this past ballgame. We’ll address the issues like we always address them. We know there’s things that need to be fixed and we’ll go to work on fixing those things. … We’ve got a lot to accomplish in the next couple days but as you know this team is very, very resilient.”
At the top of the list is the ongoing quest to establish some form of running game. As Pagano sees it, that is the domino that can either reduce, or enhance, the related problems of early deficits that lead to one-dimensional play-calling that produces undue pressure on quarterback Andrew Luck to make plays with an undermanned receiving corps.“We’ve got to run better, we’ve got to block better, we’ve got to be on the same page, we’ve got to execute,” he said. “And then we certainly can’t fall behind by 21 points because it makes it hard to stick to the running game. We’ve got to be able to run the football. We’ve got to get back to doing exactly that.
“Some how, some way, we have to be able to run the football.”
The past two weeks, Trent Richardson has carried 13 times for 22 yards. The former No. 3 overall pick is showing no sign of building confidence, timing or rhythm.
The inability to run effectively has been an acute problem the past two weeks. In Houston, the Colts fell behind 21-3 at halftime and abandoned the run entirely, calling pass plays on 29 of their first 30 plays of the second half. Against a Texans team stunned by the sight of Coach Gary Kubiak crumpling to the field at halftime due to a stroke, Indianapolis was able to mount a comeback.
Against the Rams, the Colts called seven runs on their first three series and produced minus-three yards. Just two more runs were called in the final three quarters and there was no comeback.
“It makes it difficult because you become one-dimensional,” Pagano said. “When people take that away from you and you’ve got to drop back and throw it every time, then they’re teeing off, then they’re not honoring the run game. When you fall behind, you dig yourselves a hole, they’re pinning their ears back, they’re getting in track stances and they’re bringing four, five and six, they’re coming after you and playing tight coverage in the back end and it makes it really hard.
“Our inability to run the football of late, it hurts your football team. Time of possession, three and out, field position, the defense is having to play more, it affects so many different things. So our ability to run the football and stop the run is paramount and we’ve got to get back to doing that.”
The challenge of creating holes up front will only be heightened by the news right guard Mike McGlynn sustained a broken thumb against the Rams. He will wear a protective cast and is listed as day-to-day.