INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Colts are ready to start fighting back.
They know the unpleasant reality of a 0-2 start — that only 12 percent of those teams have made the playoffs since 1990. They understand why outsiders worry about the lack of a consistent pass rush.
They’ve heard Andrew Luck walk into postgame news conferences the past two weeks and lament his own decisions. And they understand why so many questions are being asked just two weeks into the season.
Now, for the first time in more than two years, Indianapolis is attempting to rebound from back-to-back losses Sunday at Jacksonville.
“You can point out every week if we did this, this and this we’d be 2-0,” coach Chuck Pagano said Tuesday. “We have 14 games left and the only that matters right now is Jacksonville and that’s the next one. The record is the record. We’re not going to sit there and dwell on anything other than Jacksonville.”
The Colts haven’t been this desperate since Peyton Manning went down with a neck injury in 2011 and the Colts opened the season at 0-13.
After Monday night’s debacle, there are obvious reasons for concern.
The defense allowed 24 points over the final 20 minutes and still hasn’t found a replacement for the suspended Robert Mathis, the 2013 sacks champion who will miss the entire season after tearing his Achilles’ tendon during a private workout last week in Atlanta.
Indianapolis couldn’t even generate consistent pressure against Philadelphia’s makeshift offensive line, and now the Colts could be without their key free agent acquisition, Arthur Jones, for several weeks, too. Pagano confirmed Tuesday that Jones has a high right ankle sprain and listed him week to week.
The offense, which ran for 169 yards — its highest total since Week 3 of the 2013 season, couldn’t seal the win because the Eagles converted two second-half turnovers into two TDs.
And instead of running the ball on third down when they were in field goal range with a little over 5 minutes to play, the Colts got aggressive and threw the ball — and essentially the game — away with an ill-advised pass from Luck.
Sure, there were complaints about that there was no call when Luck’s intended receiver, T.Y. Hilton, appeared to be grabbed on the play.
But the Colts refused to make the calls the issue.
“We played as good a half as you can play against a good team, a playoff team,” Pagano said, referring to the Colts’ 17-6 halftime lead. “But it’s a 60-minute game and that’s what we’re shooting for, to play a complete game.”
Where do the Colts look to fix things?
Perhaps they’ll start with Luck, who acknowledged he “wasn’t sharp” Monday night.
While his completion rate is up, from 60.2 percent last season to 63.2 percent through two games this season, his yards per attempt have dropped for the third straight year. And he’s already thrown three interceptions after throwing only nine during the 2013 regular season.
The biggest concern: Decision-making.
A week ago, he called his decision to run a hurry-up quarterback sneak on fourth-and-goal at Denver “stupid” because the right players weren’t on the field. Luck was stopped cold and the Colts wound up losing 31-24.
On Monday, it was the late interception.
Indy also signed defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles, an undrafted rookie from South Carolina, to the active roster. The hope is he can help replace Jones.
But, for now, the Colts are going to have to look at internal options to fill their biggest hole, putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
“We’re going to continue to develop the guys that are here,” Pagano said. ” The Robert Mathis’ of the world, all the great pass rushers, right now, this time of the year, they’re not falling out of the sky and driving over to west 56th Street and getting ready to rush the passer. So we’ve got to get that fixed.”
And even though it is early, the defending AFC South champs realize they face an uphill battle to get back into the playoff chase.
“It appeared we had that game won and we let it slip away,” Pagano said. “I’ll start with myself. I’ve got to do a better job. We’ve got to coach better, we’ve got to play better.”