INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Colts coach Chuck Pagano made his thoughts perfectly clear again Monday.
He believes in his team and he’s still looking for solutions to the turnovers and penalties that have ruined the first half of Indianapolis’ season.
Of course, Pagano has been using the same mantra since a shocking Week 1 loss at Buffalo and it seems to have made little impact. The same problems that plagued them then continue to derail what many considered a potential Super Bowl season.
“That’s very frustrating, very frustrating,” tight end Dwayne Allen said less than 24 hours after a 27-21 loss to New Orleans. “Give the Saints credit, they played well, but a lot of it is on us.”
The problems have been glaring.
Andrew Luck missed the first two games of his career with an injured throwing shoulder and still doesn’t look right. He has the third-lowest passer rating among qualified quarterbacks and has already thrown nine interceptions. Indy’s runners are averaging a solid 4.3 yards per carry but playing catch-up has forced the Colts (3-4) into the second-fewest rushing attempts (153) among teams that haven’t yet had a bye.
The questionable offensive line, which was not significantly addressed during the offseason, went into Week 7 with a league-high 16 holding penalties and drew three more against New Orleans. Two were declined.
The hits haven’t stopped, either. After benching their opening-day starting guards, Todd Herremans and Lance Louis, and moving Jack Mewhort from right tackle back to left guard, the Saints sacked Luck four times and hit him 10 times.
Defensively, the Colts have looked better against the run but are ranked No. 26 in yards allowed. They haven’t found a consistent pass rush and have spent most of the season playing musical chairs in the secondary.
Not surprisingly, Indy is below .500 in late October for the first time since 2011. And they visit unbeaten Carolina next Monday night as they try to prevent the first three-game losing streak of Pagano’s tenure.
“We’re exactly opposite of what we want to be,” backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. “We want to be a team near the top of the league in turnover margin and we’re not. We’re probably near the bottom of the league. We’re still in it, we still can have a great season, but we’ve got to start playing better.”
The 40-year-old Hasselbeck was 2-0 as the starter, and if Luck’s struggles continue there could be a debate over whether Luck should be given more rest.
General manager Ryan Grigson is under fire for bad some bad moves such as the Trent Richardson trade, several free-agent busts and not doing enough to fortify the offensive line.
Pagano, in the final year of his contract, is under heavy scrutiny after three straight weeks of mind-boggling plays - the Hail Mary touchdown pass at Houston, the botched fake punt against New England and the fake field goal that spurred New Orleans’ 27-point run Sunday.
“That first half, the way that we played, that’s unacceptable,” Pagano said, referring to the Saints’ game. “They (the fans) have got to know that we’ve got to get it fixed, and we’re going to do everything we can to get it fixed.”
Things are getting any easier for the AFC South leaders, either.
Though they are 3-0 against division teams this season, they are 0-4 outside the division - a continuation of a four-year disparity in which the Colts have gone 19-2 against their own division and 17-17 outside it. They won’t play another division game until Dec. 13 when they visit Jacksonville.
After going 19-5 at home In Pagano’s first three seasons, the Colts are 1-3 at Lucas Oil Stadium this year.
Pagano confirmed Monday that Indy’s first-round draft pick, receiver Phillip Dorsett, will miss four to six weeks with a fractured lower left leg. Dorsett was injured during the second quarter Sunday and is hopeful of making a late-season return. That leaves Luck with only four receivers on the active roster.
But Pagano’s players say they’re not paying attention to the outsiders. They’re focused on finding a fix.
“You can’t do the things we did (Sunday) penalty wise, turnover wise, with mental errors and missed assignments,” Hasselbeck said. “We can’t shoot ourselves in the foot for one half and then decide to play for 30 minutes. We have to play better.”
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