Even Andrew Luck was thinking deja vu.
On Sunday’s first play, Washington outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan drilled Luck to force a fumble that the Redskins recovered. When the Colts got the ball back, Luck threw a pass to a well-covered Reggie Wayne that was tipped into an interception.
Two possessions, two turnovers.
A week earlier, Luck lost a fumble on the opening series against Jacksonville, then another on a sack later in the first quarter. Two plays into the second quarter, Dan Herron lost a fumble, too.
The Colts eventually won both home games comfortably, 49-27 against the Redskins and 23-3 against the Jaguars.
But those turnovers are more than a cause for concern. Blame the offensive line. Blame Luck. Blame coaches. Whomever. These are the mistakes that will get the Colts beat come January against playoff teams.
Asked if he was thinking, “Here we go again” after Sunday’s start, Luck said, “Yeah, a little bit. Yes. A fumble and an interception and we survived again. … Obviously we’re not going to survive it forever. It has to change. It starts with me. I’ve got to be better.”
Luck always shoulders the blame for anything wrong with his team. But last I checked, he doesn’t block. The last thing he expects on a first play is for Kerrigan to run around Gosder Cherilus as if the offensive right tackle isn’t there.
And Luck doesn’t play defense, either, although he could probably suit up as a hard-hitting safety the way the quarterback goes after guys who intercept him.
The Colts have never scored more in Lucas Oil Stadium, celebrating more big plays in one game than I can remember in a long time. Four of Luck’s career-high five touchdown passes were for 30 yards or more, including a 73-yarder to Coby Fleener and 79-yarder to Donte Moncrief.
When regurgitating gaudy statistics about how the Colts made so many big plays, a bottom-line perspective is easy to overlook. I didn’t. I just chose to wait until Monday to issue the obvious reminder.
These Colts won’t last long in January if they keep playing like this. Sure, the video-game numbers are fun. But playoff games are won by teams who minimize mistakes and take advantage of their opponents’ missteps.
We learned that so many years ago in the Peyton Manning era. I doubt many Colts fans have forgotten. Many are still convinced, and rightfully so, that those teams should have won more than one Super Bowl.
But Manning and the offense made mistakes. The defense didn’t get stops or play as well in the playoffs as in the regular season. And there were a couple coaching gaffes mixed in as well.
The little things do add up. And so far, there’s nothing little about the Colts’ turnover totals. Luck has 11 interceptions and the Colts have lost 11 of 24 fumbles. Luck has five of the lost fumbles, not that I’m blaming him for an O-line that still lets the franchise quarterback get hit far too often.
Sorry to be a killjoy for any optimists out there, but there’s something to be said for being a realist.
Even when the Colts clean up against the NFL’s weaker teams — five wins against losing teams by an average margin of 21.8 points — we’re still talking about glaring mistakes.
I would be remiss not to mention how the defense played Sunday. The season-high six sacks, D’Qwell Jackson’s fumble return for a touchdown and a goal-line stand were all encouraging. We've seen this defense play well at times this season, no question.
But the Redskins still scored 27 points. Colt McCoy got pounded yet still passed for 392 yards and three touchdowns. It's doubtful these numbers will be deemed acceptable when reviewing the film. How is it that the Colts had the ball for just five plays in the third quarter? Because the defense didn't shut the Redskins down. When Colts cornerback Vontae Davis exited with a concussion, it was as if the secondary couldn’t cover.
Some might see it as the classic glass half full or half empty scenario for the 8-4 Colts.
Those thinking the glass is half full saw a lot of offense, a sack-happy defense and a 22-point win. Those thinking the glass is half empty saw a team that struggled to protect its quarterback, three turnovers and a defense that gave up too many points.
If you’re thinking that glass is half full, don’t be shocked come January when we’re all reminded one final time of what held this team back.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.