Eliminate turnovers. Cut down on penalties. Run the ball better. Improved offensive efficiency. And the list goes on.
It doesn’t sound like normal necessities associated with a 10-5 team that won its second AFC South Division title. But they've been continual concerns as the season has wound down.
The Colts have committed 31 turnovers. If they have one on Sunday, it will tie the most the team has had since 2002, Tony Dungy’s first season as head coach.
“You look at the number of passes we’ve thrown to date, I think when you drop back more and you throw more passes, you might have a few more interceptions,” Pagano said Tuesday. “You don’t want ‘em, but the volume is a little bit of a byproduct of that.”
Quarterback Andrew Luck has 16 interceptions, three more than the league average. He’s attempted 600 passes, which makes his interception percentage 2.7. That ties for 18th with Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger out of the league’s top 32 passers.
The league’s turnover average is 22. The Colts rank 30th in most giveaways. Just Philadelphia (35) and Tampa Bay (32) have more.
Checking out the league’s top six teams based on record, Denver and Detroit have the most turnovers at 19. Arizona is at 14, New England 13, Seattle 12 and Green Bay a league-low 11. Coupled with 26 takeaways, the Packers lead the league at plus-15 in giveaway-takeway ratio. The Colts are minus-6, which ties for 22nd.
The Colts have been flagged 101 times for 828 penalty yards. The number of infractions are the most since 106 in 2004. And the yardage is the highest since 866 in 2000.
Most of the penalties, Pagano said, shouldn’t happen.
“A lot of the penalties, the ones that are called every year and the most-called ones, are the ones that that are focus stuff a lot of the times; the false starts and illegal formations, and things like that that really shouldn’t happen,” the coach said. “The guys know that and we all know that, but there’s one that guys are straining their guts out to make a block, finish a play and end up getting called.
“Part of it, too, is with the emphasis every year changing from an officiating standpoint. I think from a defensive standpoint, illegal contact, defensive holding, all those things are probably up just because of the points of emphasis are changing every year.”
The NFL team average this season is 100 for 844 yards, so it’s true the number of calls have increased. New England (12-3) has the league’s best record but has been whistled 115 times for 1,025 yards.
Seattle, Denver, Arizona, Dallas, Green Bay and Detroit are all 11-4, and the Packers have the fewest calls (87) of those five, the Cardinals the fewest penalty yards (686). The Broncos have been penalized 119 times for 1,029 yards. The Lions have had 108 flags for 936 yards, the Cowboys 98 for 791, the Cardinals 88 for 686 and the Packers 87 for 735 yards.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.