FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Something isn’t right with the Indianapolis Colts.
It goes beyond their 45-7 AFC Championship Game meltdown of a loss to the New England Patriots Sunday night at Gillette Stadium.
Wide receiver Reggie Wayne, who looked the part of a one-armed player due to his left torn triceps, didn’t catch a pass in two targets. But the team leader said something rather revealing afterward about his team’s make-up.
“I believe we’re getting better and better and better, but everybody has to be all in line,” Wayne said. “We can’t have anybody that’s kind of on the fence. Either you’re all in or you’re not.”
Don’t you wonder to whom Wayne is referring? Some guys haven’t bought into head coach Chuck Pagano’s system? Or is it with the assistant coaches? Could it be the front office?
At the very least, this isn’t the kind of statement that you want to hear after such a one-sided end to the season.
Then there was tight end Dwayne Allen, who was obviously frustrated by the contention that the Colts are a young team and still have so much room to grow.
“We're not a young team anymore,” Allen said. “A lot of us are in our third year, and that's the time when players usually have to put up or shut up. We were able to put up in the regular season, but you don't get remembered for the regular season.”
No, you don’t. You get remembered, if you are the Patriots, for playoff wins and Super Bowl victories. New England coach Bill Belichick notched the 21st of his career, most in NFL history. He has five rings, three as a head coach. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady won his 20th playoff game, also most ever in the league, and is gunning for his fourth ring.
When asked what his team needs to do, moving forward, Colts owner Jim Irsay said his people will study the Super Bowl XLIX finalists, New England and Seattle, as well as the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys. The mission is to pinpoint what those teams have that the Colts obviously don’t.
Good luck with that. Based on what Wayne said, something is amiss with this team’s chemistry. Wayne doesn’t talk just to hear himself say something. Those words were meant for some of his teammates, to be sure.
And they were said by a 14th-year pro who doesn’t know if he’ll ever play another game. Even in this humbling hour, Wayne tried to send a message to guys about what it takes to get past the Patriots and make it to the Super Bowl.
All in or you’re not?
And how about Allen, who understands the basic principle, “Put up or shut up.”
Then there was this from Colts defensive tackle Arthur Jones, who said, “I have no idea what their scheme was, I just want to hold my head high.”
Not to read too much into that comment, but how does one of your key defenders not have any idea what the Patriots offense was doing? Perhaps Jones was just frustrated. Or maybe he was suggesting something about the Colts’ preparedness for the opponent.
There’s no question the Patriots outperformed the Colts in every area, and that includes coaching. While it’s true the Colts have gone farther in the playoffs each year during the Pagano era, how can you not question what’s going on inside the locker room based on some of Sunday’s postgame comments?
What Wayne was unable to do on the field, he tried to provide off it. That’s being a leader. The Colts need that now more than ever, as they pick up the pieces and try to figure out where to go from here.
Wayne admitted again he’ll need offseason surgery to repair his arm. It will be interesting to see if the Colts bring him back for another year — he’s on record as saying he won’t play anywhere else. Perhaps the situation depends on how his body heals up in the offseason. Or perhaps the Colts will effectively retire him if they want to move on.
But say this for Wayne, he didn’t pull punches.
“Nobody wants to be a loser,” he said. “To come so far and know how difficult it is to get here, it’s always tough. It sucks.”
That it does. For everyone.
This was another train wreck, one we’ve seen in each of the past two postseasons during the current regime, a 21-point loss last January at New England and now a 38-point debacle, the second-worst playoff loss in Colts franchise history.
Last year, Wayne said it was important for the Colts to remember this feeling of playoff disappointment, so they wouldn’t experience it again. But the Colts did. And Wayne said the same thing again Sunday.
“So much put into this, at the end of the day we all want to get to the ultimate goal, but it’s still a kids’ game, it’s still fun, lot of guys in this locker room have been dreaming of doing this since they were kid,” he said. “It’s tough loss, but we just have to find a way not to get this feeling again.”
It shapes up to be an interesting offseason for this franchise. The Colts seem to be at a crossroads. They’ve proven they can be a playoff team each year, and Irsay assured the Colts eventually will get where they want to go in the Andrew Luck era.
Some day, maybe. But there’s a lot to sort out before that happens. And this game will sit with a lot of these players for a long time.
“I’m deservedly bummed,” Luck said, after a 23 passer rating that was the worst in his 54-game NFL career.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.