A new NFL season arrived Sunday with a resounding thud for the Indianapolis Colts.
An AFC team hyped in the offseason as legitimate Super Bowl contenders wasn’t even competitive in a 27-14 road loss to the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The Colts hurt themselves in about every imaginable way from the outset, with drive-stalling penalties, quarterback Andrew Luck’s errant throws, missed tackles, allowing a touchdown bomb and failing to stop the run.
The Bills’ surprisingly easy victory was a smashing debut for new head coach Rex Ryan as well as quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who was making his first NFL start and outplayed Luck, the Colts’ three-time Pro Bowl passer.
The Colts' free-agency additions of wide receiver Andre Johnson and running back Frank Gore as well as the first-round selection of wide receiver Phillip Dorsett suggested the Colts’ offense would be unstoppable.
But Ryan, who advised during the week that Luck would be facing “a real defense,” had his defenders bringing the expected pressure. If Luck couldn’t connect with Pro Bowl wide receiver T.Y. Hilton — to the point of forcing the ball that way in the first half — the Colts stalled.
It went from bad to worse on the opening drive of the second half as the Bills drove 80 yards in 11 plays with Anthony Dixon scoring on a 1-yard TD run to make it 24-0.
Only then did the Colts’ offense finally come to life with its first scoring drive as Luck threw a 2-yard TD pass to Moncrief on fourth down. Luck then completed a two-point conversion pass to tight end Coby Fleener to reduce the deficit to 24-8.
Dorsett, the 29th overall selection, didn’t get much time with the offense until after Hilton exited in the third quarter with a knee injury. The rookie caught two passes for 45 yards, but also fumbled away a punt return in the fourth quarter. The Bills converted the turnover into a field goal for a 27-8 lead.
Colts tight end Dwayne Allen added a 6-yard touchdown reception with 5:56 remaining.
Luck completed 26-of-49 passes for 243 yards with two TDs and two interceptions. He’s now 1-3 in season openers. The Colts have lost five of six season openers.
Taylor completed 14-of-19 passes for 195 yards with one TD. The Bills rushed for 147 yards and two touchdowns.
Gore rushed for 31 yards on eight carries. Johnson caught four passes for 24 yards, and dropped a two-point conversion pass.
Hilton was targeted 14 times and finished with seven catches for 88 yards. The X-ray on his knee was negative. He suffered a bone bruise and could miss a few weeks.
Perhaps the only upside to opening day for the Colts was that AFC South rivals Houston and Jacksonville also lost.
The Colts return home to host the New York Jets (1-0) on Monday Night Football at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Jets defeated the Cleveland Browns 31-10 at home Sunday.
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.