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Analysis: Colts still far from contenders

After all the offseason Super Bowl hype, an ugly season opener reminds of what went wrong when the Colts last played in January.

Legit Super Bowl contenders? After one game, there’s just legit concerns about the Indianapolis Colts.

There’s no way to sugar coat the Colts’ 27-14 road loss to the Buffalo Bills Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Forgive me if I forget some of the concerns because there are many.

An explosive offense didn’t score until late in the third quarter. Quarterback Andrew Luck was off. He looked rattled by the Bills’ pressure and forced the ball too much to Pro Bowl wide receiver T.Y. Hilton.

The defense couldn’t stop the run, allowing a couple of rushing scores and 147 yards.

Nickel cornerback Darius Butler gave up a 51-yard TD pass to wide receiver Percy Harvin for the game’s first score. Harvin just flat out beat Butler, who started for the injured GregToler.

Early penalties continually prevented the offense from generating anything.

Two special-teams plays were brutal as Donte Moncrief could only reach the 4-yard line on a kickoff and rookie Phillip Dorsett muffed a punt that the Bills fell on and turned into a field goal.

The Colts had three turnovers, two Luck interceptions and the Dorsett muff.

Running back Frank Gore, who had just two preseason carries, came down with calf cramps in the third quarter. And the Colts didn’t use him much anyway, running for 31 yards on nine carries.

Wide receiver Andre Johnson was also largely ignored, catching four passes for 24 yards, but he also dropped a two-point conversion pass. It was high, but he should have that.

The Colts ran 68 offensive plays, 13 more than the Bills, yet Buffalo had the edge in total yards, 342-304.

Adam Vinatieri, who had missed only one field goal last season, missed his only attempt. Granted, it was from 52 yards out, but it had enough leg and fluttered wide left.

Rookie running back Josh Robinson fumbled with the Colts closing in on the Bills’ end zone, but fortunately for him the ball bounced backward and out of bounds, then the Bills were hit with a penalty. Still, Robinson lost a fumble in his previous appearance during the third preseason game.

What am I missing? No matter. You get the point.

All it took was one ugly opener to undo all the positive offseason vibes about the Colts. And it’s fair.

This team somehow looked like it wasn’t prepared for the challenge. The Bills had a 24-0 lead in the third quarter, for crying out loud.

That points an obvious finger at Pagano, whose teams have had a history of slow starts in the past. Remember last year’s season opener at Denver? The Colts fell behind the Broncos 24-0 in that game before rallying to lose 31-24.

And that was against a playoff team. Perhaps the Bills will be this season, but this one wasn’t even close.

Bottom line, everyone is accountable. Not just Pagano, but everyone. That’s owner Jim Irsay, whose offseason optimism has fed the fans’ buzz about this team, general manager Ryan Grigson, coaches and players.

No nice way to say it, fellas.

The Colts stunk.

Then afteward, Irsay again insisted to reporters there isn't a rift between Grigson and Pagano. That story isn't going to die, I'm afraid.

Moving forward, this team is not going to have Hilton for a few weeks because of a left knee bruise.

I was so anxious to write about how Luck showed the Bills a thing or two, in light of how one Bills defender said the Colts’ star was “just another quarterback” and Ryan dissed the AFC South by advising Luck would be playing “a real defense.”

This day, the other guys were right.

I’m sure Luck will bounce back from this, but there’s only so much one guy can do. He’ll shoulder the load, but that’s not enough. We've seen that in the past, too.

The NFL regular season is a grind with lots of ebbs and flows. Common sense cautions to not overreact to only one game.

But it’s going to take an impressive performance against a top team for anyone to take the Colts seriously. That’s not just me talking. That’s a national perception.

The 2015 season opener reminded us all of this team’s weaknesses from the past instead of how the Colts’ strengths could eventually deliver the ultimate prize.

Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.

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