The Indianapolis Colts being thrust into the Monday Night Football spotlight merely magnified a sputtering team’s ineptitude.
These boys in blue, anointed in the offseason as Super Bowl contenders, can’t even win at home when they’re touchdown favorites.
Three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Andrew Luck is so uncomfortable, he’s become a turnover machine. Not that it’s all on him. His receivers can’t get open consistently and his offensive line has been spotty. Running back Frank Gore’s best runs are negated by holding penalties, and he’s not beyond losing a costly fumble just a few yards shy of the goal line.
"We continually shoot ourselves in the foot," Luck said.
Continual turnovers, costly penalties and a couple more injuries contributed to the Colts losing 20-7 to the New York Jets at Lucas Oil Stadium. It’s the second consecutive season the Colts have started 0-2 after a loss at home on Monday Night Football.
For the second consecutive game, the Colts failed to score in the opening half. That hasn’t happened to this team since 1997. Those Jim Harbaugh-led Colts started 0-10 and finished 3-13.
By game’s end, the few Colts fans still in the stands booed.
Last season, the Colts rebounded to win 11 of 14 games and reach the AFC Championship Game. Question is, can they recover again?
Luck had three interceptions and lost a fumble to boost his two-game turnover total to six. He was hit as he threw on two of the interceptions.
Gore showed flashes of his speedy playmaking, but two of his better runs were negated by penalties. Then with the Colts looking at third-and-goal from the 1 in the third quarter, Gore inexplicably coughed up the football as he was running laterally and before any contact.
Gore finished with 57 yards rushing on 15 carries. But it should have been much more than that.
The Colts committed 11 penalties.
"You can't commit penalties and you can't turn the damn ball over," said head coach Chuck Pagano.
The Colts could do little right.
Their best defensive player, cornerback Vontae Davis, exited late in the second quarter with a concussion. The Colts were already without two other cornerbacks, Greg Toler and Darius Butler. Despite a game effort by the Colts’ defense, this secondary depletion bit them in the fourth quarter, when Brandon Marshall caught a 15-yard touchdown pass to make it a two-score game.
Colts tight end Dwayne Allen was sidelined by halftime with an ankle injury.
The Jets (2-0), who won 31-10 at home against Cleveland in Week 1, benefited from a Colts turnover on the home team’s opening series. Luck’s pass sailed behind Andre Johnson, who tipped it to safety Calvin Pryor. The return was to the Colts’ 9-yard line, which precipitated Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing a 6-yard TD pass to Eric Decker.
The Colts drove back into Jets territory, but kicker Adam Vinatieri’s 29-yard field goal attempt clanked off the right upright. The NFL’s oldest player, at 42, missed only one field goal last season, but he’s 0-for-2 this season.
And the Colts had all the more reason to be fired up with the season debut of outside linebacker Robert Mathis, who missed 2014 due to a four-game suspension and an Achilles tendon tear. But Mathis wasn’t much of a factor.
The Colts’ lone touchdown came in the final quarter, when Donte Moncrief turned a short pass into a 26-yard scoring reception. That cut the Jets’ lead to 10-7, but the visitors responded with a touchdown drive.
At halftime, retired center Jeff Saturday became the 12th member to be inducted into the Colts’ Ring of Honor. That proved to be the most memorable moment for Colts fans.
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.