They were in this 0-2 hole last season, too.
That’s what the Indianapolis Colts reminded after a discouraging 20-7 home loss to the New York Jets on Monday Night Football.
But knowing they can still make something out of this season after an awful start is one thing. They managed to reach the AFC Championship Game a year ago, but that was last year.
This time, the Colts were touchdown favorites at home and couldn’t score until the final quarter. Five turnovers and 11 penalties constituted much of the self-destruction.
“Not to dwell on the past, but 0-2, we were 0-2 last year and made the AFC Championship Game,” said outside linebacker Robert Mathis, who had one tackle in his season debut. “Fell short, but we’ve just got to do the same thing, control what we can, be more disciplined and control the ball.”
The Colts haven’t been able to do that so far. Pro Bowl quarterback Andrew Luck had four of the team’s five turnovers. Three of them were interceptions. Two of them occurred after he was hit while he was throwing.
Asked to specify the team’s glaring issues, Luck said, “My play, turning the ball over, fumbles, interceptions. That’s a pretty glaring issue.”
Luck has six turnovers in two games. He completed 21-of-37 passes for 250 yards with one touchdown, three interceptions and the lost fumble.
“I don’t want to take anything away from what the Jets did on defense,” he said, “but we continually shoot ourselves in the foot with penalties and turnovers. If we don’t clean those up, it’s hard to win, it’s hard to win football games.”
Head coach Chuck Pagano bemoaned the five turnovers and 11 penalties, the offense going 0-for-5 on third downs in the first half and the defense being unable to get off the field at times.
“You can’t penalize yourself,” he said, “and you can’t turn the damn ball over.”
Perhaps the most demoralizing turnover was on a third-and-goal rush from the 1, when running back Frank Gore lost control of the football without impact as he was trying to run wide for a score.
"I can't do that," Gore said. "I put that on me ... I know if we would've scored, the game would have been totally different."
The Colts have failed to score in the first half in back-to-back games for the first time since 1997, when they started 0-10 and finished 3-13.
“Everybody has high expectations because of what happened in the offseason,” said wide receiver Andre Johnson, who joined Gore in the Colts’ offseason free-agent haul. “We all want to be playing better. It happens. It’s a long season. We know we need to play a lot better, me, myself, everyone. We’ve said it amongst each other on the sideline.
“It’s frustrating because we know how good we can be. But like I said, we have to stop having, as coach would say, the self-inflicted negatives happening.”
The Colts were still in this game despite their mistakes as second-year wide receiver Donte Moncrief scored on a 26-yard TD reception to cut the deficit to 10-7 in the fourth quarter.
“Not frustrated,” Moncrief said. “Like I said, we did this last year, same thing last year, started off 0-2, same thing, Monday night. We’ve just got to get that winning streak going and take it from there.”
But the Jets responded with a touchdown drive to put this one away. Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 22-of-34 passes for 244 yards with two TDs and one interception. He was sacked only once. And he had the benefit of throwing against a Colts secondary that lost Pro Bowl cornerback Vontae Davis to a concussion late in the second quarter.
Based on the recent past, the Colts have a realistic objective to get straightened out in the next couple of weeks because they’re facing AFC South foes, against whom they’ve won 13 consecutive games and are 16-2 in three years. The Colts venture to Nashville, Tenn., Sunday to take on the Tennessee Titans (1-1). Then they return home to play the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1).
But for a team touted as a legitimate Super Bowl contender in the offseason, this wasn’t the start that any of the Colts anticipated.
“If you don’t get the win, then you didn’t get the job done,” outside linebacker Erik Walden said.
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.