Analysis: Colts' 0-2 start is worse than last year

Andrew Luck and the offense isn't scoring because of turnovers and penalties while a suspect defense hasn't generated a pass rush.

It might seem too early to make this statement about the Indianapolis Colts, but it should be suggested because it’s the truth.

This is the kind of play that will give owner Jim Irsay and general manager Ryan Grigson enough reason to not renew Chuck Pagano as head coach.

The Colts’ 20-7 loss to the New York Jets on Monday Night Football was an absolute disaster in so many way. If the Colts had it together, as touchdown favorites against a Jets team trying to rebuild from a 4-12 collapse, they would have taken care of business without any trouble.

That’s what great teams do. That’s what legitimate Super Bowl contenders do after a tough opening loss.

Instead, the Colts made even more mistakes than in a 27-14 opening loss at Buffalo. That seemed impossible, given the numerous gaffes against the Bills.

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While players were quick to echo what Pagano said after this one, that they started 0-2 last year and still reached the AFC Championship Game, let’s be realistic about what has transpired so far. This team isn’t playing anywhere near what last year’s squad did.

Last year’s team rallied from a 24-0 hole at Denver, showing some resolve in a 31-24 loss. Then they blew a second-half lead and Pagano goofed on not settling for a field goal and a 10-point lead late before the Philadelphia Eagles rallied to win on a last-second field goal.

This year’s team is sputtering on offense, it’s committing turnovers and penalties at an alarming rate and the defense has one sack in two games. And outside linebacker Robert Mathis was back on the field for this one. No need to dwell on the run defense this week because it was actually much better, but the Colts couldn't get off the field at times and eventually wore down, thanks to the offensive hiccups.

After two games, the Colts have scored a league-low 21 points. Yeah, they're the NFL's worst in points per game. Imagine that.

The Colts are fortunately about to do an AFC South Division tour with Tennessee, Jacksonville and Houston, so it’s more than likely they’ll rebound as they have in the past. They’re 16-2 against division foes in three years and have a 13-game division winning streak.

But Irsay made it clear in the offseason and during training camp that there were great expectations for this team. It’s unacceptable to be contenders on paper and routed on the field. So far, the Colts have been outscored 47-21 by the Bills and Jets, two teams that weren’t remotely close to making the playoffs a year ago.

So what’s going on?

For one, quarterback Andrew Luck is pressing. He won’t admit it, but we’ve seen the three-time Pro Bowl passer overcome a lot in his career, but right now he’s missing on throws he usually makes. Maybe he’s a bit gun shy because he’s still getting hit. Maybe he’s not on the same page with his receivers.

He said in the offseason one of his key areas of concentration would be to improve his touchdown-to-interception ratio. Right now, it stands at three touchdowns and five interceptions. This from a guy who led the NFL with 40 touchdown passes last season while being intercepted just 16 times.

The Colts were supposed to have a running game with Frank Gore to help out their quarterback. And while Gore showed flashes in this game, two of his early runs were wiped out by holding penalties. Then he lost a fumble on a third-and-goal rush at the Jets’ 1, which is downright inexcusable for any player, let alone an 11-year pro.

Tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener have been ignored. Allen, who has had injury issues in the past, exited in the first half with an ankle problem. But, still, the Colts didn’t target a tight end on a single pass. Not one.

At least Allen wasn’t in the mood to spit out the company line with a reminder about last year. He admitted 2015’s start doesn’t compare to 2014.

“Not at all, totally different, totally different,” he said. “Offensively, we put up more points. I felt like we took care of the ball better, especially through that 0-2 run.

“Just a totally different feel this year, but again, the worst thing that you can do right now is panic. We have the talent in this locker room. It’s just all about going out and playing and executing. That is something that we haven’t done in the first two games.”

The Colts scored a combined 51 points in their opening two losses a year ago, then beat Jacksonville 44-17 and Tennessee 41-17. Even if the Colts do go out and execute and again beat up on AFC South foes, keep in mind what this team’s record is against everybody else in Pagano’s three years: 17-15.

So to summarize, Luck is struggling. And he can blame himself all he wants for his mistakes, but it’s not all on him. The new weapons haven’t made a difference. The O-line still has issues as well as the defense. Does that about sum it up so far?

I’m not putting this all on Pagano. Grigson whiffed on the 2013 NFL Draft and too many of his free agents haven’t produced in addition to the disastrous trade for running back Trent Richardson.

Honestly, this is on both Grigson and Pagano. They're both are responsible. An argument could be made that the general manager is more at fault, but know this about front-office dynamics: Grigson is an extension of Irsay. So if this thing implodes, Pagano will be the fall guy.

Regardless of where the blame lies, it's a mess. We can all see that.

The sad truth is this team probably repeats the history of a year ago. They’ll probably beat enough teams to rebound and make the playoffs. There's no way a team with this much talent can keep playing like this.

But after two games, it's beyond crazy to suggest the Colts can contend with the AFC’s better teams, not to mention the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.

If that’s what we have to look forward to down the road, then don’t be surprised if changes will be made after this season, like it or not.

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


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