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Colts try to pick up pieces after latest stumble

2013-10-15T20:00:00Z 2013-10-16T01:23:06Z Colts try to pick up pieces after latest stumbleMichael Marot AP Sports Writer nwitimes.com
October 15, 2013 8:00 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | Indianapolis picked a poor time to have a bad game.

The Colts missed an opportunity to seize control of the AFC South, show a prime-time TV audience they're a legitimate title contender and now have to prepare for Peyton Manning and the unbeaten Broncos on a short week.

Chuck Pagano thinks it could be a perfect remedy for Indianapolis' ills.

"I know it can't come quickly enough for all of us," Pagano said Tuesday when asked about Sunday's game.

"But we've got to go through the process and prepare, obviously, for this next opponent."

Sure, there's plenty to fix between now and the league's most anticipated game of the season -- Manning's return to Lucas Oil Stadium. And after Monday night's 19-9 loss, the Colts coaches will use every precious moment they have.

The cramming session began after an early morning flight back to Indy. Pagano and his staff spent the first part of the day reviewing the tape from their latest stumble in San Diego.

It didn't take long to dissect the offense with what Pagano described as only 42 "gradable" plays.

They saw four drops including potential scores from Darrius Heyward-Bey and Coby Fleener and a big drop by Reggie Wayne on third down that would have given Indy a key first down.

Luck was sacked once, threw a late interception and was under pressure much of the night, and Indy ran only 17 times for 74 yards.

That's not how these Colts (4-2) were built.

The biggest problem came on third down as Indy converted only 2 of 10 chances. San Diego (3-3) was 7 of 14.

The combination led to a 17-minute disparity in time of possession -- an oddity for a team that came into the weekend with the league's No. 4 rushing offense.

"It was different. It certainly was uncharacteristic of us," Pagano said. "I just think, you can point your finger to a lot of things — didn't execute well, obviously, third down was an issue on both sides of the ball, which led to the time of possession issue and all those type of things.

"Three third downs on defense where you have penalties that extend drives by four plays, five plays, nine plays, lead to 10 points, that's shooting yourself in the foot. Talked about the dropped passes, which are totally uncharacteristic of our guys. We had opportunities, we had chances."

They just couldn't convert.

Indy can't afford a repeat this week against Manning and the high-scoring Broncos (6-0).

Denver averages 44.2 points per game, a pace that would shatter the NFL's single-season scoring record set by New England during its perfect 2007 regular season (589).

One way to combat the Broncos is to steal a page from San Diego's game plan by keeping the ball on the ground and out of Manning's hands.

But Indy has to find other solutions and fast. The Colts have been credited with eight drops over the previous two weeks, and the slow starts are becoming a disturbing trend.

At San Diego, the Colts settled for field goals on the first and last drives of the first half.

The previous week against Seattle, they fell into a 12-0 deficit after opening the game with three straight three-and-outs. Give Manning an opening like that, and it's game over as players such as Wayne know all too well.

But the Colts have been one of the league's most resilient teams since Pagano's arrival.

They went from 2-14 in 2011, when Manning missed the season with a nerve injury, to 11-5 under Luck last season -- tied for the second-greatest one-season improvement in league history. They did that as Pagano spent most of the season battling cancer.

Indy still has not lost two straight under Pagano, a streak they kept intact by winning at defending NFC champion San Francisco in Week 3, and they have won nine of their past 10 home games.

They've just never had to rebound on a short week.

"Again, Sunday can't come quick enough," Pagano said. "You play a West Coast game on Monday night, you deal with it as things come. We'll put a plan together and get these guys back, get some guys back hopefully and get them healthy and recharged and all those type of things and, hopefully, get ready to play a good ball game on Sunday night."

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