Five Things Learned: Colts Embarrassing In Season-Opening Loss
Sean Haffey | Getty Images
LOS ANGELES – You were waiting for them to stop the fight.
Somebody, please make it end.
But the NFL calls for 60 minutes of football and when that did end, mercifully, on Sunday afternoon, the Rams had just dismantled the Colts in historic fashion.
Playing in a stadium that hosted the 1932 Summer Olympics, the Colts made history of their own on Sunday, but not the good kind. It was the team’s worst season-opening defeat in more than 30 years.
What did we learn from the Colts getting drubbed, 46-9, to the Los Angeles Rams?
FIVE THINGS LEARNED
“Asses” Kicked: Well, he’s right. The Colts did get their butts kicked on Sunday and Pagano made that clear in his post-game presser. On several occasions, Pagano alluded to the Colts being outcoached by Sean McVay, the 31-year-old Rams head coach who was coaching his first ever NFL game. The Rams were thorough in their beat down of the Colts, in all three phases. It marked the fifth time in six years that Pagano’s Colts lost the season opener. Getting off to better starts, in games and in a season, was a major focal point for Pagano in 2017. The Colts could not have been further from that on Sunday. It’s a 2017 schedule that sets up favorably for the Colts early on, no matter the healthy personnel. For a coach being evaluated on multiple factors in 2017, starting the season (again) like this is about as worst-case a scenario as Pagano could have had in Week One. This is the worst regular-season loss for Pagano.
Starting Quarterback Competition?: Yes, the Colts have a starting quarterback dilemma one week into the regular season. That’s what happens when Scott Tolzien completes just nine passes, has two interceptions returned for a touchdown and is benched early in the fourth quarter because of an abysmal 33.8 quarterback rating. Until Andrew Luck returns, the coaching staff must decide what direction they want to go at quarterback. Backup Jacoby Brissett came in for Tolzien and was 2-of-3 for 53 yards, leading the lone touchdown drive for the visitors. Brissett didn’t have much “on his menu” from a playbook standpoint on Sunday, per Pagano, and that’s to be expected, as the new quarterback has been a Colt for barely more than a week. Tolzien did not get much help around him on Sunday either, but his own play was not starting-caliber by any measure. Is a change coming in Week Two? Pagano said afterwards the Colts would be taking a look at everything, including the team’s starting quarterback.
Career-Day for Jared Goff: Sunday’s matchup was between two winless quarterbacks. Tolzien played like one. Jared Goff (0-7 as a starter coming into 2017) did not. The No. 1 overall pick from last year shredded the Colts, thanks to ample time to throw and the Rams out-scheming the Colts to death with deep crossers and over routes. The Colts limited Rams running back Todd Gurley to just 2.1 yards per carry on 19 attempts. However, there was no stopping Goff in his 21-of-29 afternoon for 306 yards and one touchdown. Coming into Sunday, the Colts wanted to make Goff beat them. Well, they gave him every opportunity to do just that. Goff’s performance came against a Colts’ defense that had 10 of its 11 starters healthy. Remember, the Rams were the 32nd ranked offense in the NFL last year. That’s dead last in the NFL.
No Challenge: Speaking of evaluating Pagano, his in-game handling of challenges likely cost the Colts big time in Sunday’s first quarter. After going down 10-0 in the game’s first four minutes, the Colts appeared to have weathered things a bit. On a 21-yard catch and run by rookie Marlon Mack it looked like the running back had gotten into the end zone. Instead of challenging the call, Pagano and the Colts tried to go up-tempo and catch the Rams off guard. LA then stuffed the Colts on first and second down. An incompletion on third down forced the Colts to trot out Adam Vinatieri for a field goal. Pagano knew that points would be precious for the Colts on Sunday. So possibly costing his team four in this situation was a major mistake. The Colts would not have another drive reach the red zone until early in the fourth quarter, when the game had already been decided. Pagano took full blame for the no challenge afterwards. But the instinctual in-game coaching decisions have to improve, especially given the team’s current situation with injuries.
Hall of Famer Struggles: When Adam Vinatieri misses two kicks inside of 40 yards you know it’s a bad, bad day. Vinatieri knocked a 38-yarder off an upright and also missed a 33-yard extra point. With how the offense is moving the ball right now, Vinatieri has to be his typical Mr. Automatic self. Unless replays show otherwise, both of these misses are on Vinatieri, and not the team’s first-time long snapper (Luke Rhodes) or rookie holder (Rigoberto Sanchez). Vinatieri is one of the few givens this team has right now. But that was not the case on Sunday. If the kicking game starts to go the wrong way for the Colts in 2017 that adds another huge question to a team scrambling for so many other answers.
Pagano Quotable: On Sunday’s 46-9 loss: “Obviously we were dominated in this football game, in all three phases. Outcoached in this football game. It’s my responsibility. It falls on me. It all starts with me. I didn’t do a good enough job getting this team ready to go. We got our asses kicked. Period.”
Player Quotable: Scott Tolzien on being taken out early in the fourth quarter, with the Colts down 37-3. “You never want to be taken out of the game, but that’s what needed to be done at the time.” Tolzien finished Sunday 9-of-18 for 128 yards and two interceptions. Tolzien’s quarterback rating was an ugly 33.8.
Injury Report: Rookie ILB-Anthony Walker left with a hamstring injury in the first half. In the fourth quarter, starting nose tackle Al Woods got rolled up on, but later returned. On Sunday, the Colts were without three starters: QB-Andrew Luck (right shoulder), C-Ryan Kelly (foot) and CB-Vontae Davis (groin).
Key Stat: The Colts completed 11 passes on Sunday. That’s the fewest completions for the team in a game since 1996. The team was a shocking 0-for-10 on third down.
What’s Next: The Colts (0-1) better be one desperate football team when they return home in Week Two to take on the Arizona Cardinals (0-1). Bruce Arians’ bunch lost, 35-23, to the Detroit Lions on Sunday afternoon.