INDIANAPOLIS – Colts fans have had a day to replay Sunday night’s game in Pittsburgh, one where Indianapolis rallied from a double-digit deficit to take halftime and third-quarter leads before allowing the game’s last nine points in falling, 26-24.
Pittsburgh hit a 22-yard field goal with 20 seconds remaining, using a Colts turnover with about six minutes left to stage the game-winning drive.
After the game, Head Coach Chuck Pagano cited his young team’s resilience and pluck in an intimidating venue against one of the league’s top teams. Late Monday, he reiterated that stance, said some corrections will be made, that he is relatively pleased with the effort and will work the team starting tomorrow for Saturday’s game in Washington.
“Obviously, (I’m) really happy. It just shows this team’s fortitude and resiliency. They’ve got great heart,” said Pagano. “It’s not an easy place to play, we all know that. Playing at Heinz Field is a tough place to play. Digging yourself a hole and then being able to come back and put together a bunch of stops on defense, play really well on special teams, have a couple 80-yard drives, and really a third one (was good).”
Down 14-0 after 12 minutes, Indianapolis scored the next 17 points on two 80-yard drives and a 53-yard half-ending field goal. A third possession ended inside the Pittsburgh 25 on a bobbled interception that did not slow subsequent offensive possessions.
“Andrew (Luck) hit T.Y. (Hilton) over the middle and it hits him right in his bread basket,” said Pagano. “Unfortunately it goes straight up into the air and it’s his (Luck’s) second pick. It really was just the luck of the draw on the play. Otherwise we probably would have had another touchdown drive. It looked like he (Hilton) would have been able to split the defense had he caught it clean.
“Then to execute the two-minute drill, get a stop on defense and then execute the two-minute drill (was impressive). Adam (Vinatieri) came in and set a Heinz Field record (53-yarder), kicked that field goal to go up by three at the half. Obviously we were real excited about the performance of the team coming off of such a poor start.”
Indianapolis was without the services of some key personnel who went down early in the game. Defensive end
“Austin (Collie) did suffer a concussion,” said Pagano. “He came in today…and basically is going to be day-to-day. Cory Redding, he’s got a mild MCL sprain. It could be a week or so. (Robert) Mathis is fine. We had a bunch of guys with nicks and bruises but basically, those are the two major ones.
“You just say your prayers, keep your fingers crossed. It’s always hard to see two guys like (Collie and Redding) that or anybody for that matter go down early. Obviously, we feel fortunate that things came out the way they did.”
While the offense and the play of Luck came in for mostly rave reviews despite two interceptions, one glitch in the outing was a blocked punt early in the second half that Indianapolis was able to contain to a field goal with a red zone defensive stand. Pittsburgh blocked
“Really good,” said Pagano of how he has felt about the performance of special teams so far. “They’ve been pretty consistent throughout the first two preseason games. Marwan (Maalouf) and Brant (Boyer) do a great job with our guys, our coverage units. You can see they’re flying down the field and there are limited returns. We’ve got some guys in the fold. We’ve got some explosive guys in the return game when we get the opportunity to return it. They’re young guys, there’s going to be some mistakes made, but again we felt good coming out of it.”
The blocked kick Pagano said was a technical mistake, coupled with the fact McAfee’s intended punt was directional and led right into the defender. It will be handled, and Pagano stated how huge solid special teams play is for his club.
“It’s major. It’s a credit to Marwan and Brant and what they’ve been able to instill in these guys to this point,” said Pagano. “They understand the value of special teams and it’s all based on possessing the ball, getting as many first downs as you can in the return game, setting up field position on both ends and covering kicks.
“You just look at the statistics, if you’ve got to go 80 yards on offense, you’re only going to score (a touchdown by league trends over the last decade) 15 percent (of the time). They understand the importance of it. We place a great deal of importance and time (on it). We put a ton of time in as far as meeting time and practice time. It’s been a priority, and it’s paying off.”
As the team reports on Tuesday, it will play two games in a 10-day span, starting with Washington on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. (ET). Rosters currently are at 90 players, but teams will need to trim to 75 before the Colts host Cincinnati on August 30. Roster size eventually will be 53 players.