INDIANAPOLIS –During the week leading into an important game at Arizona, Chuck Pagano said one quick way to correct slow first halves that have nagged his team was to convert third downs and extend drives to keep opponents off the field.
Indianapolis was not able to reverse the trend by failing to register first downs on five-of-six first-half possessions as Arizona capitalized quickly in earning a 40-11 victory.
The Colts entered Sunday having converted three-of-20 first-half third-down chances in outings against Houston (27-24 win), St. Louis (38-8 loss) and Tennessee (30-27) win, but were zero-for-five in the opening periods Sunday in trailing after 30 minutes, 27-3.
"Lack of execution. (Give) credit to them. They made the plays, we didn't," said Andrew Luck to Colts Radio. "Just a lack of execution. We had our opportunities. I missed throws, just things happen. It stinks. It was a frustrating loss."
Luck was six-of-15 for 42 yards in the first half, suffering an interception that was returned for a score, while the club's ground attack netted 16 yards. He finished 20-of-39 for 163 yards, with a 17-yard scoring pass to Coby Fleener.
Arizona took possession at the outset and moved 80 yards in 10 plays for a 7-0 lead five minutes into the game. Carson Palmer (26-of-37 for 314 yards) hit Larry Fitzgerald on four- and 26-yard scoring passes as Arizona took a double-digit lead before the quarter ended.
The Cardinals amassed nine first downs on their first 13 plays and though the Colts blocked a field goal on the second drive, Arizona continued with its execution. Arizona had 274 of its 410 yards and 17 of its 27 first downs in the first 30 minutes.
"We don't have a whole lot of time ahead of us. We have to figure out something in a hurry," said Pagano to Colts Radio. "We gave up the touchdown on the first drive, then got the blocked field goal, but (we) couldn't get the ball down the field. We couldn't convert on third down, you go across the board.
"We've got some things to finish, and we have to fix them in a hurry. We'll get that done."
It was the club's third long trip west and though Indianapolis had 10 days since its previous game, three prime-time games recently have pock-marked the schedule.
"We never will," said Pagano of pointing to an uneven schedule as a crutch. "There are no pity parties in football. Nobody certainly is going to feel sorry for us.
"It is what it is. We have to get some things turned around and fixed in a hurry."
Indianapolis welcomed Josh Gordy and Delano Howell back to the secondary, but lost Vontae Davis to a groin injury. It is the same type of injury that has shelved starting corner Greg Toler for the last three games.
"You hate to lose anybody," said Pagano. "Vontae will get an MRI tomorrow."
Tennessee was playing at the same time as the Colts, and the Titans won in Oakland, 23-19. Tennessee (5-6) was able to shave the Colts' AFC South lead to two games, and Indianapolis hosts Tennessee this coming Sunday in what now looms as a pivotal contest.
If the Colts and Titans had the same fate today and Indianapolis won next week, the club would have clinched its first divisional title since 2010.
Such talk, though, is beyond a playing roster that keeps intent focus only the immediate future. The Colts have yet to lose consecutive games since the start of the 2012 season.
The team's resiliency also was tested by a double-digit loss to San Diego (10 points) in addition to those incurred against St. Louis and Arizona.
It is the latest chance to overcome a setback.
"We know there is no pity party. There is no feeling sorry for yourself," said Luck. "We'll get back to work, look at the film, see where we went wrong and hopefully correct it.
"I can't promise anything, but I know guys have always worked hard. I feel honored to be a part of that culture. I'm going to try to hold up my end of the bargain. I know other guys will, too. We'll work. This stinks, and we don't want it to happen again."
COLTS NOTES – Robert Mathis set the NFL record with a 40th career strip-sack when he got Palmer in the second quarter…Mathis had been tied with Jason Taylor at 39 since sacks were made an official stat in 1982…Mathis has sacks in 81 different games, tying Dwight Freeney's career mark…with 14.5 sacks, Mathis is 1.5 off Freeney's seasonal record from 2004, and Mathis (106.0) needs two sacks to break Freeney's (107.5) franchise record…Ricky Jean Francois had two sacks, three tackles for losses, three QB hits and a pass defense in an active night…Sergio Brown blocked Jay Feely's 28-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter…Adam Vinatieri hit a 27-yard field goal to score in a 156th consecutive games…Vinatieri has scored in 110 straight Colts games, eight shy of the franchise mark, plus he has connected on 29 of his last 30 inside 50 yards…LaVon Brazill went out with a low back contusion late in the game…Indianapolis has given up 11 TD passes in the last five games.