INDIANAPOLIS –Indianapolis dropped a 30-17 contest to the Washington Redskins in FedExField on Saturday in what was the second road game ever for a number of Indianapolis Colts.
Quarterback Andrew Luck was one of those players who was making a second-ever road NFL appearance, and he completed 14-of-23 passes for 151 yards and one touchdown. He rushed twice for eight yards and worked in a pocket that had a few too many white jerseys infiltrating it than the players in the blue jerseys preferred.
He did so in one of the NFL's toughest venues, helping his team accumulate 148 net yards and convert six-of-nine third-down plays in a first half of action where no possession originated in decent field position.
When it came time to assess his performance, one where the starting unit left the field down only 14-7 early in the second half, Pagano's words came to the fore.
"Fair. You know, (we) got points, but I think we shot ourselves in the foot a couple times," said Luck, who helped turn around years of futility at Stanford by guiding the Cardinal to a 31-7 record with him starting under center. "You've got to give credit to their defense for making plays. But, (my performance was) fair."
Luck is a tough judge, but that bodes well for the Colts.
Indianapolis had trouble establishing field position at Washington on Saturday. None of Luck's five possessions started outside the 21-yard line. A talented Washington defense, led by Coordinator Jim Haslett, rained in on Luck, who was nimble enough to work the pocket on multiple occasions. Still, he wanted more from himself for the performance.
"I'm not happy, but I also realize a preseason game is a chance to learn. I'm glad it's just a chance to learn. I'm not completely disappointed," said Luck.
Indianapolis was playing for a second week in a tough setting. After braving the elements of Pittsburgh's Heinz Field six days ago, the schedule-makers had a young Indianapolis squad venture into another spirited environment. It was a tall order for a team intent on building a program.
Indianapolis endured two sacks and a penalty that halted early momentum. This came after falling behind by 14 points early against the Steelers. It is a trend Pagano knows must cease.
"We have to look at the tape and figure out a way to start faster," said Pagano. "We had to back ourselves up on the 10-yard line, which helped us gain a couple first downs. We also had a couple instances where we had to give up a couple sacks, but really the bottom line is that we have to be more efficient in running the ball and also stopping the run. We will go back to work and fix the things we need to fix."
Indianapolis was out-rushed by almost 100 yards over the duration of the game, including a 101-25 deficit in the opening half. Luck hit a long third-down touchdown pass to rookie receiver T.Y. Hilton, but he was forced to operate in a crowded pocket on a number of occasions.
"He faced quite a few sacks today, which is why we have to go back and take a look at the tape in order to keep him clean," said Pagano. "We knew that the Redskins' defense was going to bring a ton of pressure, so we have to look at the tape."
When Luck views the film, he already has an impression of what he will see.
"I think they brought a lot of good pressure. Good blitzes, I thought," said Luck. "You know, obviously, it wasn't smooth sailing in the pocket, so it will be a great learning experience for me about how I can make sure the line is in the right place to get it done and for the line as well to sit down and talk about how to pick up these blitzes, whether it is the pass or the run game. That will be something I am looking forward to tonight or tomorrow morning."
Indianapolis has five days to get ready for the last preseason game at home against Cincinnati. After that, the season opener at Chicago looms. Luck takes a critical eye toward reviewing where he thinks the team is.
"We have a lot to improve on. I want to give credit to their defense," said Luck. "They forced us into some bad situations. The penalties and sacks really killed a couple of our drives, but I'm glad we put points on the board when we did. I'm glad it doesn't count in the win-loss column.
"I'm glad it is a preseason game and we look forward to watching the film and being our harshest critics."