INDIANAPOLIS – In the days leading into Sunday's game with St. Louis, Andrew Luck said the Colts could not continue to survive in mistake-filled outings.
Luck's remarks came after the Colts erased an 18-point deficit last week to beat Houston. Sunday brought his remarks to life as Indianapolis felt the sting of mistakes and sub-par execution in falling to the Rams, 38-8.
"One of our players mentioned that sooner or later it's going to catch up, and it caught up. Not enough rabbits foots in the pocket," said Chuck Pagano. "(We) can't keep digging ourselves a hole and hoping for another miracle, another comeback. (You) can't play football that way."
Pagano has seen his resilient Colts chalk up 10 comeback wins in 25 outings, three this season.
Sunday, he saw St. Louis score touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams in the first 20 minutes. He saw pressure on Luck and an opponent put his team in a one-dimensional mode that spelled defeat.
"It's never about competing," said Pagano. "These guys are going to compete their (tails) off to the bitter end. Poor technique, poor fundamentals, communication, that leads to disaster, to two-for-whatever on third downs, leads to one-for-five in the red area, minus-four turnovers."
Luck suffered a strip-sack touchdown on the club's opening possession. St. Louis needed only 43 yards for its first offensive score early in the second quarter.
Punt returner Tavon Austin bolted 98 yards on a punt return less than four minutes later when it appeared Indianapolis would pin the Rams deep. Austin added 57- and 81-yard scoring receptions to close the first half and open the second as the Rams built a 38-0 lead.
The Colts ran for only 18 yards, struggling on their own and against a tilted scoreboard. Entering the game, Luck knew he would be facing a defense that led the NFL in sacks-per-passes (one in 9.8) this year and in the number of sacks overall (163) during the past four seasons.
"It's tough when you can't run the ball, credit to them for forcing us into a one-dimensional attack," said Luck. "Did I have a sense of foreboding because we couldn't (run)? No, but it is tough when they force you into one-dimensional football."
Saddled with a drive start average at their 15 on seven first-half possessions (six punts, one turnover), the Colts converted one-of-eight third downs and rushed for five yards in trailing, 28-0 at intermission.
St. Louis scored again before the offense took the field in the third quarter. Two drives ended with interceptions deep in Rams territory (one in the end zone) before Luck teamed with Donald Brown on a 13-yard scoring play with 1:35 left in the third quarter.
Luck was stopped on a fourth-down rush at the Rams' one early in the fourth quarter, and Indianapolis followed with two more interceptions in the St. Louis end zone. The last one came from Matt Hasselbeck, who relieved Luck with 5:24 to go.
Luck hit 29-of-47 passes for 353 yards before exiting. He was the club's leading rusher with 17 yards. After being sacked four times and hit on 11 occasions at Houston, St. Louis sacked him three times and was credited with seven hits.
Luck was able to team with T.Y. Hilton seven times for 130 yards, Hilton's ninth career and second consecutive 100-yard performance. Brown had five receptions for 64 yards. Those totals were not enough to keep the Colts from falling to 6-3.
"You want to get back out there and get that taste out of your mouth," said Luck, as the Colts head to Tennessee for a Thursday night game. "We'll prepare. The short weeks are always interesting. We need to get back on the field and right our wrongs, absolve our sins, if you will."
Under Luck and Pagano, the Colts never have lost consecutive games. They remain two games ahead of the Titans, who lost at home to Jacksonville.
The Colts have owned the AFC South lead all but one week this season. On each of the eight occasions they have fallen in regular-season play under Pagano, they have bounced back with a victory.
Pagano is not as concerned with the past as he is at getting back into action.
"We got to move on. We didn't play well," said Pagano. "Credit them, they played better in every phase.
"It's a rough business. It's not for the meek. It's for grown men. We got broad enough shoulders to handle it. We ain't got time to dwell on it. It is what it is. We got our butts kicked and we got to move on."
COLTS NOTES – Adam Vinatieri's streak of 154 consecutive games scoring ended Sunday, as did a participation streak that dated to the start of the 2010 season…Robert Mathis set a franchise record with a 26th multiple-sack game, including six this year…Mathis has 13.5 sacks this year, and the franchise seasonal mark is 16.0 by Dwight Freeney in 2004…Mathis has 105.0 career sacks, and Freeney's franchise mark is 107.5…this marked the fourth game in franchise history where an opponent had three or more TDs exceeding 50 yards (4, NY Jets at Colts, 9/24/72, TD passes of 65, 67, 79 and 80 yards; 3, Miami at Colts 10/9/77, 90t KOR, rushes of 52, 66 yards; 3 at New England 11/18/12, 68t punt return, interception returns of 59 and 87 yards)…the Colts' six turnovers entering Sunday were the fewest in the NFL, and five nearly doubled the seasonal mark…after not converting their first eight third downs last week, the Colts were one-of-eight in the first half against St. Louis and were two-of-12 for the game…the Colts did not have a rushing first down for only the sixth time in franchise history…Mike McGlynn (thumb) and Larry Asante (hamstring) left the game with injuries and did not return…McGlynn will undergo an MRI Monday.
HALFTIME MOMENT – As the Colts and the NFL saluted veterans in all service branches on this weekend, the club arranged for a special meeting at halftime Sunday.
Sergeant First Class Jeremy Inocencio was transported onto the field at halftime to surprise his family – wife, Christin, and two sons (an eighth grader and first grader). Inocencio emerged from a vehicle to the delight of his family, and extended hugs lasted through thunderous applause from the crowd of 66,004.
Inocencio is a 10-year Army veteran who has served in Egypt, Thailand, Iraq, Afghanistan and nine other duty stations. He and Christin met at Fort Riley, Kansas, in 2005 when she was in active duty. Inocencio is a native of southern Indiana.
Love, teamwork, and communication get the family through the times of separation. He currently deployed in Afghanistan, and is due to return home toward the end of November.
SFC Inocencio's awards include multiple Bronze Stars, Army Commendation Medals, Campaign Medals (Iraq and Afghanistan), a NATO Medal, a Multinational Force and Observers Medal, Expert and Combat Infantry Badges, as well as Airborne and Air Assault badges.