INDIANAPOLIS —The Indianapolis Colts opened up the home portion of their 2017 regular season schedule on Sunday with a 16-13 overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
While a loss is a loss, the overall performance by the Colts on Sunday was encouraging for head coach Chuck Pagano, who saw the entire operation improve drastically from Indy's 46-9, season-opening loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
"In tight games like this, which most of them are in the National Football League, you've got to put teams away and you've got to score touchdowns in the red area," Pagano said. "But I'm encouraged. … There are no moral victories. We are 0-2 and it is what it is. We'll go back to work tomorrow and keep working to get better and find a way to win a game and come back and come back at home."
Here are the FIVE THINGS LEARNEDfrom Sunday's loss to the Cardinals:
• START 'EM UP:The Colts have always emphasized the need for a fast start to games, both offensively and defensively. That didn't happen Week 1 against the Rams, and the Colts found themselves in a deep hole that they just couldn't climb out of the rest of the way. It was a different story Sunday against the Cardinals, however, as the defense forced a three-and-out on Arizona's first drive of the game, and then the offense would go on a 14-play, 53-yard drive on its first possession that culminated in a Frank Gore five-yard touchdown run. Moving forward, the Colts will work on keeping that momentum going the rest of the way, but Sunday's game was certainly a step in the right direction.
• QUICK LEARNER:Jacoby Brissett got the start at quarterback for the Colts on Sunday, just 15 days after he was acquired in a trade with the New England Patriots. But the second-year North Carolina State product showed few signs of confusion or hesitation against the Cardinals, as he limited turnovers — Indy's only one was on its last play, an interception in overtime — and he was able to show an ability to stay poised both in and out of the pocket and find open receivers. Brissett finished the game completing 20-of-37 passes for 216 yards, and hopes to take advantage of yet another week working with the No. 1 offense to continue buttoning things up and learning the playbook.
• YOUNG SECONDARY:The Colts on Sunday were very young in their secondary, as they started two rookies at cornerback (Quincy Wilson and Nate Hairston), another rookie at safety (Malik Hooker), and then also had second-year safety Matthias Farley in the starting lineup, as well. But, for the most part, the group held together well, particularly in the first three quarters before Cardinals veteran quarterback Carson Palmer was able to open it up a little bit and finally put some points on the board. Wilson, in his first-career start, had a solid game (two tackles, two passes defensed), while Hooker (first-career interception) and Hairston (first-career sack) each made splash plays for the Indy defense.
• GOTTA FINISH:While the strong start was certainly encouraging for the Colts, they weren't able to sustain that tempo throughout the game. Eventually, the Cardinals — who were held to just three points the first three quarters of the game — started to click, and by halfway through the fourth quarter, Arizona found itself down just three points, 13-10. They tied it up at 13 about four minutes later, and actually had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation when kicker Phil Dawson's 42-yard field goal attempt was missed wide right. Defensively, Pagano talked about the need to tighten things up in the final minutes to ensure the opposing offense doesn't get the big chunk plays down the stretch that got the Cardinals in position to come back; offensively, the Colts were unable to put the game away on two different drives in the final 3:28 of regulation, and then Brissett's lone interception came on Indy's first play of the overtime period, and set up Arizona's game-winning field goal. All of these are items the coaches and players will review today as they apply corrections from the game and move on to next Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns.
• HE'S NO. 1:Kicker Adam Vinatieri moved atop another category in the NFL record book on Sunday. He converted two field goals and one PAT for seven points on the day, and on his second field goal of the day — a 29-yarder made in the fourth quarter — he passed Morten Andersen for the most field goals made from 20-29 yards in NFL history, with 177. This could just be one of many all-time records Vinatieri could break in the not-so-distant future, so stay tuned for those figures as they happen.