INDIANAPOLIS – While the Indianapolis Colts have had some eye-popping seasonal starts in recent years by winning five (2003), seven (2007), nine (2006), 13 (2005) and 14 (2009) games, the club has dropped opening games, too.
Four times in the last nine years the Colts have dropped their opening game, and that includes last Sunday's 34-7 loss at Houston.
Each previous time the club has been able to correct itself in week two and reach 1-1. The loss in the 2004 opener was by three points. In 2008, the loss was by 16 points, while the club fell by 10 points in the 2010 opener at Houston, too.
The aim for this week is to emerge 1-1. It is the mindset of each player and coach, and center Jeff Saturday verbalized the mission this week, and he framed the position the club is in.
"The truth is, 34-7 or 24-14, it's still a loss," said Saturday. "Half the teams in the league are sitting where we are. They don't count points, unless you really get close in tiebreakers. I don't think anyone is really concerned with that (the loss margin). We can justify each and every point they scored, especially early in the game. For us when we got back into that rhythm, we showed we can move the ball, we can be effective. I think that's what you build on. You have a game here against Cleveland at home. We need to get a win."
The outing at Houston was a difficult one for the Colts. The club fell behind by double digits in the first quarter after suffering two turnovers on offense. The team was without quarterback Peyton Manning, who missed the game with a neck injury that will keep him out for an undetermined duration. Veteran Kerry Collins started with less than three weeks experience with the club, but issues for the loss were greater than the presence of Collins and the absence of Manning.
"None of us played well. It had nothing to do with Kerry," said Saturday. "As an offense we just didn't play well, and we didn't execute when we needed to. (We had) fumbles, sacks, penalties, any way you could shoot yourself in the foot, we did it. Kerry doesn't have any control over all of that. We just have to play better as an offense.
"Obviously, he's not here but to attribute (it to his absence), I don't think if Peyton was back there it would have been much better. We didn't play well. We weren't efficient in our offense. We started out okay, (we were) moving the ball but penalties set us back. The next drive, (we) fumbled and turned it over inside our 20. It just adds up and snowballs. We just didn't produce the way we need to, and we didn't get it done."
Part of getting a job done in athletic competition relates to performance integrity. With a significant halftime deficit, the club responded with better play over the final 30 minutes. Offensively, Indianapolis had 10 of its 15 first downs and 164 of its 236 net yards in the last two quarters, while the defense produced two of its three takeaways in that span as well. It was an effort that indicated the club's resolve to fight and take what it could from a tough afternoon.
"I felt like we fought, there was no doubt and there was no quit in any of the guys," said Saturday. "The effort was very good. I felt like we got better as the game went on. We settled down, started putting together productive drives (and) moving the ball a little better. But when you spot somebody 34 points, you're playing for pride at that point. You're just hoping that something happens. The Texans, give them credit, they took advantage of every mistake we made and made the most out of it."
Saturday discounted any notion that the outcome would have lingering effects. He and other teammates know it was one of 16 games, and that the outcome held no significance greater than any regular-season loss that has happened previously to the team.
"Confidence-wise, no," said Saturday when asked if the game would hurt the club's mindset going forward. "It shows you that you can take yourself out of a football game pretty quick. They didn't do anything to do it. We made mistakes, we did things we know we can't do. It catches up to you. You can't go out and start a game that poorly, especially turning the ball over twice inside your own 20 in the first three series. You're not going to get much traction that way. A loss is a loss. I don't think points-wise…there were self-inflicted wounds. When you stop drives by getting penalties, or you stop drives by turning it over, those are self-inflicted. You can't give teams advantages like that."