INDIANAPOLIS – The feeling in the Colts' locker room after Sunday's 44-20 loss to Buffalo was one of disappointment and resolve but not despair.
Playing first units intact on two possessions before mixing in reserves, Indianapolis saw a 13-6 lead drop to a 30-13 disadvantage, and there were enough issues along the way that led to a preseason-opening home loss.
"Everybody top-to-bottom is disappointed," said Chuck Pagano. "(We) never envisioned going out and playing a football game and having the outcome that we had.
"Like I told the guys, it's never as bad as you think it is. It's never as good as you think it is. Somewhere between is where reality lies."
Reality is the Colts had a number of players injured, 18 from the 90-man roster, but missteps on the field spelled the story.
The Colts turned the ball over early in the Buffalo red zone on a drive that included a sack of Andrew Luck when he made a cadence error that basically cleared a path for Mario Williams.
Coby Fleener, who fumbled after a reception, could not secure a scoring reception that led to the club's first field goal.
The Indianapolis special teams allowed Marquise Goodwin kickoff returns of 53 and 107 yards. The second one knotted the contest and would have stood as the longest ever allowed in club history had it come in the regular season.
Buffalo ran for 136 yards, while Bills quarterbacks EJ Manuel and Jeff Tuel completed 35-of-44 passes for three touchdowns and a 119.6 rating.
"We had some positive things in the first half with our first offense," said Pagano. "(Andrew) Luck was driving the team. You shoot yourself in the foot. We're off late on a communication thing with a snap and we have a sack. You get a false start and you're first-and-15. You get a big play to (Coby) Fleener, they smack him pretty good and he puts the ball on the carpet. You have an opportunity for a big play in the back of the end zone, but (the defender) bats it.
"Special teams-wise, you're not going to win any football games or give yourself a chance to win by giving up big plays. To give up a big (kickoff) return and then a kickoff return for a touchdown, we have to address that and make the necessary corrections. We had plenty of opportunities to make plays on both sides of the football."
Said Fleener of his day, "Disappointing. To turn the ball over is something inexcusable. The next step is constant improvement. That's been our goal since Day One. That will continue. It's a learning experience."
Coaches talk in preseason of correctable mistakes. Those are what the Colts made in abundance on Sunday, and they have six days to make adjustments.
There were bright spots. Matt Hasselbeck and T.Y. Hilton teamed on a 45-yard scoring play, a work of beauty that ended with Hilton sliding into the end zone after the diving reception.
The Indianapolis defense stiffened three times in the red zone in keeping Buffalo out of the end zone. Linebacker Caesar Rayford had a sack-strip of Tuel that Daxton Swanson returned 72 yards for a touchdown.
"They put 44 points on the board," said Cory Redding. "They did a good job. You can't (overreact). This is preseason. There are some things we need to iron out. We're going to make mistakes. Granted, we made quite a few.
"I think we're going to get a lot of valuable things out of this tape. To see the things we messed up on, to see the holes we need to correct, those are big issues. We need to make them – tackling, making plays on the defensive side of the ball, offensive side of the ball and special teams, all three phases. Let's iron those things out."
Pagano is just one of many voices of leadership that embrace the high bar that is set and that expects greatness from his staff and the playing roster.
The next chance to put a good foot forward is next Sunday in New York against the Giants in a nationally-televised affair.
"We make no excuses," said Pagano. "We'll go back to work. Everybody is accountable, top to bottom. We'll go back to work and get things fixed. We'll put this behind us. Obviously, we have to play better, and we will play better."
INJURY UPDATE – Pagano said Dwayne Allen will be out for a couple of weeks with a foot injury. "He's in a boot. He's on crutches. They don't want weight on the foot for a couple of weeks. Nothing major, we expect to have him back sooner than later. He's probably going to miss a couple of weeks."
Allen was one of a few starters out for Sunday's game. Linebackers Pat Angerer and Jerrell Freeman and safety LaRon Landry were among those out.
Linebackers Justin Hickman (foot) and Quinton Spears (hamstring), defensive tackle Montori Hughes (stinger) and cornerback Cassius Vaughn (wrist) left with injuries.
Pagano said first-round draft pick Bjoern Werner was worked out before the game, but a determination was made not to put him on the field at less than full strength. Pagano feels Werner will be ready for Tuesday's practice.