INDIANAPOLIS – A coach's trained eye always is peeled for improvement. Even the stressed eyes of Chuck Pagano, coming off a third straight prime-time game, did not have to look hard to spy areas that demand immediate attention.
In a 27-24 win, Pagano saw his team come back from an 18-point halftime deficit after an opening half that found Houston:
- Roll to 294 net yards, including 96 on the ground
- Have veteran Andre Johnson and second-time starter Case Keenum play pitch-and-catch for 190 yards and three scores, including 62- and 41-yarders to open the scoring
- Have an offensive line allow Andrew Luck to absorb many of his 11 hits and four sacks
- An offense that gained 102 yards, did not complete a second-quarter pass and failed on six third-down chances
- A special teams performance that included a blocked field goal and a bobbled punt snap
"Obviously, (we) didn't get off to the start we wanted to get off to," said Pagano. "I don't think you could start a game any worse in all three phases. Credit Houston. They had a lot to do with that.
"We got to get better. We got to focus on us. We got to focus on blocking, tackling, running, catching, communication. We got to play consistent football for 60 minutes. We can't have the kind of starts that we had (Sunday). We're very, very fortunate to get out of there with a victory. I think everybody understands that."
Pagano credited his team's fight throughout the game. He said the defense improved in the second half by having its units in sync after problems in playing the right calls cropped up in the first 30 minutes.
Offensively, the Colts had three successive touchdown drives to take the lead with four minutes to go, and the defense made two stops.
Indianapolis has been nagged with slow starts in 2013 on numerous occasions, plus a game-long down outing at San Diego three outings ago.
As the Colts look to repeat 3-1 first and second quarters to the season, fully efficient games in all phases are musts.
"It's the big pink elephant in the middle of the room. The win does cure, you can walk around it and avoid it but we don't do that," said Pagano. "They'll watch that tape. We'll point out everything in all three phases and get the mistakes corrected, get the communication, the technique cleaned up.
"You can't drop snaps, can't give up sacks, big plays. You name it, we did it. Everybody knows exactly what they need to clean up for us to play better football."
PUNT WAS REVIEWABLE – When Pat McAfee was hit by Houston's Bryan Braman on a first- quarter punt, officials thought Braman touched the ball, thus negating a violent roughing penalty that would have provided Indianapolis a first down.
Pagano asked for a review, knowing the replay would validate the penalty he sought. He was told, however, that was not a reviewable play. Ahead 7-0, Houston quickly doubled its advantage on a long scoring pass, when a correctly-called penalty would have put Indianapolis at its 43.
Pagano indicated today the matter is reviewable, but declined elaborate comment.
"I asked and was told that it wasn't challengeable, but apparently it is a challengeable play, said Pagano. "There is something in the rule book there that says you can apparently (review it)."
INJURY UPDATE – Pagano said Darrius Heyward-Bey was the only casualty Sunday, but that he did not suffer a concussion as some thought when he took a shot to the head on a slant route in the third quarter. Heyward-Bey passed the concussion protocol, but Pagano did not return him to action. He believes Heyward-Bey is fine and is ready for work.
Players who missed Sunday's game while hurt were Josh Gordy (groin), Delano Howell (neck), Cam Johnson (knee) and Greg Toler (groin). No update was available on their status.
Pagano said he did reach out to Denver's John Fox over the weekend as well as to Houston's Gary Kubiak, who suffered a medical event on the field at the start of halftime. Kubiak remains hospitalized Monday, while Fox has undergone successful heart surgery. No timelines are established for their returns.
"We've reached out and let those guys know that they're in our thoughts and prayers," said Pagano. "Hopefully they get things taken care of and get their health back. We're playing a kids game, but real life is real life. If you don't have your health, you really have nothing.
"The game's the game. When it comes to a guy's health and the things those guys are dealing with now, it's not easy."