INDIANAPOLIS – Outcomes in the National Football League must be kept in perspective. Problems in losses must be addressed and corrected quickly. Successes in victories must be forgotten quickly as well.
Indianapolis sits with half the NFL at 0-1 after its 34-7 loss on Sunday at Houston. It was a difficult loss in the division where the team fell behind early and a tilted scoreboard affected the club's approach for more than half the game.
In the moments after the contest, head coach Jim Caldwell assessed the contest.
"I think (the game) was just a performance issue," said Caldwell. "They out-executed us plain and simple. I think our guys turned it around and got some momentum in the second half, but not nearly enough. We just never got on track. … I think our team can certainly get re-focused and re-directed for the next game coming up next weekend."
Indianapolis made things difficult for itself early on with two first-quarter fumbles that gave Houston short fields. Already ahead 3-0, the Texans needed only to drive 30 yards for two touchdowns following the Colts' miscues. The 17-0 advantage changed the course of the game. Houston added 14 of its 17 points in the second quarter on a length-of-the field drive and a long punt return and Indianapolis never was able to recover.
"They played hard and we couldn't get the ball going on the ground like we wanted to," said Caldwell. "A lot of the time the score dictates your actions."
On Monday, Caldwell was asked if he could blame the mistakes on jitters or miscommunication or just where he would attribute the problems with his team's play.
"It's not just one thing that you can put your finger on and say, 'This is what happened.' There were just so many little things that popped up, and that's typically how it occurs," said Caldwell. "One thing here, there and the other, and we just didn't execute well enough consistently. That's really how I would probably state it. There were some times when we're moving the ball pretty well, (but) a penalty knocked us out of scoring territory or a sack knocked us out of scoring territory. So that kind of nullified, obviously, a decent drive. Defensively, we had some situations where we played pretty well, but then we let a big play get out here or there. I think they had five passes for over 20 yards. It was just one of those days.
"The good thing is that, I believe there's no question that it's all correctable. Also, the good thing is that it's the first ballgame. We have 15 more to go."
The performance problems seemed to relate to consistency and execution in certain small situations that affected the bigger picture. The problems did not relate to team or individual effort or other things.
"I'm not sure if they were uptight, we just didn't execute very well," said Caldwell. "Obviously, when you turn the ball over twice and give them the ball early, on the 12-yard line and the 18-yard line, those are just a couple of miscues that you can't afford to give to a good football team. That certainly set an early tone, and we just couldn't get our feet back underneath us quickly enough to make some things happen. Our defense started pretty fast. We got a turnover right away, but we didn't capitalize on it from an offensive standpoint. They made them kick a field goal the next time they had the ball. You can't just make a blanket statement and have it cover the entire group, because there were some phases that were okay."
A great deal of the focus fell on the position where most credit or blame goes for every outcome, that being the quarterback. Kerry Collins was making his first start for the Colts and it was the first game for the franchise not started by Peyton Manning since 1997.
Still not three weeks into his tenure with the club, Collins completed 16-of-31 passes for 197 yards and one touchdown. He lost two fumbles and was sacked three times. Collins also connected with wide receiver Reggie Wayne for the club's lone score. Caldwell indicated too much scrutiny was given to Collins afterwards.
"For his first time out he hung in there and fought," said Caldwell. "Things didn't go as well as any of us would have liked, and there is certainly room for improvement. One thing about that position is that it depends heavily on a lot of other people involved in it as well. It's not just a one-man show. He's working on it, and, obviously, he'll get better.
"The key to what we're trying to do, I've told them even during the preseason, is that it's, 'Six inches at a time.' We're just going to have to keep marching along, keep improving and get just a little bit better each and every week. That's the key. That's for every position, not only his."
Just as Caldwell believes there is not one blanket statement to cover his entire team, he firmly would refute any notion that this is going to be the way his team will perform in coming games without the services of Manning.
"I don't believe that. Our team is a team that is going to get better and improve," said Caldwell. "I think you're going to see that. That's our challenge. The other thing is we don't make any excuses around here. We've got to get better, and we've got to play better. (The) bottom-line is everything that happened on that field is my responsibility to get those guys right, make sure we're doing things the right way, and we will."
Indianapolis has rebounded from tough losses before. Six days remain for re-focusing and re-directing on the practice field before the club has its home opener Sunday against Cleveland.