“We didn’t do anything, and I take full responsibility as the head football coach,” Pagano said. “Did not have this team ready to play.”
This is the law of the NFL jungle. Bring your B game — or in this case, your F — and you get run over. It doesn’t matter that the opponent is 3-6, or the other quarterback is a journeyman who grew up raising cattle, or the home crowd is supposed to help prevent such things.
So just where are the Colts? They’re still 6-3 and atop the AFC South, but after Sunday, it is natural to wonder.
You wonder if this could be a momentum killer after all those thrilling escapes. “I don’t know the answer to that question, honestly,” Coby Fleener said. “Hopefully we can use it to make us better, and not let it beat us down.”
You wonder if they have grown too reliant on an imaginary safety net that slovenly starts can always be cured by electrifying rallies. “You can’t survive your mistakes in the NFL forever,” Luck said
You wonder how they will respond to being humbled so. “We just have to sleep on this tonight,” T.Y. Hilton said. “There will be less sleep and a lot of film working.”
You wonder if the cost of games such as Sunday will be felt in January, if the Colts are having to pack their bags for a trip to hostile Denver or New England.
And you wonder how a team that has shown so much can come up with such a clunker.
“It’s never (not) competing. These guys are going to compete their ass off until the bitter end. We know that,” Pagano said. “Poor technique. Poor fundamentals and communications. That leads to disaster. That leads to 2-of-whatever (12) on third down. That leads to 1-for-5 in the red (zone). Minus-4 turnover margin. Go on, and on, and on.
“It’s a tough business. It’s not for the meek. It’s for grown men. Everybody in that locker room, coaches and players, have broad enough shoulders to handle it.”
They’ll need to. Starting Thursday.