INDIANAPOLIS — This one hurt the Indianapolis Colts. Time will tell how much.
A tough, close win? Big, day-defining plays? The second-half comeback that turned clouds into sunlight?
This Sunday, the other team had 'em. Defeat left a hard question. Defeat usually does in the NFL.
Was that 24-20 loss Sunday to Miami a mere speed bump or something more telling?
You look at the schedule, and you can understand how much this hurt. The immediate future is a trek through a minefield, and a 2-0 record would have been much lighter baggage to carry. Next is a trip to San Francisco, with an obvious degree of difficulty. Four of the next six games are on the road. The next five weeks include a murderer's row of the 49ers, Seattle and Denver, led by some guy named Manning.
The Colts' hopes — not to mention their record — could sustain considerable damage in this trial by fire.
"Like I told them," coach Chuck Pagano said, "It's the National Football League. It doesn't get any easier."
You pick up the statistics sheet, and you can understand how much this hurt. There were five sacks by the defense. T.Y. Hilton was reintroduced to the game plan and had 124 receiving yards. The offense rolled up and down the carpet for 315 yards before halftime, the most robust first half in nine years, and that includes a lot of Peyton Manning days.
There were so many reasons for the Colts to win, except they didn't.
"You can talk about the stats, but what matters is the final score," Pagano said. "We were four points short."
You could listen to the regret in the locker room and tell how much it hurt.
"We should have been victorious, but should have doesn't count," safety LaRon Landry was saying. "It's going to be a bad feeling once we watch the tape. I already know it is."