By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — Consistency.
On a Monday that Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano described as "miserable" during his weekly news conference, that's the word everyone seemed to keep coming back to.
The Colts have lacked nearly any semblance of it during a disappointing 1-1 start.
There have been flashes of the team Indianapolis can become, but they have not been sustained. The first quarter of the opener against Oakland was one high point. The second quarter Sunday against Miami was another. But the other six quarters of football the Colts have played this season have ranged from mediocre to ... well, miserable.
"I just think we got to play better," Pagano said. "We got to play 60 minutes of consistent football on both sides of the ball and on special teams. We'll continue to look for ways to make sure that we can do that."
Indianapolis opened a 14-0 lead against the Raiders, then watched Oakland run off 17 unanswered points to take control of the game. A 19-yard touchdown scramble by quarterback Andrew Luck allowed the Colts to escape with a win in the fourth quarter.
The script was flipped on Sunday against the Dolphins. Miami surged to a 14-3 lead only to watch Indianapolis rally for leads of 17-14 and 20-17. Tight end Charles Clay's 1-yard touchdown run with 4:40 remaining in the third quarter made the difference for the Dolphins.
A solid first half followed by a spotty second half is the one thing both games have in common. Nowhere is that better illustrated than in the difference between Luck's passing numbers.
The second-year star has thrown for 369 yards in the first two quarters this season. But he's thrown for just 130 yards after intermission. In a related matter, the Colts have scored 31 points in the first half this year and just 10 in the second.
"I just think we need a little more focus, realize it's a long ballgame," Luck said. "We've got great veterans in this locker room. I think we've got great football players. We realize we can't survive our mistakes every week. We realize we can't make as many mistakes, especially in the second half. Maybe that is a bit of lack of focus, or whatever it is, I don't think I can put my finger on it. But it's something we'll focus on and hopefully improve upon."
Luck took much of the blame upon his own shoulders in the immediate aftermath of Sunday's game, saying he was attempting to force big plays downfield in the second half instead of taking what the defense was giving him.
But there was plenty of blame to go around.
And some it even extended into the first two quarters.
The Colts failed to score on their opening drive despite reaching the Dolphins' 34-yard line. Pagano elected to kick a field goal on fourth-and-1, and Adam Vinatieri clanged the 52-yard attempt off the left upright.
On the next possession, Indianapolis advanced to Miami's 12-yard line but had to settle for a 30-yard field goal.
The Colts started the third quarter with what appeared to be a 15-yard touchdown pass from Luck to tight end Coby Fleener, but the score was called back on an illegal shift penalty.
Luck later threw an interception into the end zone on first down from the Dolphins' 34-yard line with 8:20 remaining in the fourth quarter, and he was sacked on fourth-and-10 from Miami's 23-yard line on the Colts' final possession of the game.
"We left a lot of points on the field," Pagano said. "Again, (the Dolphins) made the plays when they had to, and we didn't."
The Colts don't have much time to find a solution to the problem.
They travel to San Francisco this week to meet the defending NFC champions, and the 49ers (1-1) are likely to be in a surly mood after suffering a 29-3 loss against rival Seattle on Sunday night.
Luck conceded the loss to the Dolphins stung. But he said Indianapolis doesn't have time to continue feeling miserable.
"We realize we can't go back and do anything about it," he said. "They won fair and square. You can't complain about it. You can't say you got cheated or robbed or what have you. We realize we've got a lot of work to do. We looked at it, saw our mistakes, cleaned a few up (Monday) and hopefully fundamentally we'll continue to get better. You'd love to win, but we didn't. So move on to the next one."