This year, the Colts have alternated between stretches of difficult-to-watch and astoundingly great play. While it always looks better when they win, the problems still exist, and Head Coach Chuck Pagano is well aware of the egg the team nearly laid on Sunday Night Football.
“You’re exactly right,” he said to a reporter asking about the team’s first half problems. “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.”
They’ll come back in here Wednesday morning and a lot of guys are already in here. They’ll be in here tomorrow. They’ll watch that tape. We’ll point out everything in all three phases. Individually, as position groups and go back to work and get the mistakes corrected, get the communication cleaned up, get the technique cleaned up.”
If there’s anything about play calling anyone hopes they will change (and the first half disaster did raise some questions before three straight 2nd half TD drives), Pagano isn’t showing his hand – and he shouldn’t. He did sound, however, quite a bit like a coach coming off a loss, which is appropriate considering the way much of the game transpired.
“You can’t drop snaps,” he said. “We know that,” he said. “You can’t have punts blocked, so to speak. Even though we don’t feel like from a TV copy they got a piece of that ball. Can’t give up sacks, big plays. You name it, we did it. We’ll take a look at it. Everybody knows exactly what they have to do and what they need to clean up for us to play better football.” (It should be noted the amazing play by the punter after that dropped snap, penalties notwithstanding)
In the second half, as we all know, the Colts only handed the ball off to a running back once before the final “dive play” drive to burn up the Texans’ time outs (a first down on that possession could have ended the game). Despite receivers dropping passes all over the field, they chose to put the game in the hands of their best player.
Luck came through, forcefully building chemistry and confidence with his receivers on the fly, and the quick-striking aerial attack was more than the Texans could handle.
“Again being down what we were we didn’t want to totally abandon the run game, but we felt like the offensive guys did a great job.” Pagano said. “Pep did a great job changing the tempo a little bit. Did a little bit more up-tempo and give our guys a chance to make some plays.”
Luck does it Again
Pagano went on to say he hasn’t seen a tougher quarterback under pressure, something we’ve heard many times over the past couple years, as Andrew Luck keeps piling up spectacular moments and game winning drives (10 now in 24 career regular season games).
For all of us watching as the young quarterback powers through would-be sacks, throws perfect strikes with defenders closing in, and otherwise excels on the field, we’re often surprised by his play, despite already expecting something great.
Not so, for his teammates and coaches, who see it every week, every day, every practice snap. “No, because he does it every day in practice,” linebacker Erik Walden said of whether he’s ever surprised or amazed by what Luck can do. “Being in Green Bay last year, I was a witness of it. When we had them 21-3 and Luck led the comeback being a rookie. That speaks volumes about him and he just continues to work hard. He’s a great person, great person off the field. We follow his lead.”
There are plenty of stats to back up what a fine QB Luck is turning out to be – 13 touchdowns to 3 interceptions, a 71 QBR (5th in the league), a 91.5 standard QB rating, 17-8 record (including the playoffs), 7 fourth quarter comebacks, and those 10 game winning drives. Until you’ve seen him play, it’s hard to have a full appreciation for all that Andrew Luck is on the football field.
The Texans like to try use cornerback Jonathan Joseph to take away the opposition’s number one receiver, and on Sunday night, they did just that to T.Y. Hilton, for a couple quarters, anyway. In the first half, Hilton had just 1 reception for 6 yards.
We all know the story of the second half though, where Hilton caught 5 passes for 115 yards and 3 touchdowns. “Andrew did a great job getting me the ball,” Hilton said. “We went in at halftime, made some adjustments. The O-line really stepped up. It was just a team win and I was able to make the plays for my team and help us win.”
Adjustments. They definitely made some halftime adjustments and put Hilton in some good situations (such as a one on one matchup with nickel corner Brice McCain on one of his touchdowns), but the young receiver also had some support and motivation from Reggie Wayne. “Yeah, we talked before the game, we talked during the game, we talked at halftime,” Hilton said. “At halftime, he looked me in the eyes and told me, ‘You owe me one, man. Go out there and do what you do best, just go out there and have fun.’ Once I hit the second half, I was able to get it going and after the game, he said, ‘Now that’s what I’m talking about. That’s what I’m talking about.’ We just kind of took that moment in.”
Leadership is important in an NFL locker room, perhaps more important than most of us realize, and the positive effect Wayne’s presence two weeks after his injury – not to take anything away from the halftime adjustments – should not be underestimated.
Leftovers: Weighing in on Gary Kubiak and Richie Incognito
According to NFL.com’s Ian Rapport and Dan Hanzus, Gary Kubiak had a transient ischemic attack at halftime on Sunday night, or a mini-stroke. He’s doing well now, and he’s seen a huge outpouring of support from all around, including Chuck Pagano, who knows a thing or two about missing time for serious health reasons.
– Pagano on reaching out to both Kubiak and Broncos coach John Fox: “Yeah, I reached out to Coach Fox when he had his episode, sent him a text and just let him know we were thinking about him and keeping him in our thoughts and prayers. Same thing with Coach Kubiak. I’m not sure where he’s at, but we’ve reached out and let those guys know that they’re in our thoughts and prayers. Hopefully they get things taken care of and get their health back. We’re lucky, we’re playing a kids game. Our players are playing a kids game. But real life is real life and if you don’t have your health, you really have nothing. I feel very fortunate, obviously, to have behind me what I went through. The game’s the game, but when it comes to a guy’s health and the things those guys are dealing with now, it’s not easy. Die a thousand deaths out there. This game can be hard on you, as we know.”
– Erik Walden on hearing about Kubiak: “We weren’t really aware, I know me personally, until after the game. Coach (Pagano) had announced it and we said a prayer for Coach Kubiak. We weren’t really aware of it, I know I wasn’t personally, until after the game. It was something you don’t want to hear. We definitely keep coach in our prayers and everybody is remorseful about that.”
– Texans WR Andre Johnson on what the Texans have told him about Kubiak: “Pretty much the same thing everybody else has been told. He’s doing fine. He’s in good spirits. That’s pretty much about it.”
– Johnson again, on whether he expects Kubiak to return to practice this week: “I feel like he’ll be back this week. Just knowing him and knowing his passion for the game, I don’t think he would miss a game. I think, if he can be out there, he’ll be out there.”
In other NFL news, Richie Incognito, long considered a dirty player turned out to be a person in need of serious personal reform. There’s no telling whether Incognito can ever make some kind of about face with his character, or if anyone will ever believe he has, but it has brought the subject of hazing to the forefront in recent weeks.
Pagano on hazing and whether he’s ever seen anything like what happened in Miami: “Never really been around it, fortunately. I can’t speak to anybody else’s locker room except our own. We try to create an environment and a culture here based on our core values, which are trust, loyalty and respect. We got great veteran leaders in our locker room that take care of things. Our guys, we talk about serving and respecting one another. We’re fortunate. We got a great locker room and a great building.”
Hilton, who was a rookie last season, on hazing in the Colts’ locker room: “Oh, not at all. We’re a family here and we take everybody in. That’s our motto, we’re a family. We put all our chips in and we just respect one another, no matter what it is. We all got to respect each other and it shows on the field.”
Walden, who said they have a no-nonsense policy on hazing in Indianapolis, on whether they ever ask rookies do little things for their veteran teammates: “Yeah, exactly. Carrying the helmets or sunflower seeds or Gatorade or whatever it may be. Nothing to the extreme where you have a person pulling a no-show, messing with their confidence or anything of that nature. I don’t really give into that.”
All quotes are courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans PR Departments.
That's all we have for now. Next on the Notebook, we'll talk about the Rams game.