Most of the media that covers the NFL looked past the Monday Night Football match-up between the Colts and Chargers because... well, because duh!
The Chargers are a boring team in a quasi-rebuilding mode, playing in an old, decrepit stadium that didn't even sell out Monday night. Nothing against the lovely people who do root for the Chargers - and who show up for the home games - but when the next contest on the docket features Peyton Manning's return to Indianapolis, that is by far the bigger bone for the dogs to chase and slobber over.
For the players and coaches who work for the Indianapolis Colts franchise, it's a far different thing to look past an opponent. Unacceptable on every level.
Sadly, that's what it looks like they did.
There's no way to truly know if the Colts looked past the Chargers to the Sunday night match-up with the Broncos and Peyton Manning. However, based on how poorly they played in San Diego and how unprepared they looked, it's not hard to connect the dots.
Mike Florio of PFT offers up the first observation, taking a shot at Colts owner Jim Irsay, who was already talking Broncos v. Colts before Indy boarded their flight to sunny San Diego:
In that regard, it didn’t help that owner Jim Irsay opened the door on looking past the Chargers game by talking last week about the "great tribute" the team will have for Manning when he returns.
"It’ll be tremendous," Irsay said. "They will cheer, as deserved. When he comes back on the field, I think there will be a boisterous standing ovation, as there should be. He means so much to our franchise. It’s going to be crazy, but mostly it’ll be fun. I hope it’s just a great game."
But there was still a game to be played before it. When the owner speaks and it registers on the national radar, the players and the coaches hear it. While the coaches may have the wisdom and maturity to block it out, good luck getting a locker room full of guys in their 20s to set aside the looming Peytonmania and focus completely and exclusively on the task at hand.
Next is Michael Grady of 1070 The Fan in Indianapolis, who doesn't mince words about whether or not the Colts fell into a trap game:
Teams have off nights. They have bad games. I guess it’s not a surprise that this one comes six days before the most anticipated regular season game in franchise history. But fans can look ahead with no repercussions…players can’t.
Finally, there is Frank Schwab of Yahoo! Sports' Shutdown Corner:
This was a bad spot for the Colts. They were coming off a huge win, heard all week how great they are, but had to have an eye on next week's "Sunday Night Football" showdown against Denver and. A lackluster performance at San Diego wasn't that surprising. and the Chargers did play well.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion on this, and there is no definitive answer. Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star dismisses any notion that the Colts looked ahead to the Broncos. Based on opinions of media I've talked to this morning, and what I've read since the game ended last night, Bob is in the minority.
If you take a step back and look at the game from a distance, yes, the Colts fell into a trap game. The dropped passes. The missed tackles. The team seemingly unprepared to play. All those signs SCREAM looking ahead.
Players and coaches will say all the right things, and Chuck Pagano will certainly deny any suggestion that his staff took valuable time away from preparing for the Chargers to study the Broncos last week, but it doesn't matter. What Pagano and the players say on this subject is, effectively, meaningless.
Their play and their coaching did the talking, and the message sent was that they didn't take San Diego seriously enough.