By now, you've likely heard that the Colts stunk today. Like, really stunk. The Colts lost to the Cowboys 42-7 in Dallas and were completely embarrassed. And if you thought it was bad, you're right. It was the worst loss of the Chuck Pagano era in Indianapolis.
There have been some other bad ones. There was the 35-9 loss to the Jets in 2012 (with Bruce Arians filling in as interim head coach). There was the 38-8 loss to the Rams in 2013. There was the 40-11 loss to Arians' Cardinals in 2013. There was the 43-22 loss to the Patriots in the playoffs last year. There was the 42-20 loss to the Patriots this year. In 2012, with Bruce Arians as interim head coach the Colts lost by 35-points to the Patriots, 59-24. In other words, Sunday's loss tied for the largest margin of defeat in the Chuck Pagano era and the largest with Pagano actually on the sideline. Not since a 55-point week seven loss to the New Orleans Saints in 2011 have the Colts lost by more points than they did on Sunday afternoon (35). That 2011 loss saw an 0-7 Colts team coached by Jim Caldwell and quarterbacked by Curtis Painter lose by 55 on the road to the Saints. Sunday's 35-point loss was tied the largest margin of defeat for the Colts under Chuck Pagano. And the seven points scored? The fewest in a game by the Colts under Pagano. The 42 points given up, however? Tied for just the fifth-most given up by the Colts' defense in the Pagano era.
The defeat goes much further than just margin of defeat, however. On Sunday, for really the first time under Chuck Pagano, we saw a team that looked like they didn't care. Like they'd given up. Now, of course that's not really true because the Colts have too much pride to actually not care about this game. But understand that if a coach on the hot seat had his team play like the Colts did today, it'd be pretty damning. Now, Pagano isn't a coach "on the hot seat" right now (as in, he's not really coaching for his job each week), but that doesn't mean we can overlook the performance today. Certainly, players need to be held accountable. But it's not a good look for Chuck Pagano, either.
Chuck Pagano is a coach that preaches discipline. And the Colts turned the ball over three times today and committed eleven penalties (eight of which were accepted). Chuck Pagano has wanted his Colts to be a team that can run the football and stop the run. For playing a team with a great offensive line and the league's leading rusher, the Colts actually did a pretty good job overall at stopping the run, as they held the Cowboys to 3.2 yards per carry in the game and DeMarco Murray to 2.6 yards per carry. But running the football? The Colts set a franchise record for the fewest rushing yards in a single game with one. Seriously - the Colts rushed for one yard on ten carries.
Speaking of running the football, the Colts displayed an unwavering commitment to the ground game on the first series of the game. They ran three straight times to open the game. Stupid, yeah, but we've seen that from the Colts at other times this year too - running to just keep digging the Colts in a bigger hole. Normally, they at least let Andrew Luck have a shot to air it out on third and long. But this time? It was a Trent Richardson run on third and long. As you might have expected, after the drive netted negative one yard, the Colts were set to punt. They obviously didn't care at all about being aggressive, so they didn't let their star quarterback throw the football once. Instead, they just let their punter do it. On fourth down, the Colts called a fake punt pass, and though McAfee's throw was on target, it was dropped by Dewey McDonald. The call? Ok, whatever, he was being aggressive - it just wasn't executed well. But throwing with Pat McAfee when they weren't willing to throw with Andrew Luck?
Let's not overreact to one loss in a sixteen-game season. The Colts stand at 10-5 and have wrapped up a home playoff game in a couple of weeks. But it's hard to look at this game and see anything other than the worst loss for the Colts in the Chuck Pagano era. Want to say the playoff loss to the Patriots last year was worse? That's fine. But this game was tied for the largest margin of defeat for the Colts under Pagano, the fewest points scored by the Colts under Pagano, the team set a new franchise record for fewest rushing yards in a game (one), they turned the ball over three times and committed eleven penalties (eight accepted). It wasn't a good game at all. And while Chuck Pagano might just preach that the Colts need to "stick to the process," today that process was broken. And the monster that the Colts have been trying to build? Once again against a good offense, it looked nothing like a monster at all.