I like the Indianapolis media. Seriously, I respect the heck out of many of those guys and know some of them well. And I know that their hands are somewhat tied. The Colts basically just credential extra PR guys. That's why they're so particular and picky about who they actually give credentials to. Chuck Pagano isn't going to be drilled over his coaching tonight, and I get why not.
But he absolutely should be. Because tonight, Chuck Pagano, Pep Hamilton, and the coaching staff cost the Colts the game tonight.
Chuck, you can talk all you want about how that's a game you just needed to win. You can talk all you want about how your team needs to be better. You can talk all you want about how your team didn't play a 60-minute ballgame. You can talk all you want about how you need to get the losing taste out of your mouth. You can say all of those things as much as you want. I'm not the coach of the team and I'm not in control of what you can or can't say. But if you truly want to get better, it needs to start with you. It needs to start with your coaching staff. Tonight, if you had been better, your team would have won.
Yes, the officiating was awful. Yes, the officiating cost the Colts the game. If the officials had thrown the flag on the obvious defensive holding on T.Y. Hilton, Andrew Luck's interception wouldn't have counted and the Colts would have at least had another 3 points and quite possibly 7. Chuck Pagano was really pissed off about the no-call after the game, and rightfully so. The officials missed that one and they threw a flag for a horse collar that clearly wasn't. If the officials make the obvious right call, the Colts win. Plain and simple. I get that, and the officials shouldn't be given a pass, either. I mean, those were HUGE misses. HUGE. They cost the Colts the game.
But as Chuck Pagano himself said after the game, "we can't count on getting a call here or a call there," and that the Colts just have to be better. And he's right. Even though the officials blew the game, the Colts still had chances. And those chances were wasted by the coaching staff.
With over 3 minutes left in the game, the Colts got the ball tied at 27. Behind center was Andrew Luck, the man who has led 11 game winning drives in his short NFL career. Luck had played poorly for much of the first two and a half quarters, but the Colts didn't need him. They ran their way to an impressive 20-6 lead on the Eagles. When the Colts needed Luck, he stepped up in a big way. Early in the fourth quarter, he led a go-ahead drive, completing 7 of 9 passes for 73 yards and a touchdown. He caught fire in the fourth quarter, just as we figured he would.
So here the Colts had plenty of time in a tie ball game, needing just a field goal. They had one of the most clutch quarterbacks in the entire NFL leading the way. The Colts were in a good situation. But remember this offseason and preseason how I kept saying that the only thing that was really going to limit Andrew Luck was the playcalling? That was evidenced on the final drive.
The first play: a run to Trent Richardson for a gain of six yards. Ok. You know, I don't love the call, but I can live with it. If you want to run the ball on first down, fine - I wouldn't do it, but I'm not going to freak out about it.
The second play: a run to Trent Richardson for a loss of one yard. Now, I'm upset. You're seriously going to run it two times in a row in that situation, Pep Hamilton? Seriously? One run isn't ideal but it's manageable. Two runs in a row in that situation with Andrew Luck at quarterback? Are you freaking kidding me, Pep?
The third play: an Andrew Luck incomplete pass to Reggie Wayne. The Colts basically put Andrew Luck in a position where he had one chance to make a play.
So let's just try to imagine what Pep Hamilton was thinking on that final drive: "oh, Andrew Luck is as good as it gets in clutch situations? Let's run the ball twice here!" Absolutely inexcusable play-calling from Pep Hamilton. Andrew Luck has all the ability in the world to lead that comeback. And the Colts coaches never gave him the chance.
You know what, I was going to be effusive in my praise for Chuck Pagano. On the second drive of the game, the Colts faced a fourth and goal from the one yard line, down 3-0. Last week, Pagano was way too conservative early on. This week, he went for it and the Colts scored on a touchdown pass from Andrew Luck to Ahmad Bradshaw. He deserves major credit for that call.
But that's overshadowed, as it should be. Because the coaching staff lost the game. Blame it on Pep Hamilton if you want, and that's fair. His play calling sucked at the end of the game. I can't tell you how many messages I received from fans saying, "awful play calling," or something along those lines. And it's true. Chuck Pagano deserves blame too. Everybody does. This was a game the Colts should have won. And yes, the officiating needs to be talked about because, unfortunately, it cost the Colts the game. But that wasn't the only thing that cost the Colts the game. The team had other opportunities. And those opportunities were wasted by the coaching staff.
I love Chuck Pagano the person. He's as classy of a guy as you'll find. But Chuck Pagano the coach? It's hard to find a reason not to be upset tonight with the coaching staff, and it's hard to construct a way to say that the coaches are doing a good job without drawing laughter from fans or a paycheck from the team.
I get it. Chuck Pagano and Pep Hamilton will get a pass because of the crappy officiating. I get it. Fans love to blame the refs anyway, so when they actually screw it up, of course that's going to be the point of discussion. But the referees weren't the only ones who did an awful job tonight, and they're not the only ones who cost the Colts a win.
I'm looking right at you, Chuck Pagano and Pep Hamilton. Your calls lost your team the game tonight. I'm all for improving and getting better, and I know that the Colts will be fine. 0-2 isn't the end of the world, and there were plenty of things the Colts did well tonight. But if the coaches are serious about getting better and playing a complete 60-minute ball game, they need to start by looking at themselves. They stunk tonight. And they need to be held accountable.
I hope they use tonight as a learning experience. I hope tonight is a gut-check time for the coaches to realize that they need to be better. But right now, they're stuck with an 0-2 record and a blown 14-point lead, due in large part to awful coaching. Yes, the players need to do better. Yes, the officials need to do better. But so do the Colts coaches, because tonight, they were perhaps the biggest reason why the Colts lost the game.