The difference between a 1-2 record and an 0-3 record might seem minuscule and unimportant to some, but it’s a huge deal to NFL teams in a 16-game season.
Only four teams in NFL history have made the playoffs after an 0-3 start to the season, with the last coming in 1998. So for a team hoping to make the postseason, getting a victory to avoid that dreaded 0-3 start is huge. It doesn’t mean the problems are fixed, but it gives a bit of room for the players and coaches to breathe a sigh of relief.
That’s exactly what’s going on in Indianapolis right now, as yesterday the Colts avoided falling to 0-3 thanks to some last minute heroics from Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton, as the duo connected on a 63-yard touchdown with 1:17 left to defeat the San Diego Chargers 26-22.
“Huge. It’s huge,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said after the game of avoiding an 0-3 start. “Doomsday, soon thereafter. It isn’t but it is. This team needed this. We’ve been through, we faced adversity today and found a way to win. We didn’t do that in Weeks 1 and 2. These guys busted their tails and come in and do exactly what we ask them to do day after day. They stick to the process and keep practicing and keep grinding and eventually if you keep swinging the axe, the tree is going to fall. A much, much needed win.”
Quarterback Andrew Luck echoed the sentiments of his head coach. “Yeah, it’s huge,” he said after the game. “You need that first one and you just need to start stacking wins together. Obviously it’s going to be tough this week to go fly a ways and play Jacksonville. You need wins. It’s hard to verbalize how important it is, but I’m sure you can tell by my demeanor up here. It means a lot, it does.”
As Luck mentioned, the challenge is now continuing the wins and putting a streak together to continue climbing out of the 0-2 hole. With a weak division the Colts are very much still in the playoff hunt, but they’ll need to figure out a way to keep winning and keep improving. After all, they’re just one or two plays away from that 0-3 start: if T.Y. Hilton doesn’t make the fourth down play earlier on the last drive, Colts lose; or if T.Y. Hilton doesn’t score that touchdown, who knows whether the Colts would have later scored or not? They still have plenty of work to do, but it sure feels better for them to go about that at 1-2 than at 0-3. Again, it may seem inconsequential, but it’s a matter of relief for the team.
“Great win – we needed it,” running back Frank Gore said. “We needed it. Get the first one. Tip my hat off to San Diego – they played us hard. When it came down to crunch time we got the job done.”
“Yeah, you don’t want to dig that hole 0-3,” safety Mike Adams said after the game. “I’m going to be honest with you we needed this. Now we’re going to start letting it snowball effect. Now we want to just keep the ball rolling. Just keep it going like that. Defense played well. Offense played well. We played well on all three aspects, and that’s what we expect. We expect a lot from ourselves.”
“That’s definitely a big time difference,” said tackle Anthony Castonzo. “Obviously one win away from 2-2, once you’re back there you are kind of back in the hunt. That’s all we need to do, just keep winning games. Every game is a must-win in the NFL, that’s the NFL.”
“[It’s] big, man,” outside linebacker Erik Walden added. “You just put so much time and preparation just to get your body ready for something. Then practice, classroom, weight room and so the outcome is you always want to win. We were able to do that today, and hopefully it’s just something to start. Continue to get this momentum, and keep it rolling.”
So while for some fans the difference between 1-2 and 0-3 is just one or two plays (which is accurate), for the players and coaches it’s the difference between a “doomsday” scenario (in Chuck Pagano’s words) and staying in the mix. They have their first win out of the way, they avoided an 0-3 start, and now they can breathe a sigh of relief as they head to London this week hoping to build off of their first victory.