Colts still trying to dig out of winless hole
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indianapolis Colts are winless and frustrated.
They've blown leads and struggled to score. They've trailed early and been beaten late. They're hearing fans demanding changes, with growing calls to tank the season so the Colts can get the No. 1 pick in next year's draft.
This is what happens when the league's fastest-starting team over the last decade finds itself as the only 0-5 team in the NFL.
"It's a place we've not been before," right guard Ryan Diem said. "At the same time, we're focused on the most important game, which is the next game."
But this is new territory for the current batch of Colts.
Until now, not a single player on this year's roster had pulled on an Indianapolis jersey with an 0-5 record. Only one Colts player, Peyton Manning, had experienced 0-4 in Indy. His first NFL win came in Week 5 of his rookie season.
There's no magic plug to right the Colts' sinking ship.
Manning has undergone neck surgery twice since May 23, hasn't played a down since training camp opened and is unlikely to return to the practice field before December. Backup Kerry Collins still has not been cleared to play since his concussion against Pittsburgh on Sept. 25.
Injuries to starting left tackle Anthony Castonzo (left ankle), backup left tackle Ben Ijalana (left knee) and right guard Ryan Diem (left ankle) have forced the Colts to juggle their already inexperienced offensive line.
The defense has put two captains — Gary Brackett (left shoulder) and Melvin Bullitt (right shoulder) — on injured reserve, ending their seasons.
Plus, the Colts could be without running back Joseph Addai or cornerback Jerraud Powers this week. Both starters left the Chiefs game early with hamstring injuries. Coach Jim Caldwell did not have an update on either player Monday.
The schedule isn't helping, either.
Sunday's game at Cincinnati is the start of a three-game road trip that includes stops Oct. 23 in New Orleans, Manning's hometown, and Oct. 30 at Tennessee. The Saints lead the NFC South and the Titans are tied with Houston atop the AFC South.
And the Colts have now blown double-digit leads twice in seven days, losses that exposed perhaps Indy's biggest problem — its inability to finish drives on offense or games on defense.
"The reality is we haven't finished, we haven't won games and we're 0-5 because of it," center Jeff Saturday said. "If we finished games we'd be 1-and-something or 2-and-something."
Only two other teams still have not won, Miami and St. Louis, but both had byes last week and are 0-4.
Yet as bleak as things look, it could be far worse.
"I try not to even think about what happened that season," Colts defensive end Jamaal Anderson said, recalling his rookie year in Atlanta. "We had (Michael Vick) protests the first day of training camp and all types of negative phrases being used, we had a coach quit. That's nowhere near comparable to what we're going through here."
Try telling to that to the fans.
While those inside the Colts complex talk about the progression of Curtis Painter, a more efficient ground game or the fact that a makeshift offensive line yielded no sacks to Kansas City on Sunday, outsiders are upset. They've complained about weak coverage, missed tackles, dropped passes and blown blocking assignments.
The discussions on talk radio are focusing on whether the Colts' reward for losing all 16 games, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, would be better than winning a handful of games and going nowhere.
"You want to win, and that's it," linebacker Pat Angerer said.
It could still happen.
Indy has lost its last four games by a total of 22 points, and Painter has gradually improved in each of his three appearances. He and Pierre Garcon have hooked up for four touchdowns the last two games, and the defense has, at times, shown it can be effective, too.
The keys, the Colts insist, are focus and consistency.
"I think whatever we call, we just need to execute that better," Caldwell said. "That's my job to get them to play better."