INDIANAPOLIS — Colts coach Chuck Pagano keeps seeing the same problems on tape.
The offense can't convert third downs. The defense can't get off the field. The slow starts have stalled Indy's ground game, and the Colts are continually trying to dig themselves out of big holes.
It's a mess.
"Everybody we play is good, you know that. Every team that you play is good, they've all got great players and so forth, so the margin for error is minute," Pagano said Monday. "But that doesn't mean that we're going to go out there and play cautious and those types of things. I think we've just got to get back to playing football and playing better fundamentals and techniques and doing the things that we did early in the season."
Playing Colts football would be a start. Lately, nothing has gone right.
Indy (7-4) opened this season talking about power running and protecting Andrew Luck. But Luck has been sacked 24 times, and when Luck's rushing stats are subtracted, Indy has averaged 4.1 yards per carry. Fans are growing increasingly concerned after losses of 29 and 30 points in two of the last three weeks, and four straight first halves that have been nothing short of dismal.
But it may not be as bad as it seems.
The Colts (7-4) still have a two-game lead in the AFC South over Tennessee (5-6) and could virtually wrap up the division title and a home playoff game with a win Sunday over the Titans. Indy hasn't lost back-to-back games since Pagano took over last season, a span of 26 consecutive games, although a bunch of those wins were with Bruce Arians serving as interim coach while Pagano battled leukemia.
Somehow the Colts have managed to go 4-1 against teams currently in playoff position, with wins over Denver, San Francisco, Seattle and the Titans. Yet they are 3-3 against the rest of the league, and with a little help could be in position to earn a first-round bye — if they can pull themselves out of this tailspin.