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Colts head into cleanup mode after 3 straight losses

October 8, 2018
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FILE - In this Sept. 30, 2018, file photo, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) and running back Jordan Wilkins (20) try to recover a fumble during the first half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, in Indianapolis. Houston Texans' Jadeveon Clowney (90) recovered the fumble for a touchdown. Luck made his thoughts perfectly clear after another loss last week. He expects the Indianapolis Colts to clean things up.Whether it’s missed throws, dropped passes, penalties or turnovers, just about every glaring flaw that could strike has and it’s left the Colts in a major early-season bind.(AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Andrew Luck made his thoughts perfectly clear after another loss last week.

He expects the Indianapolis Colts to clean things up.

Whether it’s missed throws, dropped passes, penalties or turnovers, just about every glaring flaw that could strike has and it’s left the Colts in a major early season bind.

“Basically what he’s talking about is we’ve got to stop making self-inflicted mistakes, the penalties, things that we can control, ball-handling and things like that,” running back Robert Turbin said Monday.

“If we can execute, obviously it’s not going to be perfect, but we’d definitely like to execute more times than not and definitely not beat ourselves when we’re out there on the football field.”

Until the Colts start making more plays — and fewer mistakes — the results aren’t likely to change.

Indy (1-4) has lost three straight, falling two games behind AFC South co-leaders Jacksonville and Tennessee.

And with just a few corrections, things could look very different.

Cincinnati snuffed out one comeback chance when usually sure-handed tight end Jack Doyle fumbled in the final minute of the season opener. The Bengals returned it 83 yards for a touchdown to seal a 34-23 victory.

Two weeks later, at Philadelphia, Luck again had Indy in position for the go-ahead touchdown with less than two minutes left — only to be sacked on fourth-and-3 from the Eagles 4-yard line.

In Week 4, at home against Houston, receiver Marcus Johnson failed to haul in a third-down pass on the opening possession of overtime, forcing the Colts to settle for a 44-yard field goal. Luck’s errant throw on fourth-and-4 from his 43-yard line allowed the Texans to drive for the winning field goal as time expired.

On Thursday, Luck’s strong second half cut a 21-point deficit to seven, until Zach Pascal’s inability to make a catch at the Patriots 38-yard line led to an interception. New England converted the turnover into a TD and a 38-24 lead.

“That was one game, that was the last game,” receiver Chester Rogers said, referring to a long pass he dropped against the Pats.

“We’ve got to fix that. It’s fixable you know, something that’s just been happening. We’ve had some drops, we’ve got to fix it, plain and simple.”

While the receivers’ miscues certainly have been in the spotlight, they are far from Indy’s only problem.

Luck’s postgame comments began with a self-critique. Since returning from surgery on his right shoulder, Luck has thrown a league-leading 245 passes with eight touchdowns and five interceptions and blamed himself for misreading a blitz the only time he was sacked Thursday.

Only eight teams have committed more penalties than Indy’s 38.

“I saw Andrew’s statement about kind of getting out of our own way. Certainly, that is apropos,” coach Frank Reich said Friday.

“We’ve just got to play cleaner football. We’ve just got to play good football. We talk about it all the time. We believe in our players, we believe we have the talent to win games.”

It would help if the Colts could get some of their playmakers back on the field.

The offense played Thursday without Doyle, Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton, either of its starting offensive tackles or starting running back Marlon Mack.

The defense began the game without rookie Darius Leonard, the NFL’s leading tackler through four weeks, or cornerbacks Kenny Moore II, Quincy Wilson and Nate Hairston and finished it without safety Clayton Geathers (concussion), linebacker Anthony Walker (concussion), defensive tackle Denico Autry (hamstring) or safety Mathias Farley (hamstring).

Reich — and everyone else inside the team complex — hopes a few extra days off between the loss to New England and Sunday’s visit to the New York Jets will help get some key players back.

“Two weeks ago, it was pretty stiff but now it feels pretty loose when I go out there,” Mack said Monday. “Each and every day they add more stuff for me.”

Leonard also believes he’ll play this weekend.

But the Colts know the actual solution it’s less about who is on the field — and more about just playing smart football.

“I think when we look at ourselves, we’re going to have to learn how not to lose before we can give ourselves a chance to win,” Luck said Thursday night. “It’s frustrating, the stuff out there. We’re all frustrated but I don’t think anybody’s losing the belief.”

Notes: The Colts signed defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad and safety Tray Matthews to the practice squad Monday. Muhammad was originally claimed by the Colts off waivers from New Orleans following the final cutdowns and played in two of Indy’s first four games. Matthews was an undrafted rookie who was cut by Minnesota on Sept. 1. ... Indy also re-signed tight end Mo Alie-Cox to the practice squad late last week.

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