NFL Team Report - Indianapolis Colts - INSIDE SLANT
The Indianapolis Colts ran out of comeback miracles in New England on Saturday night, but head coach Chuck Pagano remains bullish on his team's future despite the 43-22 setback in the Divisional Playoffs.
The Colts reached the playoffs for a second consecutive season and have a core of young players who figure to learn significantly from the experience.
"I told them, 'Hold your head high,'" Pagano told Colts Radio after the game. "We're very proud of what this team did. They overcame injuries, circumstance, adversity, whatever you want to say.
"A lot of teams in the middle of the season going what we went through wouldn't have done what this team did. I'm very proud of this team and our coaching staff. They did a tremendous job."
Second-year quarterback Andrew Luck, who led the Colts from a 38-10 deficit to a win over Kansas City Chiefs in the wild-card game, threw two touchdown passes to wide receiver LaVon Brazill but was picked off four times, twice by corner back Alfonzo Dennard, in the loss.
Luck was 20 of 41 for 331 yards.
"We had our opportunities," said Luck. "We just couldn't get over that hump. (We had) some big plays, but they weren't enough, which is unfortunate and disappointing. We had our chances."
Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, who caught 13 passes for 224 yards and two scores against Kansas City.
Asked if his team had a successful season, offensive tackle Anthony Costanzo said, "We wanted to win the Super Bowl and we did not so I guess it would have to be a no."
While the Colts have a significant amount of young talent, they also have deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball that were exposed in giving up 40-plus points in consecutive playoff games.
Indianapolis gave up six rushing touchdowns Saturday after allowing Kansas City to rush for 150 in the postseason opener despite largely being without starting running back Jamaal Charles. Four of the Colts' final six opponents rushed for at least 150 yards.
"Everyone on the defensive side of the football, obviously it's not the level of play that any of those guys and our coaches expects," said Pagano. "We have to play better. We'll go to work on fixing things."
The fact remains that the Colts have reached the postseason in consecutive years after Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson took over a franchise that appeared headed for a much more difficult rebuilding process.
"We took another step forward," said Pagano. "We're going to go back to work. We're going to keep building.
"We're building a program for sustained success. We made another step in the right direction. Certainly we didn't want the season to end like it did, but I'm very proud of the guys."
NFL Team Report - Indianapolis Colts - NOTES, QUOTES
--The young Indianapolis Colts took the next step in their rebuilding, winning one playoff game this season after losing its only postseason game a year ago.
"At the end of the day, we didn't accomplish our goal, but there are certainly positives to look back on," running back Donald Brown said after the 43-22 loss to the New England Patriots in Saturday night's AFC divisional game.
--Quarterback Andrew Luck, finishing his second NFL season, threw four interceptions in the final loss. But he also showed flashes of how great he can be, passing for 331 yards and two touchdowns and showing remarkable poise in the pocket.
"He played great," Patriots counterpart Tom Brady said. "He threw the ball great. He moves, he runs, he's strong, he's got a great arm. Obviously, the team believes in him. I thought he played real well."
Imagine this kid with a running attack, an offensive line, and what might have happened if tight end Dwayne Allen and wide receiver Reggie Wayne not been lost to season-ending injuries.
--Adam Vinatieri is still the greatest kicker in Patriots history. He returned to Foxborough with the Colts on Saturday night.
"It's always a fun place to play," he said. "The fans are electric. You know when you come in here it is going to be a battle and you are playing a really good football team."
He said he spoke to both Brady and coach Bill Belichick.
"I have a lot of admiration for both of them. I talked to Tom before the game. We just kind of hung out and talked about family a little bit. As we were leaving, I told Bill good luck with the rest of it and go get them."
At 41, Vinatieri says he wants to keep kicking.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We can't make mistakes. A great team like New England will exploit you when you don't play your best football." -- Colts LB Robert Mathis after the loss.
"I said earlier that 31 out of 32 teams are going to end the season with a loss. Unfortunately, we are one of them. We lost to a good team, give credit to them, they beat us today." -- Colts TE Coby Fleener
"No. A Super Bowl (would have made the season a success). We have high expectations for ourselves. It is what it is." -- Colts LB Jerrell Freeman
NFL Team Report - Indianapolis Colts - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--Colts K Adam Vinatieri kicked his postseason-record 59th extra point in the first quarter.
--WRs T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill joined Marvin Harrison, Brandon Stokley and Reggie Wayne as the only Colts to have multiple touchdown receptions in a playoff season.
--LB Robert Mathis had a strip-sack of Patriots QB Tom Brady, his second in as many weeks. With 18 career playoff games, Mathis is tied for third-most in franchise history with Wayne and Justin Snow - one behind Peyton Manning and Jeff Saturday.
--WR Deion Branch, the former Patriot signed by the Colts during the week, wasn't active. Also inactive were wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, wide receiver Josh Lenz, cornerback Sheldon Price, linebacker Daniel Adongo, center Khaled Holmes, and guard Joe Reitz.