LONDON — Andrew Luck figured his own personal homecoming would spur him and the Indianapolis Colts out of their early-season funk.
Now, Luck and the Colts return home together having lost three of their first four games for only the second time since they drafted Peyton Manning in 1998. They do so even after a number of coaching and roster changes were designed to get them back to the postseason.
“(We’re) tired of almosts,” Luck, who lived in London for three years as a child, said after the Colts lost 30-27 to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. “We want to win. It’s a winning culture and the Colts expect wins, and it doesn’t just happen when you trot out onto the field.
“It starts with practice and work hours, and we can go back and improve and make it happen.”
Indianapolis went 8-8 last season and missed the playoffs for the first time with Luck as its quarterback. Once Chuck Pagano returned for his fifth season as coach, he added former Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin as an assistant and hired Ted Monachino as defensive coordinator.
What has perennially been one of the NFL’s weakest divisions looked ripe for recapture, and yet the Colts (1-3) have done anything but. Consider Sunday’s loss: Not only did the Colts rack up 11 penalties, but Luck, who went 27 for 42 for 234 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, was sacked six times and had five of his first 11 passes dropped.
Even tight end Dwayne Allen admitted after the game that an incompletion on fourth-and-1 from Jacksonville’s 49-yard line with 1:42 remaining was dropped, not broken up.
“Too little, too late, and again, you can’t start the way that we started,” Pagano said, acknowledging the Colts’ 17-6 halftime deficit. “You can’t spot any team in the National Football League what we spotted them.”
Indianapolis’ defense allowed 95 points over the first three games — third highest in the league — and entered 27th among all teams against the pass.
Thus, the matchup against the Jaguars (1-3) seemed to arrive at the right time, especially with turnover-prone Blake Bortles quarterbacking one of the league’s most stagnant offenses.
Instead, Bortles helped Jacksonville slice through the Colts’ defense in the first half, and after Indianapolis twice pulled within a field goal off a 21-point fourth quarter, both the offense and defense wilted.
“The biggest thing is that we’ve got to minimize the mistakes,” said cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who was called for two penalties on the Jaguars’ final second-quarter drive, which led to a 22-yard field goal by Jason Myers.
“We had double-digit penalties and we didn’t get off the field on third down. I think as a defense, that’s something that you’ve got to look forward to. You’ve got to come out and look forward to the following week and correct everything every week.”
In each of the previous 14 games at Wembley Stadium over the past decade, teams were granted a bye to recover from the exhausting travel. That won’t hold true now for Indianapolis, which will be the first team to play the week after returning from the United Kingdom — by Pagano’s preference.
One fortunate matter could be that the Colts will host the Bears next week, though it’s not as if the previously winless Jaguars posed a major challenge to the Colts, either.
“It’s the first quarter of our season and we’re 1-3,” center Ryan Kelly said. “We can’t change where you are now or what happened in the past, but you can change where you’re going. For us, there’s never been a lack of compete, as coach says, or character or anything like that. We know we have great character in our locker room. We just have to start off faster.”