Coach Chuck Pagano understands the importance of making a good first impression.
Although the Indianapolis Colts made a poor one last week, he is confident they’ll make the most of a second chance, of sorts, in Sunday’s home-opener at Lucas Oil Stadium.
In the wake of a 41-21 Week 1 loss at Chicago, the significance of performing well in front of the season’s first home sellout crowd is not lost on the Colts’ first-year head coach.
“It’s huge, because we said coming in ‘you’ve got to win your home games, and you’ve got to play great at home,’” Pagano said of the Week 2 showdown against the Minnesota Vikings (1-0). “We’ve got, bar none, the greatest fans in the entire NFL, and we’ll count on them being our 12th man, if you will. What we’ve got to do is, we’ve got to come out and start fast. We’ve to keep (the fans) in the game.”
To accomplish that, the Colts need to clean up the mistakes that led to a 31-14 deficit in Chicago — a hole they were ill-equipped to climb out of.
Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, who was impressive in limited preseason appearances, found the going much rougher for four regular-season quarters against one of the NFL’s staunchest defenses. Breakdowns in pass protection and the lack of a rushing attack compounded the problems.
And those were just on the offensive side.
Defensively, the Colts gave up multiple big plays, especially on the ground, and wore down physically as the game progressed.
Although Pagano doesn’t promise quick fixes, he does expect better execution, if for no other reason than first-game jitters shouldn’t factor in. Everyone got them out last week, including Luck, whose debut was uneven, at best.
“(Experience) is huge. A good thing this week, it’s a similar package,” Pagano said of the Vikings’ defense, which features one of the NFL’s top pass rushers in defensive end Jared Allen. “There’s a lot of (preparation) carryover for Andrew, the offensive line, the tight ends and the backs as far as blocking in the run game and pass protection.
“Having seen what he saw in Week 1 is going to definitely be beneficial.”
Luck, who completed 23 of 34 passes last week for 309 yards, three interceptions and a touchdown, agrees.
“It’s nice to sort of go through the routine the second time and know this is what’s going to happen on a Tuesday, this is what’s going to happen on a Wednesday, this is how a Thursday is going to work out,” Luck said. “Maybe have a game to look back and say, ‘Oh, wait, I wish I would have put more into the third-down blitzes or more into the first- and second-round coverages.’
“So having a feel for that, and then just knowing the speed of a regular-season game, (having) got that out of the way. Now I don’t have to worry about the unknowns of playing our first regular-season game again.”
All the Colts have to worry about now is getting their first win. Having a chance to do it in front of the home crowd is one they expect to make the most of.
“There will be a lot of energy. It will be a lot of fun to play in this stadium,” Luck said. “Hopefully, it’s fun for the fans. We’ll definitely feed off their excitement and their passion.”
Pagano is counting on it.
“Playing at home is huge. It’s exciting. Our players are excited about it. Our staff is excited about it. I’m excited about it,” he said. “It’s going to be great to be playing at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“Like I said, we’ve got to be able to come out and start fast and get the crowd into it, so it makes it extremely hard on our opponent.”
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