INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano has a reputation of being mild-mannered and upbeat with his players. That changed Sunday when several players said he lost it like he never has before during halftime against the New Orleans Saints.
Pagano, according to those players, was animated and emotional and did quite a bit of yelling that featured plenty of expletives during his halftime rant.
"Challenged the guys at halftime, because it's all on us," Pagano said.
It would be easy to point Pagano's displeasure at his team trailing 20-0 at halftime, but it goes deeper than that for the coach who has been with the Colts nearly four seasons.
Here the Colts sit seven games into the season at 3-4, still not having any clue of their identity after their 27-21 loss to the Saints. A season that began with so much promise has been riddled with drama because they have a quarterback who can't stop turning the ball over and a head coach whose job status appears to get murkier by the week because of inconsistent performances.
"In this league, it's not about who you think you are, it's about what you go out and put on film and put on the field," cornerback Darius Butler said. "As far as what we put on the field this year, we've been kind of a mediocre team, kind of going up and down. We have to rise above that and come together and make plays. Put it all together."
The frustration was evident after the game for Indianapolis. Quarterback Andrew Luck, who has played a significant part in the team's problems this season, said "that's a good question" twice after the game when asked about their struggles. That's also why Colts owner Jim Irsay and general manager Ryan Grigson were still talking behind closed doors long after the locker room had opened, when Irsay routinely leaves before it opens for the media.
Thank goodness for the AFC South, where Indianapolis is still in first place. This is the first time a team has been in first place in the division with a losing record after the first seven weeks of the season since the creation of the AFC and NFC in 1970, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.
But that's not why Irsay opened up his billion-dollar checkbook in the offseason, so his team could be sitting here with a losing record basically at the midpoint.
"I think guys are just more frustrated about the way we played because we know we can play a lot better," receiver Andre Johnson said. "As far as frustration towards each other or finger-pointing or anything like that, it's nothing like that. We know we're a good football team, but we're just not playing up to it."
You would never know the Colts had a roster full of veterans with the way they continue to beat themselves. It was the botched fake punt against New England in Week 6. Then Luck threw two more interceptions Sunday to increase his turnover total to 10, Griff Whalen fumbled on a kickoff return and the special-teams unit gave up a big play on a fake field goal.
It's plays such as those that played a part in why Luck didn't complete his first pass until the second quarter, why Indianapolis didn't cross midfield until late in the first half and why it has been shut out in the first half three times this season.
"If I need to give guys advice, if I need to fight somebody, if I need to just give somebody counsel or just be a big brother, whatever it is, we work too hard," linebacker Robert Mathis said. "We just have to stay as one. We can't have any outside distracters distract us."
The Colts say they need to do some soul-searching. Maybe they'll find an identity along the way because the one they currently have is not getting the job done.