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Colts will be wasting Andrew Luck's talent if the defense doesn't help out

INDIANAPOLIS -- It turns out Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay was giving his team too much credit when he said it would need to score at least 24 points to beat the Detroit Lions.

The Colts proved that because of their defense, scoring 35 points was not even good enough to get the victory in their 39-35 loss on Sunday.

Missed tackles over and over again.

An inability to sack the quarterback over and over again.

Are you following the trend?

At this rate, Andrew Luck and the Colts' offense will have to score 40-plus points a game if they expect to have any kind success this season, because they can’t depend on their defense to help them out on a consistent basis.

The Colts gave up 448 total yards of offense to Detroit and sacked Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford only once.

“If you expect to win in this league, you can’t give up that many points,” Colts linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said. “Any other team, that would have been a blowout. Defensively we played like s--- and we have to play better.”

Let’s get this out of the way: The Colts are decimated by injuries on defense. They went into the game without two of their top three cornerbacks, without the starting safety and without a defensive lineman who started the first nine games last season before suffering a torn ACL. Three of their four cornerbacks were signed Aug. 22 or later.

It got worse when they lost rookie starting safety T.J. Green and cornerback Patrick Robinson in the game.

But the Colts consistently preach “next man up” and having their backups prepare like starters when things are going well for them. They can’t go silent with those sayings when things aren’t going well.

"Whoever is out there, we expect you play to winning football," Jackson said. "No matter who is out there. The season isn’t going to stop for us."

It's uncertain when the Colts will get their injured players back, but that still doesn't excuse the number of missed tackles they had. Stafford attempted 26 passes of five yards or less, according to ESPN Stats & Information data. An inability to tackle played a part in the Lions gaining 213 yards after the catch. Detroit had 84 yards after the catch in the fourth quarter.

"The tackling sucked. We have to get better at that, we have to tackle -- bottom line. That drive when they scored, they shouldn’t have scored the one before the one at 30 seconds," Colts safety Mike Adams said in reference to the Lions' touchdown drive prior to their winning field goal in the fourth quarter. "They shouldn’t have, because we missed I don’t know how many tackles on that drive, and it’s unacceptable.”

All could have been forgotten with the Colts' miscues on defense if they could have stopped the Lions on Detroit's final possession. Four stops, that's all the defense needed. But just like most of the game, that was too much to ask.

No pressure, no problem for Stafford. He completed three straight passes, including ones of 19 and 22 yards, to put Detroit in position for its game-winning field goal.

Luck and the offense did their part. The defense, which has consistently struggled under coach Chuck Pagano over the past four seasons, let the Colts down.

Again.

"Missed tackles," linebacker Robert Mathis said. "Defensive 101. Have to make those tackles. You do things like that, you breathe life in the offense. Have to do a better job. Getting guys on the ground. You always want to be trusted to close the game. Wasn’t able to do that."