Mike Wells, ESPN Staff Writer 365d

Penalties, stalled offensive drives hurting Colts in second half

INDIANAPOLIS -- Getting off to strong starts used to be a problem for the Indianapolis Colts in seasons past. Now their problem is closing out games.

The Colts blew a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter in their overtime loss to Arizona in Week 2. And they nearly blew a 21-point lead in their 31-28 victory over Cleveland last weekend.

“Mistakes,” coach Chuck Pagano said. “You look at penalties. You look at missed opportunities, and you’ve got to play 60 minutes. I always go back to that. It’s about staying on process, the next play and executing and focus, paying attention to that play; because they all matter.”

The Colts were a completely different team in the two halves against the Browns. They racked up 28 points, 260 total yards of offense and were 71 percent on third down while being aggressive offensively in the first 30 minutes of the game.

“I love how we started this football game,” Pagano said. “Any time you can put 28 points up on the board in the first half, get a bunch of three-and-outs, force a bunch of punts on defense, and take the ball away three times. Closing a game out should’ve been there but again, we had to find a way to close it out.”

That changed in the second half when the Colts got conservative with the playcalling. They gained a total of 75 yards of offense, were 3-of-10 on third down and scored just three points in the second half. It took a Malik Hooker interception as time expired for the Colts to seal the game.

"Mistakes,” running back Frank Gore said. “Cleveland came to play in the second half. They made plays. Once we start going, we have to continue doing what we do. Just got to play all four quarters hard.”

Penalties, especially false starts and holdings continue to hurt the Colts. They’re tied for 10th in the NFL in penalties with 23, including 19 in the last two games, through the first three weeks of the season. The Colts have five penalties on drives where Arizona and Cleveland scored a total of 17 points in the second half of the last two games. Indianapolis isn’t a good enough team to get away with those mistakes.

“It’s hard to overcome,” Pagano said. “Like I said, first-and-10 is hard. It’s hard to get first downs when you don’t do it. You just can’t do it. We got to get it fixed.”

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