The Colts trailed the Cardinals 27-3 at halftime of Sunday's game at University of Phoenix Stadium. That marked the fourth straight game the Colts have trailed at the half. Opponents have outscored the Colts 92-13 in the first halves of those game, 42-3 in the first quarter.
Adam Vinatieri's 27-yard field goal late in the first quarter against the Cardinals gave the Colts (7-4) their first points in the opening quarter since October 20th against the Broncos.
"It's the same," said Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, when asked to explain another slow start. "It's embarrassing. I don't know if I can't put my thumb on it, but I think a lack of execution. They executed. We didn't. Credit to them, they beat our butts fair and square."
The Colts would like to figure out how to get their butts in gear from the opening kickoff. Luck has led the Colts to 10 fourth quarter or overtime comeback wins. That's an NFL record for a quarterback's first two seasons in the league. But the Colts wish so many comebacks weren't necessary.
"We have to find something," said Colts head coach Chuck Pagano. "We have to figure a way to get off the field, figure out a way to get some drives together, put some points on the board."
Despite constantly falling behind, the Colts are still ahead in the AFC South with a two-game lead over the Tennessee Titans. A win over the Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium next Sunday at 1:00 p.m. would just about clinch the division title. The Colts would own a season sweep of the Titans and hold the tie breaker and a three-game lead with four games to go.
But just two games ago, the Titans jumped in front of the Colts 14-0 and still led 17-6 at halftime. Running back Donald Brown sparked a second half comeback with a pair of touchdowns and a season-best 80 yards rushing. The Colts beat the Titans, 30-27.
Colts defensive tackle Cory Redding has no answer to the obvious question and what has become a sore topic in the locker room.
"That's the million-dollar question," said Redding after the Colts gave up 148 yards and 10 first downs to the Cardinals in the first quarter alone. "I can't answer that. I don't know, so don't ever ask me that again. If I knew, we wouldn't be starting off slow."
The loss of veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne to a season-ending knee injury coincides with the Colts slow starts. But the Colts avoided blaming injuries Sunday or lack of energy or emotion at the start of games. The buzzword in postgame interviews was execution.
"Ultimately, it's about execution," said Colts tight end Coby Fleener, who caught four passes for 55 yards and scored the Colts only touchdown against the Cardinals. "You can't have one guy messing up. You can't have 11 guys messing up. That's the same difference and it results in a negative play and that's what you can't have."