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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Colts quarterback Scott Tolzien is sacked by Rams linebacker Robert Quinn during the first half Sunday. The Rams had four sacks Sunday.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017 1:00 am

Pagano considers benching Tolzien

Ex-Patriot would start at QB, not Luck

MICHAEL MAROT | Associated Press

Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano kept replaying the season-opening rout in his mind Sunday night.

Eventually, he went to the game tape, looking for something to soothe the embarrassment of a 46-9 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

Less than 24 hours after watching his team self-destruct, Pagano returned to the team complex with no new information about Andrew Luck's expected return, a full-fledged quarterback controversy raging among the fan base and a different perspective about the possibility of a quarterback switch.

“It's something that we'll discuss later tonight and into tomorrow as we game plan,” Pagano said Monday.

“We've got to do what's best for the football team and what gives us the best chance to move the ball and put points on the board.”

All it took was one game to remind Colts fans of what happened six years ago.

Back then, Peyton Manning sat out after undergoing multiple offseason neck surgeries so the Colts handed the starting job to veteran Kerry Collins.

The season opener in Houston turned into an unmitigated disaster with Collins going 16 of 31 with 197 yards and one touchdown while losing two of three fumbles in a 34-7 loss.

Collins kept the job two more weeks then never played another down in the league as the Colts staggered to a 0-13 record.

The silver lining to that dreadful season: Indianapolis earned the No. 1 draft pick and selected Luck.

Now as Luck continues to recover from offseason surgery on his throwing shoulder and general manager Chris Ballard still urging caution about rushing Luck back, some worry it could be déjà vu.

Starter Scott Tolzien did nothing to assuage the growing concerns Sunday.

He went 9 of 18 for 128 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions – both returned for scores.

The combination of mistakes and the blowout finally prompted Pagano to pull Tolzien in the fourth quarter to give newcomer Jacoby Brissett a shot. Brissett was acquired in a trade with New England on Sept. 2 and spent most of last week learning the playbook.

Still, Brissett wound up going 2 of 3 for 51 yards with no turnovers. And it was a good enough performance to instigate a debate over whether Tolzien, who is 0-3-1 as an NFL starter, should be benched for this weekend's home opener against the Cardinals.

Of course, there was plenty of blame to go around.

Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton lost a fumble as he tried to gain extra yards.

The offensive line gave up four sacks and Indianapolis averaged 3.1 yards on 24 carries.

The defense pitched in by letting Jared Goff throw for 306 yards and allowing the franchise's highest opening-day point total since 1954 when the Rams shut them out 48-0.

Even Adam Vinatieri struggled. He missed a 38-yard field goal in the third quarter and the Colts' only extra point attempt in the fourth.

Pagano blamed himself for not doing a good enough job – and not challenging a call on a first-quarter play on which the Colts appeared to score a touchdown.

Instead, the officials ruled Marlon Mack stepped out at the Rams 1-yard line and Indy eventually settled for a field goal.

Then again, it was that kind of a day.

“There's got to be some changes, yeah.” Pagano said.