Darron Cummings, Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS — Colts owner Jim Irsay didn't like anything he saw Sunday against Buffalo.
So on Monday, he apologized to the fans.
"Many starters played briefly or were nursing little injuries, but it was a crap performance, my apologies/My commanders got n earful from me!" he tweeted less than 24 hours after an embarrassing 44-20 loss to Buffalo.
Irsay had reason to be upset considering he spent nearly $140 million on free agents to improve his team. He thought he was getting a stouter defense, a more physical offense and a much better special teams unit — and he still might. But Sunday's debacle in the preseason opener didn't give anybody reason to suspect those areas would be any stronger in 2013 than they were in 2012.
Buffalo set a new franchise record for points in a preseason game. While Indy's return game mostly stalled, Bills receiver Marquise Goodwin returned two kickoffs, setting up one Bills scoring drive with a 53-yard return and scoring on a 107-yard return. And while the Colts averaged 4.4 yards per carry, the starting offensive line allowed Andrew Luck to get blasted on a blind-side sack and Chandler Harnish spent most of the final 2½ quarters under duress.
The Colts also committed three turnovers and were outscored 41-10 over the final three quarters.
Of course, there are explanations. Luck played only two series. Backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck played only three, and most of Indy's starters were on the sideline after just three series.
Yet coach Chuck Pagano expected a better overall performance from a team that is supposed to be much deeper than it was a year ago.
"We've got to do a better job technique-wise up front, staying on our feet and making sure we turn the ball back inside," Pagano said when asked about the defense. "They got outside our corners. Guys played physical, played tough, we just didn't play smart in certain situations."
Bad preseason results don't always mean anything, of course.
From 2005-11, the Colts went just 5-25 in preseason games, yet made the playoffs six times and reached the Super Bowl twice. Last season, the rebuilt Colts used the preseason to get in sync and build confidence. They went up 2-2 before making a historic nine-game improvement over 2011 and returned to the playoffs.
This one, though, just felt different.
"We didn't play good Colts football. We have to do better," receiver Reggie Wayne said Sunday. "We had some good plays but we had a ton of bad plays, so hopefully we can correct those and get better for next week."
Five-time Pro Bowler Robert Mathis concurred.
"A lot of the stuff that happened, we feel like it's our own fault," he said. "We shot ourselves in the foot, not concentrating on the mental side of the football. So that kind of was our downfall."
The Colts got even worse news on the injury front Monday.
One day after telling reporters that tight end Dwayne Allen would miss a couple of weeks with a foot injury, Pagano said backup linebacker Justin Hickman would likely miss the rest of the season with a Lisfranc injury in his right foot. Doctors, Pagano said, have recommended surgery.
Hickman was injured early in the second quarter and limped off the field.
"Just feel sick for Justin and all those type of things," Pagano said. "That hurts us to lose a guy, hurts us to lose anybody, but obviously feel bad for Hick."
Cornerback Cassius Vaughn, who left the game in the second half with a wrist injury, is listed as day-to-day after X-rays came back negative. Rookie defensive tackle Montori Hughes also is considered day-to-day after leaving with a stinger, and linebacker Quinton Spears who left in the first half with a hamstring injury is likely to miss about a week.
But the bigger issue for the Colts right now is fixing their mistakes — and making their owner happy.
"We'll go back to work, get back up to Anderson and get things fixed and come back and put this one behind us," Pagano said. "We obviously have got to play better and we will play better."
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