Colts switch places as NFL's last winless team

BY foxsports • November 7, 2011

At the Colts complex, the first Monday of November is usually reserved for taking an extra day off and contemplating the playoff picture.

This is no typical Indianapolis team, though.

In less than 24 months, the Colts have gone from chasing a perfect season to chasing the No. 1 draft pick, from Super Bowl contender to front-runner in the Andrew Luck lottery.

''That certainly does seem like a lifetime ago, that's for sure,'' third-year quarterback Curtis Painter said, reflecting on the 14-0 start of his rookie season.

The Colts' collapse has been stunningly sudden and complete. Indy (0-9) is now the last winless team in the NFL, and it seems things are only getting worse.

Over the last three games, the Colts have been outscored 120-24. In Sunday's 31-7 blowout by Atlanta, their once potent offense was completely shut out, managed only 186 total yards and went 25 minutes without picking up a first down. They may have also lost Pro Bowl tight end Dallas Clark for the season with a left leg injury.

While many blame the precipitous drop off on losing Peyton Manning, who hasn't practiced since having neck surgery Sept. 8, there's more to this dreadful streak than that.

The Colts finally had most of their projected starting offensive line back in the lineup against Atlanta, but Painter was still sacked twice and took numerous other hits. Jerraud Powers' interception? That was the first turnover forced by the Colts in six games. Pro Bowl defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis have been essentially taken out of the game by opponents who are content to expose the huge holes with short, quick passes against Indy's coverage scheme.

And the ineptitude on both sides was evident in a three-play sequence Sunday when Julio Jones caught a 50-yard TD pass between three defenders, Donald Brown was taken down for a 2-yard loss and Painter had a pass batted back to him that he caught and threw again -- on a bounce to Brown. Painter was called for throwing two forward passes on the same play.

''We're getting better, we're just not getting it all the way,'' Painter said, trying to put a positive spin on Indy's latest debacle.

Some fans showed up at the game wearing Colts jerseys with Luck's name already printed on the back. Most left by midway through the fourth quarter.

Colts owner Jim Irsay wrote on Twitter that ''We will never accept this kind of chronic's an unwelcome visitor,that we will not tolerate,'' and on Sunday's postgame radio show, team vice chairman Bill Polian repeatedly referred to critics as ''rats.''

Fans are increasingly calling for Irsay to end the Polian regime and fire coach Jim Caldwell. On Monday, punter Pat McAfee tweeted his dismay over the perception that the media is relishing in the Colts' collapse, ''how happy people are to see us fail.''

The team that won an NFL record 115 regular-season games, two AFC championships and one Super Bowl in the last decade is now assured of finishing under .500 for the first time since 2001. Not only is the Colts' streak of nine consecutive 10-win seasons gone, but their NFL record-tying streak of nine straight playoff appearances will soon be history, too.

A loss this week to Jacksonville (2-6) would drop Indy to 0-10 for the first time since 1997, and send them into the bye week trying to avoid their first 0-11 start since 1986.

Some of the new Colts have been through these stretches before.

Defensive end Jamaal Anderson's rookie season in Atlanta was torpedoed by the suspension of Michael Vick and the late-season departure of coach Bobby Petrino. Defensive end Tyler Brayton lost in Oakland and was in Carolina for last season's 1-15 debacle, and backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky and linebacker Ernie Sims were both on Detroit's 0-16 team.

''You do everything can not to go down that (winless) path,'' Orlovsky said. ''You don't go through a decade of success like they have without knowing how to handle adversity.''

But in most cases, Indy's players are homegrown have never dealt with something like this.

''Three weeks ago seems like a lifetime ago,'' tight end Jacob Tamme said, who won two division titles and an AFC championship in his first three seasons in Indy. ''When you're not winning, time moves pretty slowly, The good thing about this organization is that we'll treat this week the same way we did when we were 10-0 or 8-2 the last few years.''

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