Chuck Pagano begins his third week of regular season games as an NFL head coach with a few chances for some teaching moments with his young team.
Yes, the No. 1 goal of getting the win on Sunday was achieved and in the NFL that is frankly all that matters.
But Pagano knows that as the season moves on, opportunities to amend giving up a two-touchdown fourth-quarter lead won’t always be there.
“It just goes to show you that when you talk about finishing the game, one of our goals on our stats sheet team goals is win the fourth quarter. We lost the fourth quarter. It was 14-3 in their favor,” Pagano said. “Fortunately for us, we had a lead going in and we were able to get out of there with a victory. But you’ve got to finish in this league.”
The Colts led 20-6 with 10:10 left in the fourth quarter and the Vikings took over at their own 46-yard line.
Offensively, the Colts were coming off their third straight three-and-out and were needing their defense to force a sixth straight scoreless possession for the Vikings.
Minnesota ate up 5:07 off the clock and scored on a fourth-and-goal from the four-yard line after Colts defensive end Cory Redding and Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph tipped a Christian Ponder pass.
Following a six-play drive by the Colts, the Vikings got the ball and were able to tie the score at 20 with just 31 seconds to play.
Fortunately for the Colts, the offense found its rhythm at the right time and kicker Adam Vinatieri’s 53-yard field goal saved a potential demoralizing loss.
For three-and-a-half quarters, the Colts seemed to have the game in control but the last five minutes showed the young players how quickly it can all change.
One area that Pagano was happy with his team’s performance was penalty avoidance.
The Colts saw in the second half how crucial field positioning became and penalty yardage added up quickly for the Vikings.
After two games, the Colts have 83 fewer yards in penalties than their opponents.
The discipline of avoiding penalties and continuing to limit big plays are things Pagano hopes to continue.
The Colts didn’t give up a single play of over 20 yards against the Vikings and that came after giving up eight such plays in Week 1.
“It’s a major point of emphasis,” Pagano said of penalty avoidance and eliminating the big play. “One year we did a stat in Baltimore out of 206 drives where we didn’t give up a big play and we didn’t have a penalty, and we gave up I think two touchdowns and five field goals out of 206 drives. So it’s a major point of emphasis.”
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