Though it will never be forgotten, try for a moment to forget the fake punt.
Remember, instead, what Sunday night’s outcome actually means for the Indianapolis Colts — which is quite a lot:
They are .500.
They have no victories outside the AFC South.
They have six straight non-divisional opponents coming up.
They can’t beat good, let alone exceptional, teams.
They didn’t turn a competitive corner Sunday night.
Came close, flirted with it, but didn’t do it.
Instead, they imploded in the most embarrassing way, against their most despised rival, in their own stadium. The fake punt was the signature moment, the one that will live in infamy. But in and of itself, it wasn’t the sole reason the Colts lost.
There were others, like pass-protection breakdowns in the second half. And surrendering big runs at critical times. And surrendering big pass plays at critical times. And over-reliance on Andrew Luck to make plays. And of course mind-boggling play-calling highlighted by, but not limited to, the fake punt.
In total, it all added up to a crushing loss, one that begs the question as midseason nears: Where do they go from here?
Tough to say, but the signs aren’t encouraging.
For a half, the Colts looked like a different team than the one that opened the season. They ran well. They defended well. They protected Luck. Luck looked like Luck. And they led 21-20 at halftime.
Unfortunately for the Colts, there was a second half. And that’s where their bad habits resurfaced.
Protection broke down. Penalties abounded. Luck was forced into the familiar role of carrying it all on his shoulders, including his sore one.
And there was, of course, the fake punt.
What could have been a season-changing win turned into a humiliating loss, courtesy of many of the same issues that took them out of the Super Bowl conversation by Week 4.
No chance of getting back in it now.
Indy is 3-3. It in no way resembles a champion. It is in danger of internal collapse. Colts headquarters has to be a no-fun zone, especially if your name is Chuck Pagano, Griff Whalen, Pep Hamilton or Ryan Grigson.
Losing to the Patriots was one thing. Becoming a national joke in the process was another thing entirely.
Where do they go from here?
Barring another injury to Luck, they’ll win the sorry AFC South and luck into the playoffs. They might or might not beat a non-divisional opponent or two along the way.
But they won’t turn their season around, won’t go far in the playoffs and won’t in any way shape or form live up to their preseason billing of a champion.
Sunday night was their chance. They fake-punted it away.
Maybe they’ll get it right next season.
Rick Morwick is sports editor for The Tribune’s sister paper, the Daily Journal. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.