INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts were within 18 minutes Monday of the kind of trademark victory they needed to reverse what has been a difficult season.
Eighteen minutes. On national television. Against a playoff caliber opponent.
But then, more unsuccessful field goals happened. The defense made Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson look more than just an MVP candidate – they made him look like a Hall of Famer. And the play by Colts coach Frank Reich didn’t help.
Those things took away Carson Wentz’s career game as a quarterback and, more importantly, they played a role in the Colts’ 19-point collapse that leaves them trying to rebuild things.
“I don’t know what went wrong,” said a grim Darius Leonard after the game. “I feel very frustrated.”
“Painful, painful loss,” Reich said. “We had a great week of preparation. For three-quarters of the game, we are playing excellent football. I need to find a way to end the games. It is possible to lose a game and progress and take great strides, but losing is not acceptable. “
The Colts (1-4) still have 12 games left on their schedule, but time is running out due to their slow start. They are two games behind the Tennessee Titans (3-2) in the AFC South. And while the schedule is in his favor (four of his next five games are against teams with losing records), nothing is guaranteed, not even Sunday’s game (1 pm ET, CBS) against the Houston Texans (1-4).
“You know, it’s a long season and it’s still October, early October,” Wentz said. “And it is a long season. So, we don’t get sucked into it. We get caught up in who’s next and what’s coming up here.
“And, yeah, I wish I didn’t have to keep saying that we’re going to learn from it and get better, but that’s the approach we’re going to have to take every week … But, every week, it’s a little bit better and a little bit better, and we’ve played with some good teams. So for us, we can’t get caught up in the record or where we are or what that looks like. We just have to go out there and try to go 1-0 every week and keep learning from these. little moments “.
After the loss, Wentz gathered the team inside the locker room and told them they had to have a “killer instinct” and know how to push a team away when the opportunity presented itself.
It’s nice that Wentz has taken on the leadership role, but that’s not the kind of message a desperate team needs to hear at this point in the season if it wants to get back on track.
Over the course of the game, the Colts defense went from seen as a commendable bunch to the unit that deserved the brunt of the blame, having failed to slow down Jackson and Baltimore’s offense late. The Ravens (4-1) were down 22-3 with about three minutes left in the third quarter before their streak began.
“Over the course of those drives, we tried a number of things,” defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said. “We had simulated pressures, zone pressures, we rushed four, we played quarters … we made variations with those things.”
As good as Jackson was in the second half and overtime (335 yards and four touchdowns), the Colts should have won the game.
But kicking problems, and injuries, with kicker Rodrigo Blankenship caused him to miss an extra point and a field goal, while also blocking a field goal, leaving seven points off the board for Indianapolis. The sophomore was scheduled to undergo a hip MRI on Tuesday. Reich did not rule out the possibility of bringing in another kicker this week.
Reich has never been known for his conservative gambling calls, but he stepped up and played it safe when there was an opportunity for them to essentially put the game out of reach.
With eight in their penultimate series of the fourth quarter, the Colts dropped the ball to 18 for Baltimore when Reich ordered running plays on the second and third down instead of attempting to deliver the knockout blow. The Ravens blocked Blankenship’s kick to give Jackson a chance to send the game into overtime.
“It wasn’t the most aggressive call, but the idea was that it was about a 94% completion rate,” Reich said. “The trick is a bit compromised, [the Ravens] you will have to use another timeout, but it didn’t work. “
The challenge will be whether the Colts can put what happened behind him, learn from it and develop the “killer instinct” Wentz spoke of.
“It’s a good test for us,” Reich said. “It’s a week-to-week league, and whether you win or lose this game, you have to put it behind you quickly. We have to eliminate this very quickly and get ready to start. There is still a lot of football left ”.