This one is going to hurt for awhile.
The Indianapolis Colts lost to the Houston Texans on Sunday, 37-34, after one of the most puzzling play calls in recent memory. For most Colts fans, it’s probably the most puzzling since the infamous fake punt against the Patriots.
The Colts were down 28-10 midway through the 3rd Quarter, and the game looked to be running away from them. Then, like Colts fans got used to seeing in 2012-2014, Andrew Luck came alive. Luck found Nyheim Hines in the endzone on a very athletic catch in the 3rd Q, on a drive that took 1:25 off the clock.
Then, midway through the 4th Q, Luck found new addition Eric Erbon for a TD on a 13 play, 73 yard drive that brought the score to 28-23. The Colts defense held strong against the Texans on the following drive, holding them to just a FG, bring the score to 31-23, with just under 3 minutes to play. Luck would again find Nyheim Hines for a TD with 45 seconds left in regulation, and the Colts converted the ensuing 2-pt conversion, tying the game at 31 all.
The Colts won the toss, and elected to receive the ball to start the OT session. The drive was going well for the team. Not reaching for anything too big, and just taking what the Texans defense was giving them. The most crucial play of the drive came on a 3rd & 2 at the Houston 25 yard line. Andrew Luck threw a nice ball to WR Marcus Johnson, who wasn’t able to hold onto it, forcing a Colts FG. The Colts defense however AGAIN hung tough, and held the Texans to a tying FG with 1:50 left in the game. The stage was set for another heroic drive from the Colts QB.
However, fate had other plans…
The offense started the drive splendidly, with a Luck to Ryan Grant connection for 12 yards and a first down. Then, Luck found Ebron for 9 yards, to set up a 2nd & 1. On the following play, Colts fans felt great after Hines was able to muscle forward for the yard and gain the first down. Unfortunately, WR Mo Alie-Cox was called for a hold on the play, negating the first down, and rather forcing a 2nd & 11 with 1:15 left to play. On the next play, Luck was sacked for a loss of 10 yards. The Colts did get 17 of the 21 back on the next play however.
The Play Call
The Colts were facing a 4th & 4, and faced with a decision. Go for it to play for the win, or punt it and play for the tie.
Frank Reich chose the win. The Colts didn’t convert, and the Texans kicked a 37-yard FG to win the game, 37-34.
Andrew Luck finished the game 40-62, 464 yards, and 4 TDs. Still wasn’t enough.
Assessing The Decision
Look, I hate ties as much as the next person. Hell, I’ve written about it. But is this a case where it would have been better for the Colts to punt and take the tie?
Against a division rival, I think playing for the tie is the right move. I know it’s extremely optimistic to be talking about playoff implications when discussing two 1-3 teams, but this is the reality. The Colts have a very favorable schedule remaining. The way the Colts have played through the first 4 weeks has actually been encouraging, at least to me. I still firmly believe that this team is capable of getting the Wild Card in the AFC. However, this decision could prove costly to that likelihood.
I love the fact that the Indianapolis Colts have a coach that goes after a win. I love it. The players love it. It shows that this coach truly believes in his team. I just don’t know if Reich made the correct decision in this instance. Either way, hindsight is 20/20. Had the Colts converted, Reich would have looked like a genius. The Colts are now 1-3, and have to look forward to a Thursday Night matchup against long hated rival, the New England Patriots. It’s never easy going into Foxborough, and the Colts have to do it in a short week.
I believe this team is better than 1-3, but they have to start showing it if they want any hope of having a “successful” season.
The fact that can’t be lost on this game, is that Andrew Luck in the 2nd half, looked like GOOD Andrew Luck.
Here’s hoping to see more.