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Josh McNary admits Colts defense played “a little too cautious” in fourth quarter

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NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

If you went to bed early on Sunday night and turned the television off after another Adam Vinatieri field goal midway through the fourth quarter, you were surely shocked to see the outcome of the game this morning: though the Colts held a 14 point lead with just minutes remaining, they lost to the Texans 26-23 in overtime.

It was a collapse of epic proportions in a game the Colts had to have. They were minutes away from taking the AFC South lead, but instead they dropped to last place in the worst division in football after the loss. It was a crushing loss, and as has been the case for most of this season, their defense wasn’t good enough.

We saw them give up the game-winning score to the Lions with less than a minute left in week one, but this was ten times worse. This wasn’t a field goal drive from Matthew Stafford; it was a two-touchdown comeback from Brock Osweiler.

After the game, the Colts were stunned, just like everyone else. And starting linebacker Josh McNary offered this statement after the game to the Indianapolis Star’s Zak Keefer: “We were just playing a little too soft, a little too cautious maybe.”

There it is, a Colts player suggesting that the Colts were too cautious in the fourth quarter. That’s a finger pointed right at coaching, whether McNary meant it that way or not. The head coach who constantly and repeatedly emphasises putting together a 60-minute game taking his foot off the gas in the fourth quarter? That’s what McNary seemed to indicate. The defense wasn’t good enough, and part of it was that they got too cautious with a big lead.

Other players know the loss rests solely on the defense, too.

“We just pretty much blew it,” outside linebacker Erik Walden said. “We had the lead in the fourth quarter. Had plenty of opportunities. We just blew it. That’s the only word I can see to describe it. We had everything right in front of us and then the last eight minutes, you piss down your legs. It’s a gross feeling, but like I said we either man up, bounce back or you fold. That’s the only two options right now.”

On the Texans’ first nine drives Sunday, Brock Osweiler completed just 12 of 24 passes (50%) for 102 yards (4.3 yards per attempt), no touchdowns and an interception for a passer rating of 44.1. In short, he was terrible - and he’s been bad all year. But all of the sudden, he caught fire and the Colts’ defense collapsed, just watching their lead burn. On the Texans’ final three drives (excluding a one-play kneel-down to end regulation), Osweiler completed 13 of 15 passes (86.7%) for 167 yards (11.1 yards per attempt), two touchdowns and no turnovers for a near-perfect rating of 152.6. Again, this wasn’t a one-point comeback by Matthew Stafford - it was a 14-point comeback by Brock Osweiler. That’s inexcusable, and the Colts blew it.

“You know what happened. We lost that,” inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson told Keefer. “We gotta play better. Simple as that. When you got a lead like that, you can’t let teams hang around. We had our opportunities and we didn’t come up with it.”

It all comes down to what Chuck Pagano called a “killer instinct” after the game. That’s what the Colts were lacking on Sunday, and that goes for everyone - coaching staff, defense, and offense. The Colts lack that killer instinct, and they saw what seemed like a safe 14 point lead with three minutes left evaporate into a stunning and demoralizing overtime loss to a division opponent.

“It is what it is. You just tell them the truth,” Pagano said of his message to the players. “We had a golden opportunity, and we let it slip away. Played damn good football for a lot of minutes out there, but we didn’t do it for 60 and then some in overtime. We had an opportunity, and we let it slip away, so you go back to work and you keep grinding.”