On Friday, Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano made it clear he understood the stakes of Sunday’s game: “There are no trophies for second place, right?”
He went on to explain that, “there’s only one trophy. There’s only one division champ. That’s how they’re treating it and that’s how we’re treating it.”
So this isn’t the time for ‘we’ll look at the tape’ or ‘we’ll get things fixed’ or things like that; this was the Colts’ game seven. This was the game they absolutely had to win if they hoped to make playoffs. This was their chance, against the AFC South-leading Texans, to seize control of the division with three weeks remaining. But instead, the Colts played their ugliest and sloppiest game of the season as they lost 22-17 at home to the Texans.
The Colts fall to 6-7 on the season, while the Texans improve to 7-6. The Colts have now also guaranteed that they won’t have the tiebreaker with Houston (as the Texans swept the season series), meaning that the Colts will have to make up two games in the final three weeks if they hope to win the division. In other words, they’ll very likely be at home in January, and if that happens they can look back to this game in mid-December when they had control of their own destiny. This game likely sealed their fate, and after watching them today there’s no one who can argue they should be a playoff team.
The game started well for Indy, as they forced a Texans punt on the first drive and then the Colts moved the ball down field (thanks in large part to a huge 33-yard run by Andrew Luck on third down) before kicking a field goal. From that point on, however, things became a struggle. On the next possession for the Colts, Dwayne Allen got tripped up and fell down, leading to an Andrew Luck interception. The defense did hold Houston to a field goal following the turnover, but Indy’s offense couldn’t get anything going after that, punting twice and then missing a long field goal try before halftime. On the flip side, the Texans scored on three of their final four possessions of the first half, as after that field goal they had an interception (on a terrible play call and a terrible play by Osweiler), then a touchdown drive and then a field goal drive off of the Colts’ missed field goal. At halftime, it was a 13-3 Texans lead.
The Colts got the ball to start the second half, but it was the same struggle. Absolutely no one got open on third down, so Andrew Luck scrambled around for a while before having to throw the ball... and he forced it and it was picked off. The defense again limited the Texans to a field goal, and after that is when the Colts’ offense started to heat up a bit. They got a touchdown on a tremendous play by Frank Gore, catching a short Luck pass and taking it 18 yards for a score. On the next drive, the Colts got down into the red zone but on third down, Dwayne Allen was beat by Jadeveon Clowney (which was stupid coaching to have him one-on-one), Luck was strip-sacked, and then Allen tried to pick up the ball instead of fall on it. That was a squandered possession, but on the next drive the Colts again found the end zone as Luck hit T.Y. Hilton for a 35-yard score after Hilton took control late on the drive.
But the offense got going too late, as the defense wasn’t able to stop the Texans in the fourth quarter when they needed to. The Texans ran a lot of clock in the fourth quarter, notching a field goal drive and then a back-breaking touchdown drive late in the game. The Colts defense simply couldn’t get off the field.
There’s no sugar-coating this one: the Colts played a really bad football game on Sunday in a season that has revealed them to be a bad football team. Their offense - the one thing you thought they could count on - struggled all day today. Their defense held to several field goal tries (thanks in large part to Houston’s offensive struggles) but they allowed the Texans to run all over them and weren’t able to get off the field when they needed to. They stopped the Texans on a third down run that was ruled just inches short, however, and Houston opted to kick the field goal.
That gave the Colts one last drive with 2:47 remaining in the game, trailing 22-17, with no timeouts, and their season hanging in the balance, and it came down to a 4th and 1 play call... on which the Colts called a screen pass. Yeah, that’s the kind of day it was, as it was a terrible performance for everyone involved for Indy. And as a result, their season is probably just about over.