The hot question of the week for Colts fans is going to be whether Frank Reich made the right call to go for it on 4th down, late in overtime, with the game tied and the Colts on their own 43 yard line. In this article, Brett Mock and I will argue for each side.
Andrew Aziz — It was the right call
I believe it was the right decision. It was aggressive, and sometimes aggressive decisions don’t pay off, but they make a positive difference in the long run. If the Eagles weren’t aggressive, they probably don’t win the Super Bowl last year. If the Titans weren’t aggressive against the Eagles in Week 4, they probably don’t come out with a win. The Colts need to adopt an aggressive mindset, because the previous coach never played aggressive football and it not only angered fans, but it cost the Colts some games.
The decision was met with criticism (obviously), but the entire football team stood behind and supported their coach and the decision.
Every single Colt I’ve talked to in the locker room said they loved the call to go for it on 4th down.— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) September 30, 2018
Adam Vinatieri “I love the call to go for it on 4th down. Why not? But we’ve got to make the play."— Andrew Walker (@AWalkerColts) September 30, 2018
Luck: "We’re not going to play for a tie. And I think everybody in the locker room frickin’ loves that. Loves that."— Andrew Walker (@AWalkerColts) September 30, 2018
Luck on going for it on 4th down in OT: "Loved it. I loved it. … We had a discussion before the play, and I agreed. … We did not execute well enough — I did not give Chester enough of a chance to make a play — and I’m sick to my stomach about it."— Andrew Walker (@AWalkerColts) September 30, 2018
The players loved the decision and if this move brings this team closer and makes them more united, then I don’t mind sacrificing a game if it means stronger performances in the future. When a team rallies behind their coach, only good things come out of it.
I feel that the fans are overlooking the two main issues: the play call and the ensuing Texans play. The play call wasn’t good. Against press coverage, I don’t like Chester Rogers’ chances fihgting for the football. Luck is used to making that throw with TY, so Rogers was essentially thrown into the fire and was expected to make a play that Hilton is used to making. Chester Rogers isn’t TY Hilton, so I thought a swing pass to a running back and making a defender miss in the open field or some sort of crossing pattern (to beat man coverage, which is what the Texans played underneath) would have been a lot more appropriate.
Issue number two is the most serious issue and that was the Deandre Hopkins catch and run after the turnover on downs. The Colts struggled mightily defending the pass against the Texans. Hopkins and Will Fuller (before he was injured) absolutely torched the Colts secondary. Even Keke Coutee had a field day against the secondary. In short, the Colts struggled defending the pass. So, with the game on the line, the secondary laid an egg. They allowed a short catch from Hopkins to turn into a 24 yard gain to set up an easy field goal. I love Darius Leonard and he has been a stud through 4 games, but with the game on the line, I don’t want him lined up in the slot covering Deandre Hopkins, one of the best receivers in the game. That’s a mismatch and the Texans exploited that.
Deandre Hopkins killing a linebacker in the slot with the game on the line IS THE BIG ISSUE!
That was an error on the part of Matt Eberflus and that was the crucial error that costed the Colts the game.
Another minor point to add is that a punt doesn’t necessarily end the game. While it definitely makes a tie the more likely outcome, there was a decent chance the Texans could’ve driven down the field to kick a FG to win. At the very worst, they could’ve had a Hail Mary chance.
Let’s say the Texans fair catch the ball at the 15 yard line (which makes sense considering Sanchez’s averages), that would mean that the Texans would have about 20 seconds to drive approximately 47 yards. While it is unlikely that they drive those yards and make a 55 yard field goal, it is possible and it can’t be written off as it has happened plenty of times in recent history.
Heck, I’ll never forget the Falcons doing it to the Seahawks in the 2012 WildCard round. They had two timeouts, but the situation was essentially the same and they almost could’ve driven the field and hit the field goal without the timeouts. The drive can be watched here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHSWp7U6U7I and by skipping ahead to 2:00:35.
Point is, those sort of drives do happen, despite how unlikely they might seem.
To recap, I like the fact that we have an aggressive minded head coach who is wiling to make gutsy decisions. I also feel that analysts and fans should focus on the real issue which is the Hopkins 24 yard catch and run after the turnover on downs after he got a juicy matchup in the slot against a linebacker. The play call choice could’ve been better as well. The players loved the decision and so do I!
Brett Mock — It was the wrong decision
It’s important to make it clear that I’m all for aggressive play-calling. I think Frank Reich has set the appropriate tone early in the season going for it on fourth down on numerous occasions. It has been refreshing after Chuck Pagano and Jim Caldwell were both very conservative minded head coaches. I think it establishes the right culture and is good for a young football team.
I don’t agree with the decision to go for it on 4th-and-4 on your own 43 yard line with 27 seconds left in a sudden death overtime.
The Texans had almost no chance to win the football game after they took their last timeout before the fourth down play. A punt would have pinned them deep in their own territory with no timeouts and a mile to get into field goal range. I get that crazy drives have happened in history but outside of a fluke big play on the boundary or a big play touchdown, the game is over if you punt.
Realistically, the only chance the Texans had to win the game is if you go for it and fail. If you do that, you give them the ball with manageable distance to get into field goal range. Once they get the ball at that point on the field, their odds to win the game sky-rocket. It becomes probable that they will win the game. It becomes improbable that your defense gets a stop.
Now, should the defense have stopped the Texans from getting into field goal range? Sure. Did anyone actually think they would? I didn’t. The safeties had been playing very loose coverage all day long and underneath routes were easy pickings for Houston. Two of your top cornerbacks were out of the game. The Texans were given the ball with an open playbook and the defense was put in a position to be on its heels.
I think a smart coach realizes that the bid to win the game on offense ended when Marcus Johnson dropped the third down pass that hit him in the hands. At that point two outcomes were likely. The most likely outcome was a tie. The second outcome in your favor is forcing the Texans into the same position — playing to win the game against horrible odds. In those situations you might get a bad decision and you have a chance to make a defensive play on the ball. In Texans territory with the field spread out to try to get out of bounds with no timeouts? Now there is something you can work with if you can make a big defensive play.
I think completing the 4th and 4 play would still make the odds of a Colts win marginal at best. Going for it and failing is setting up your team to lose.
Now, the biggest reason this is the wrong decision isn’t even because of the argument we’re having about what could have happened. The reason this is the wrong decision is because it is reckless to simply give away a game in your own division. Ties are better than losses when it comes down to records, period.
It is my belief that this team is better than its record. It is my belief that if the offense can play anywhere close to the way it did in the second half against Houston, this team’s defense has already proven that it can be dangerous. It is my belief that this team still has a fighters chance to get something good going in the second half of the season and can push for a wild card spot.
If I’m right, the tie or loss can make a difference. If I’m wrong it doesn’t matter. But if I’m the coach, the front office, I play to “win” by putting my team in the best chance to make a run in the playoffs. The decision against the Texans unnecessarily made the odds of making the playoffs lower.
I bet you anything that if this young team fights and claws its way to the playoff bubble and falls just short because of their 4th-and-4 call in overtime against the Texans, the locker room will have a different attitude. But hey, maybe they’ll not win enough games for that to even matter so who cares, right?
What is your opinion on the play? Should the Colts have gone for it and the win or should they have punted the ball away and play for the tie? Vote in the poll and comment below.
Did Frank Reich make the right decision to go for it?
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