At the risk of sounding like the petulant fan who complains about every call, I want to present an idea to you. The Colts should have survived with a win on Sunday at Lincoln Financial against the Eagles. They led the defending Super Bowl Champs in the fourth quarter until the Eagles’ monster drive that ended with a touchdown and sapped 11:58 off the clock. The thing is, that drive should never have sniffed a score. It should have ended with a turnover on downs at the Indianapolis 42.
Let’s set the scene. The Eagles started their drive at their 25 yard line. They were moving the ball effectively, giving the Colts’ defense trouble and penalties on Hairston and Hunt had aided their ease of movement. On 2nd and short, Darius Leonard had flown around the left tackle to drop Carson Wentz for a 9-yard loss, bringing up a 3rd and 12.
The Eagles opted for a short pass which was stopped quickly, bringing up a 4th and 5 at the Colts’ 42. Doug Pederson decides to go for it. Why not? They’ve been moving the ball with ease on this drive and the Colts have struggled to do much against their defense.
Eberflus draws up a nice play to get pressure on Wentz. Sheard makes the inside move, forcing the giant Lane Johnson to slide inside. However, Sheard is now occupying G Brandon Brooks, and allowing Margus Hunt to stunt to the outside. Sheard’s hand is on the outside of Johnson’s numbers when he attempts to recover to deal with Hunt, and the flag is thrown. The pressure from Hunt makes Wentz get rid of the ball early for an incompletion that would have resulted in a turnover on downs.
Now I have no doubt that Jabaal Sheard is a strong guy. However, you will never convince me that he can simultaneously deal with both the guard and center while holding Lane Johnson in place with his left hand. Lebron James and Neymar have both reportedly called Lane Johnson to ask for some acting tips, because this performance was Oscar worthy.
Thus far in the season there have been 45 defensive holding penalties called this season and just 5 have come against defensive linemen. I watched each one of them, and of the 5, only 2 were good calls. They came against defensive ends who were called for holding a running back releasing into the flat. The others were sketchy at best.
I don’t like this call in any way, but by the letter of the law, I can accept it as very unfortunate and won’t bemoan it any more. Especially considering it isn’t close to the worst call on this drive.
On this next play, Margus Hunt looks like a man among boys, destroying his man and penetrating into the backfield before swallowing Smallwood off a screen pass for a loss of 8 yards and setting up 2nd and 18.
The Colts do a great job holding the Eagles to a small gain here, given 2nd and long, with Sheard getting pressure in Wentz’s face and forcing a quick pass. Hairston and Leonard close on the ball quickly and don’t allow yards after the catch, which leaves the Eagles facing a 3rd and 9 situation. It is important to note that the Eagles had not converted on any 3rd downs with more than 6 yards to gain.
So the Colts have the Eagles in 3rd and long with a lead, which is precisely the strength of this defensive scheme. They do a great job getting pressure. Kemoko Turay looks like he was shot out of a cannon and is in the backfield quickly, blowing by LT Jason Peters. On the right side, the Colts bring Clayton Geathers on the blitz and he gets a hand on Wentz but can’t bring him down. If they are just able to hold on, this play is over and the Colts get the ball back and have a chance to milk the clock and leave with a win.
Credit to Carson Wentz for getting out of trouble here, because this is an Andrew Luck-type escape and shows one of the things that makes him so effective as a quarterback. He manages to avoid the sack and gets the ball to Nelson Agholor who is streaking toward the right sideline.
Agholor turns upfield to try to reach the first down marker and has Malik Hooker coming in hot to make a stop short of the line to gain. He launches himself over Hooker and gets the first down. Except he doesn’t.
Upon watching the replay, he clearly steps out of bounds with more than 2 yards to the 1st down marker. What is most egregious is that there is an official standing 10 yards away watching it all. That doesn’t even include the official who is standing in front of the play staring off in space, presumably considering what he is going to have for dinner that night.
This is a huge mistake by the officials, but even more so by Frank Reich. Someone on the Colts staff has to see this and challenge on such a critical play. This is the kind of issue that has to be worked out by rookie head coaches. Game management is tough for many who have been doing it a long time, but Reich will have to work on the challenge process and get it figured out.
Instead of a 4th and short which forces the Eagles to decide whether they’ll go for it and risk coming away with nothing or kick a long field goal, they get a new set of downs. They had missed a field goal already and the conditions were not necessarily ideal for long kicks so a stop here could absolutely have saved the game.
We can’t change what happened and we can’t guarantee that the Eagles still wouldn’t have scored. However, it is clear that a poor call and a missed call played a critical role in putting the Eagles over the top in this game. In a game against one of the best teams in the league, that absolutely matters. There is no margin for error.
Maybe you are more well-adjusted than I am. Maybe you recognize that there were several other costly mistakes the Colts made throughout this game that resulted in this ending. You’d be correct. There were plenty of dropped passes and overthrows that could have and should have resulted in points.
In reality, this is an encouraging series of plays. It shows constant pressure on Carson Wentz during a critical drive and against a very good offensive line. However, seeing such an obvious missed call change the outcome of a game is stinging. The good news is that if the Colts can do this to the Eagles’ offensive line, they should have a field day against the Texans.