I am not going to follow the typical format of this article because yesterday was not the typical game for Frank Reich. I believe that yesterday’s game was the perfect encapsulation of what has been Frank Reich’s tenure as the Indianapolis Colts’ head coach: Moments of pure brilliance and domination, where opposing defenses don’t have a clue how to stop the offense, and moments of stupid mistakes where the correct option or the solution (Jonathan Taylor) is staring him right in the face.
All that is coupled with a defense that rarely ever manages to put together an entire game against good teams. And after the final whistle blows, the Colts once again lose against a winning team.
Stage I: Offensive Domination
After the first two drives, it was clear that the Bucs were heavily committed to stopping Jonathan Taylor, and started using 5 defensive linemen on every play. After running into a wall on the first three drives and fumbling the ball away on the fourth, the Colts' offense suddenly clicked, and it was magical. A 62-yard bomb to Ashton Dulin, passes to Jack Doyle, Wentz scrambling, T.Y. getting involved, MPJ catching clutch passes on 3rd down, everything just seemed to work. The Colts offense was rolling and Carson Wentz was looking like a top quarterback.
As a result of this, the Colts went into the half with a 24-14 lead and also were set to receive the kickoff. Everything looked just great.
Stage II: Offense collapses, Reich forgets he has the top running back in the NFL
As the second half kicked off, everything seemed to continue going as planned. A long third-down conversion to Michael Pittman to keep the chains moving, Kylen Granson was getting involved, and the Colts had the ball in the RedZone on a fresh set of downs, but then Eric Fisher happened. Shaquil Barrett easily blew by Fisher, stripped Wentz of the football, and recovered the ball.
While you may argue “Reich is not to blame if Fisher just sucks”, Reich shares some of the blame because the Bucs were now ready to defend against the pass, and Barrett was rushing the passer as if the Colts were on 3rd and long.
After the Bucs scored a touchdown with some help from the zebras (refs helping Tom Brady!? How crazy is that?!) the offense got the ball back, and once again just refused to hand the ball to JT. It was clear the Bucs defense was expecting the pass more than before, and then it all crumbled down when facing 2nd and 3 near midfield, the Colts ran a play-action pass, and the safeties did not bite, Wentz threw a jump ball to MPJ and Antoine Winfield Jr. made an amazing play on the ball. Tom Brady proceeded to drive down the field and score another touchdown (once again, with help from the refs) to put the Bucs ahead.
After a 3 and out by the Colts offense, the Bucs also went 3 and out, but on the ensuing punt, Nyheim Hines muffed the catch, and Tampa Bay recovered the ball deep in Colts territory.
After that Reich suddenly remembered he had the best back in the NFL, and once again started getting Taylor involved, resulting in a touchdown on a drive where JT had 8 carries for 58 yards and a touchdown.
Stage III: Defense collapsing
While this is a common theme when facing good quarterbacks, despite allowing 38 points yesterday the defense held their own. It is never easy when the offense turns the ball over 4 times (5 if you count the last hail mary), constantly being tasked to defend short fields and going right back onto the field after forcing the stop. The referees also made sure to give Brady his fair share of questionable calls.
Final Stage: Colts lose once again against a “good team”, once again another double-digit lead blown
My definition of a “good team” is not above .500, but rather something more subjective. Take for example the Seahawks when we faced them, that was a good team in my book. The Colts are now 1-6 this season against the “good teams” (BUF-SEA-LAR-TEN-TEN-BAL-TB) and are around .300 since Luck retired. That is just not good enough.
Yet another thing that just keeps happening is the Colts blowing leads. Yesterday was the third time this season the Colts have blown a double-digit lead. The common denominator in those 3? Reich refused to give the ball to Jonathan Taylor.
I believe this game is quite similar to the one against the Titans. The Colts are leading, a bad play completely kills the momentum (Tyquan Lewis fumbled INT on 4th down, Barrett’s strip-sack), and no carries for JT, thus forcing Wentz into a hero role that doesn’t suit him.