DraftKings Sportsbook has the Colts as 2.5-point home favorites vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football.
Earlier today, the Colts took one of the odds-on favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl to the wire. Various issues plagued the Colts when the game mattered most, and many looked too familiar.
If Colts fans want reasons the team should or could have won with small changes, they can look at four plays; two were defensive breakdowns on the most important Eagles possession of the game.
With the need to score a touchdown, the Colts had Philadelphia on third down more than once. The first went for 45-yards on an unnecessary pass interference penalty on Zaire Franklin. The Colts' pass rush moved Jalen Hurts out of the pocket, and he was throwing up a rainbow prayer to Miles Sanders down the right sideline. Franklin saw Sanders was uncovered and sprinted to cover him. Sanders was looking back to the ball, seeing it was underthrown and slowing. Franklin, likely afraid he was about to give up a game-winning touchdown reception, tackled Sanders — though the ball fell harmlessly to the ground a few yards short of either player.
On the goal line, the Colts held the Eagles again to third down. Philadelphia had no answers. Incredibly, with five yards to the end zone, the Colts' defense parted like the Red Sea, with no one remotely interested in spying or keeping track of Hurts — one of the most dangerous running quarterbacks in the NFL. He jogged untouched into the end zone to put the Colts in a difficult situation with about one minute and twenty seconds remaining and the need to get into field goal position.
One big offensive breakdown occurred when the Colts had the ball first-and-goal on their own five yard-line. A failed run up the middle led Indianapolis to call a misdirection play in the backfield. Something was clearly broken as Matt Ryan ended up with the ball in his hands, searching for someone else who might take it. The ensuing play resulted in a sack and led to a field goal. A touchdown there likely ends the game.
Had Chase McLaughlin hit a 50-yard field goal try, the Colts would have led by nine on the last Eagles drive of the game. Again, it would have put the game out of reach.
This is 7 points left on the field between the offense and special teams and potentially 7 points given up by the defense due to two major errors. Those were enough to throw away a game the Colts won in every other aspect that mattered.
Perhaps these breakdowns explain the lack of confidence in Vegas. Even when the Colts have every reason to win, they find ways to snatch a defeat from the jaws of victory. Jim Irsay was hopeful that hiring Jeff Saturday could turn that around, and most of Sunday afternoon felt like maybe it did. Sadly, it didn’t. At least not today.
Note - it’s always frustrating to even mention the officiating when there were so many opportunities to win the game, but there were at least two or maybe even three late hits by Eagles players that often earn a flag, but did not today. Additionally, an uncalled facemask penalty would have given the Colts a fresh set of downs in their failed goal-line attempt that started at the five-yard line. Instead, the Colts had to settle for a field goal.