A lethargic defensive effort, coupled with a lousy performance from the offensive line resulted in the Colts 29-10 road loss in Week 16 against the Atlanta Falcons.
Atlanta’s tailback trio tallied 177 rushing yards on 30 carries, led by rookie Bijan Robinson, who recorded his fifth career game with 100-plus scrimmage yards. Robinson rushed for 72 yards on 12 carries and grabbed seven catches for 50 receiving yards. The Falcons totaled 406 yards of offense, doubling the 203 yards of offense the Colts produced.
Colts quarterback Gardner Minshew orchestrated a 13-play opening drive, connecting with rookie tight end Will Mallory for a pair of completions to drive inside Falcons territory. After three consecutive carries from running back Jonathan Taylor earned a new set of downs, receiver Alec Pierce drew a pass interference penalty inside the end zone to set up the Colts with first-&-goal at the one-yard line. Taylor took three more carries to bulldoze past the goal line and give the Colts their only lead of Sunday’s affair.
JT once again doing JT things.— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) December 24, 2023
Atlanta (7-8) needed just five plays to retaliate once Robinson rushed left for a 32-yard gain to drive inside Colts territory. Falcons’ quarterback Taylor Heinicke delivered a 24-yard touchdown to TE Kyle Pitts on a corner route to tie the game midway through the first quarter. Heinicke shredded the Colts secondary, completing 23 of 33 passes for 229 passing yards.
On the Colts second drive, Minshew showcased the run-pass-option on consecutive plays and found rookie receiver Josh Downs open in the flat to reach midfield. Falcons’ Zach Harrison and Arnold Ebiketie rushed off the edge to sack Minshew on consecutive plays, forcing the Colts to punt and pin the Falcons back at their own three-yard line. The Falcons sacked Minshew six times on Sunday, while limiting Taylor to just 43 rushing yards on 18 carries, 2.38 yards per carry.
After Heinicke faked the handoff and dumped off a screen to Allgeier for a 19-yard gain, an unnecessary roughness penalty against linebacker E.J. Speed tacked on another 15-yards to place the Falcons inside Colts territory. The Colts continued to make critical errors as an offsides penalty against Ameer Speed negated a missed 49-yard field goal by Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo, who redeemed himself by striking a 23-yard chip shot, then a 47-yarder to give the Falcons a 13-7 lead before halftime.
The Falcons started the second half by fumbling the first snap, but attacked the ground by committee with relentless pursuit. After three consecutive carries for Cordarrelle Patterson placed the offense inside Colts territory, Allgeier finished the opening drive with a 31-yard touchdown run to extend the lead to 20-7.
Once Minshew led the offense to midfield, the fifth-year veteran took off for a 24-yard run – the longest of his career – to drive inside the red zone and set up kicker Matt Gay for a 33-yard field goal to cut into the deficit. Minshew tried to create magic midway through the fourth quarter, but his deep pass was picked off at midfield by Falcons’ safety Jesse Bates. He completed 20 of 37 pass attempts for 201 passing yards and produced a quarterback rating of 58.5, which was among the worst three scores of all starting QBs through the early slate of Week 16 games.
Despite failing to gain ground against the rest of the field, the Colts remain in the seventh spot of the AFC playoff race as Houston, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati post identical 8-7 records with two games left in the regular season. Indianapolis (8-7) hosts Las Vegas (6-8) at Lucas Oil Stadium on New Year’s Eve.