INDIANAPOLIS – In just the odd nature of how the 2020 season has unfolded for the Colts, it was really the first time Philip Rivers and the offense had felt that.
And that was real, amplified game pressure, with the score tied and the offense needing to march down the field to re-take that lead.
Unlike in 2019, when the Colts faced one possession game after one possession game, the Indy offense had yet to truly be in that situation this season.
But then Sunday’s game against the Texans unfolded.
And with 7:25 to go in the 4th quarter, and the score tied at 20, Philip Rivers jogged onto the field knowing this was something different.
“There is no question we haven’t been in that position,” Rivers said afterward.
“Tie ball game, we get the ball back and here we go. There is five and half minutes left to go win it or to take the lead.”
Sure, the Colts offense had faced some late-game pressure moments in wins over the Bengals and Packers, but still nothing like this.
The drive started from the Indy 25-yard line with an early 3rd-and-2 conversion from Rivers to Trey Burton. After a 14-yard scamper by Jonathan Taylor, the Colts were in Houston territory.
Things stymied a bit there, and a Jacoby Brissett QB sneak was needed on a 4th-and-1 to keep the drive alive.
On the next snap, an offensive pass interference penalty on rookie Michael Pittman put the Colts behind the chains, facing a 1st-and-20 from the Houston 44-yard line. An incompletion to Pittman followed on the next snap.
Staring a 2nd-and-20 outside of field goal range, the Colts had a decision to make with 2:29 remaining.
Dink and dunk your way into field goal range on the next two down, but that would commit you to just a field goal attempt, thus giving Deshaun Watson the ball back with a chance to win the game.
Or take a chance and be aggressive.
The latter was chosen.
“I really credit Nick (Sirianni) and the offensive staff, that’s a play that we had put in, trying to get against the coverage that we ended up getting,” Frank Reich said of the 41-yard down the seam toss from Rivers to T.Y. Hilton. “Unfortunately, we were in a long-yard situation. It was just a gut feeling that we had to make a play and had to take a shot. There was one thought to just try to get back in field-goal range, but I really was just trusting Philip, trusting T.Y., ‘Hey, let’s take the shot if it’s there. Let’s see if we can get the coverage we want and get T.Y. isolated like we wanted to and if it’s there, let’s take it and if not, let’s work underneath, try to get some yards and get back in field-goal range, if that’s what we have to do.”
The shot was taken, and it resulted in the offensive play of the year for the Colts. It was yet another example of Rivers willing to take such a chance at an important moment.
Zach Pascal’s effort two plays later capped the touchdown drive, and was a needed box to check for this offense.
“That really was the first time this year that we were put in that situation,” Reich says. “Having success in that moment is a good thing. This doesn’t guarantee future success, but it does give you confidence. The way we went about it and what we had to overcome on the drive, it just gives you a lot of confidence that we have the playmakers to make those plays when you really need it in the clutch.”
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