INDIANAPOLIS – The decision starts with a coach believing in an aggressive mindset to calling a game.
It is aided by late-game trust in a 15-year veteran quarterback, that simply wasn’t there last season.
It certainly helps when you have a rookie wideout who has taken what he did on Saturday’s in Bloomington and South Bend last fall and done it on Sunday’s in Indianapolis, too.
And it also helps when you have a day in pass protection days like the Colts did on Sunday, with no sacks allowed in 58 pass attempts, something no one could have seen possible as the Colts put together a 3rd straight different offensive line, and then made another change in the first half.
Down 27-26 with 29 seconds to go on Sunday, the Colts faced a 3rd-and-13 from the Jacksonville 32-yard line.
Most offensive play callers in that situation would run the football, make the opposing team use its 3rd and final timeout, and try a field goal in the 50-yard range. If a pass play was to be called, it would be very high percentage, wanting to trim off some of that long-distance attempt. This would be the safe play, keeping the Colts away from a devastating holding penalty or sack, and making sure the clock would continue to run.
But Frank Reich wanted to take a shot. Matt Ryan loved the idea. And Alec Pierce thrives when given those opportunities.
Reich made the call, Ryan liked what he saw at the line of scrimmage, and then Pierce beat press coverage (if the corner had been playing off, the plan was for Pierce to run a slant).
As Ryan felt pressure, and ended up taking a hit in his lower body, he delivered one of his best balls in a Colts uniform.
Pierce didn’t have to stop his stride, instead he was in perfect position to climb the ladder and make a play where he is at his best–putting his volleyball background is on full display.
The rookie did just that, hauling in the well-thrown pass, securing the catch and scoring the game-winning touchdown.
Let’s be honest, the Colts would not have made such a call last season.
They didn’t have the full trust in their quarterback late in games and they didn’t have a player like Pierce showing what he’s done just a handful of games into his NFL career.
And it’s quite possible Reich wouldn’t have had the full belief he did on Sunday if the offensive line hadn’t had such a sound day in pass protection.
Add all of that up, and the Colts weren’t going to just sit back and put the game on the right leg of Chase McLaughlin from such a long distance.
“Go win the game,” was the message Ryan heard when Reich told him the play call.
Well, the Colts did just that in making the play of the season.
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