INDIANAPOLIS – So, so close to a potential season-altering win.
Just like last time at home against Washington, the Colts had a two-score 4th quarter lead on Sunday, but couldn’t finish in losing a game they desperately needed to have.
Here is what was learned from the Colts (4-6-1) losing 17-16 to the Eagles (9-1):
FIVE THINGS LEARNED
1. Couldn’t Finish: What a dud of an ending to a potentially season-changing win. The Colts had a 10-point lead in Sunday’s 4th quarter, and numerous chances to try and close out a game played at the pace, and score, of what Indy wanted. But, with the offense being the major culprit, the Colts couldn’t cap what would have been one of the most impressive wins Lucas Oil Stadium has seen in quite some time. Honestly, the poor finishing started late in the 3rd quarter when Chase McLaughlin missed a 50-yard field goal, and the Colts squandered great field position on consecutive drives. The Eagles took that short field and turned it into a touchdown to the cut the lead to 13-10. From there, the Indy offense went fumble in Eagles territory, had to settle for a field goal (off a turnover) and then turned it over on downs to end the game. And the Colts defense, which had played such tremendous football all afternoon, finally broke with a huge pass interference penalty, and unable to get a 4th-and-2 stop, along with zero quarterback run awareness on the game-winning touchdown by Jalen Hurts. Sunday was a bit of a microcosm of this Colts season, in terms of the defense having to carry so much of the heavy lifting. But, like with Washington two weeks ago, a multi-score 4th quarter lead couldn’t be held. When you let a team like the Eagles hang around, you are asking to be stunned at the end. Results like this are why the Eagles will play meaningful football in January and why the Colts will likely be starting their off-season vacation.
2. Same Old Colts Offense: Outside of Sunday’s opening drive (the first opening-drive TD since Christmas), it was the same old Colts offense. Jonathan Taylor had 15 carries for 35 yards after that first drive. Matt Ryan and the passing offense couldn’t produce anything vertically and the Colts offensive line had some untimely breakdowns. Scoring one touchdown against this explosive Philly defense isn’t going to get it done. It was quite the scene watching the Colts two biggest offensive line issues this season ending this game, with rookie left tackle Bernhard Raimann getting run over for a sack and then right guard Will Fries having a false start. When you’ve started 3 left tackles and 3 right guards this year, with none of those changes because of injuries, there are reasons why these two youngsters are in there, and living with their growing pains comes is reality. Raimann had a major ‘welcome to the NFL’ type of afternoon, with his miscues thwarting several drives. Make no mistake, this loss is on the offensive unit. A critical second-half turnover on the opponent’s side of the field, an inability to cap a goal-to-go situation that would have likely iced the game and a general lack of consistent movement all afternoon kept the Colts from pulling away. It put way too much pressure on the Indy defense, and that storyline has happened far too often this season. One of the questions exiting last week was how would the Colts offense look like against a competent NFL defense (unlike the Raiders). The answer on Sunday is the offense we’ve seen for virtually all of 2022.
3. Defense So Close To Perfect: Let’s make this very clear: the Colts defense played about as perfect of a game as you could expect against such an explosive Philly offense. But any great defender will look at that final drive and think ‘what if.’ A 39-yard defensive pass interference on Zaie Franklin that occurs partly because the Colts pass rush was way too quiet late. A 4th-and-2 quarterback draw to keep the game alive for Philly. And a 3rd-and-Goal TD run by Jalen Hurts, with him running up the middle for 7 yards through a hole that was so big, Hurts was celebrating before he crossed the end zone. Again, just like with Washington a few weeks back, one more play from the defense would have sealed this victory. Part of me is a little guilty to even point this out, but you have to because the drive had several plays we would point out, had they been made. Still though, taking a 60-minute view, this was a darn good performance by Gus Bradley’s defense. The Colts held the high-powered Eagles to 17 points. Jeff Saturday would have signed up for that immediately on Sunday morning. Losing contain of Hurts is probably the one nitpick of the afternoon. Having said all that though, the Colts defense played winning football. The Colts offense did not. For a defense having played really only one ‘good’ offense this season, Sunday was a strong statement in this unit being legit, holding the Eagles to a season-low 17 points.
4. Yannick Ngakoue Shows Up: I feel the need to single out Yannick Ngakoue for his play on Sunday, And, yes, some of this is because Ngakoue has yet to have such an impactful outing with the Colts. Ngakoue was a game-wrecker on Sunday, and did it both in the run and pass game. The highlight play from Ngakoue came on the first play of the second half, when he took full advantage of the Eagles blocking him with a running back, beating Miles Sanders for a strip/sack on a deep ball attempt by Jalen Hurts. That set the Colts up for short field (which led to 3 points). Ngakoue also made a couple of big run-stops, which is not his forte. While Ngakoue has 6.5 sacks on the season, and is on track to be right around double-digit for the season there, the timeliness of those plays haven’t been game-changing. But they were on Sunday. With Kwity Paye battling an ankle injury right now, the Colts need for Ngakoue to be what they thought he’d be when making that trade. On Sunday, he took it to another level with those timely run-stops. It’s a shame though it has taken 11 games to truly feel it.
5. Continued Fading Playoff Hopes: Unfortunately, the Colts just aren’t in a position for a lot of praise for a ‘moral’ victory, when acknowledging the playoffs. But that’s what Sunday feels like. The Colts have not only been more entertaining under Jeff Saturday, but they’ve been a better football team. They’ve led after 7 of the 8 quarters under Saturday, getting off to strong starts in both outings. Entering Sunday, I laid out a ‘glass half full’ look at what the Colts needed to do to get to 9 wins, and try to factor into a Wild Card position. That meant a likely 5-2 finish. Well, now that’s going to take 5-1, with the schedule as followed: Steelers, at Cowboys, at Vikings, Chargers, at Giants, Texans. For many, ever since the end of September, this season has been more about the 2023 Draft, and the ever-lasing search for the next franchise quarterback. Well, Sunday’s result aides that cause and was another reminder of what a game-changer at QB (Jalen Hurts) can be. But for those still thinking the playoffs are possible, Sunday was a big blow. Any loss is so hard to overcome right now given the Colts record (4-6-1) and place in the AFC (10th). But especially one at home, when you have a two-score lead in the 4th quarter. For so much of Sunday it looked like the Colts would get a massive win, ride multi-week victory momentum into Thanksgiving. And Jeff Saturday’s team would have been the talk of the NFL. Instead, the Colts were reminded what a 60-minute game is like when you don’t close out a quality opponent.
-Injury Report: The following Colts were INACTIVE on Sunday: DE-Kwity Paye (ankle), OT-Matt Pryor (illness), TE-Jelani Woods (shoulder), QB-Nick Foles, WR-Mike Strachan, DT-Chris Williams. These Colts got hurt on Sunday and did not return: CB-Isaiah Rodgers Sr. (concussion)
–Key Stat: The Colts scored an opening drive touchdown on Sunday for the first time since last Christmas.
–What’s Next: The Colts (4-6-1) are back at home next week, playing their first Monday Night game inside of Lucas Oil Stadium since 2015. It’ll be the Pittsburgh Steelers (3-6) playing in Indy at 8:15 PM next Monday.