INDIANAPOLIS – What in the world was that?
The 2022 Colts have been historic for all the wrong reasons, adding to it on Saturday by blowing the biggest lead in NFL history.
Here is what was learned from the Colts (4-9-1) seeing a 33-0 halftime lead turn into a 39-36 overtime loss to the Minnesota Vikings (11-3):
FIVE THINGS LEARNED
1. No Coming Back From This One: This was one of the wildest games you’ll ever see. The epitome of a tale of two halves. If you watched how the Colts coached to end of the first half, you could sense Jeff Saturday’s team already holding on for dear life. And they played that way after halftime. It was an offense unable to put this game away with just one somewhat substantial drive, against a Minnesota defense that entered Saturday as one of the worst in the league over the past month-plus. A massive lead took the Colts defense away from the stingy plan that had limited Justin Jefferson early on. It was a display of a 4-9-1 football team unable to seize any killer instinct of putting this game away with just one more play, across any unit. Jim Irsay selling Jeff Saturday on his fan base was going to be difficult in itself. Blowing the biggest lead in NFL history puts quite the wrench in that sort of idea. And that comes one week after allowing the biggest fourth-quarter differential (minus 33 points) the NFL has seen in 97 years. This Colts game was epic. It was a game you’ll talk about for years. Honestly, it was textbook in entertainment, yet perfect for the long-term view of improving draft position. It was also a reminder of something that’s been festering for weeks/months. The Colts, at 4-9-1, on the verge of another elimination from the playoffs, are an organization in shambles. And that is from the top of the organization, throughout the personnel and coaching departments. This season will go down as one of the most disappointing the franchise has experienced in at least two decades.
2. Great News For The Draft: It took NFL history to occur, but this is the exact result the “only care about draft position” crowd wanted. A win on Saturday by the Colts would have sent them from the 7th draft position to the 14th draft position (7 teams are currently at 5-8 right now). With the loss though, they can only rise in the draft order, depending on what happens with the rest of the Week 15 games. As long as Colts fans can live with watching their team suffer the embarrassment of the biggest blown lead in the history of the NFL, and focus on the big picture, a loss is very important for the Colts continuing to try and rise up in the draft order. And for those curious on those Colts playoff chances, they could actually be officially eliminated from the postseason on Sunday if the Titans win (ending the AFC South chances) and the Jets or Patriots win (ending the Wild Card chances). If that happens, it’ll mark the 6th time in 8 years the Colts have failed to make the playoffs, marking the worst stretch for the franchise since the late 1980s/early 1990s.
3. Is This Finally It For Matt Ryan? Per usual, it was another awful offensive performance by the Colts. That might sound crazy when you see 36 points on the scoreboard, but that’s beyond misleading. The Colts lacked any complementary football from its offense, unable to cash in on terrific early opportunities set up by the Indy defense and special teams. After the first quarter, the Colts had 5 drives reach Minnesota territory, including two inside the 10-yard line. Those 5 drives resulted in 12 total points and 0 touchdowns. Matt Ryan and the Colts were facing the league’s worst passing defense on Saturday. Yet, Ryan finished the day with just 182 passing yards on 33 attempts, for a putrid 5.5 yards per pass attempt. As we wrote following the Cowboys game, the Colts need to bench Ryan. Some national reports of the Colts willing to turn to Nick Foles during Saturday’s game actually surfaced prior to kickoff. Those don’t happen for a reason. Although, we didn’t see a Ryan benching happen during the game. But will it happen after this one, as the Colts could be eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday with 3 games to go? Saturday was embarrassing on so many fronts, but the Indy passing offense weas once again the biggest issue, facing an opponent teams had been feasting on.
4. Don’t Lose Bubba Ventrone: This might sound weird after that performance, but the Colts did do something right early on to build the biggest blown lead in NFL history. The Colts special teams unit set the tone for a 33-point lead at halftime. It started with rookie Dallis Flowers going 49 yards on the opening kickoff to give the Colts terrific field position for that rare opening drive score. It was followed by former Viking Ifeadi Odeingibo blocking a punt and undrafted rookie JoJo Domann doing a tremendous job of finding the football in the air, catching it and returning it for a touchdown. And then later in the first half, Bubba Ventrone’s group thwarted any momentum attempt from the Vikings by stopping a fake punt. It was clinical special teams by the Colts, with Chase McLaughlin also continuing to be very reliable, particularly from long range. Saturday was a reminder of how good Ventrone’s special teams have been since he came to Indy in 2018. As the Colts face all their uncertainty this offseason, whoever is constructing the new coaching staff needs to make sure Ventrone is a huge priority. Honestly, Ventrone probably deserves a head coaching interview given how he’s viewed by players on this team and how his unit has been incredible consistent over the last 5 years. And he probably should be coaching this football team in the final 3 games of the season.
5. Jonathan Taylor’s Season Over? Likely lost in the chaos of Saturday’s wild game, Jonathan Taylor left the game on the opening drive, aggravating a nagging right ankle injury. Anytime a player suffers an injury at this point of the season, and one that’s caused the player to miss time during the season, it brings into question if we will see the guy the rest of the year. Given the position Taylor plays, the nature of this injury (a reoccurring ankle injury) and with the Colts not going to make the playoffs, it is complete sense to shut Taylor down for the final 3 games of the season. If this it for Taylor’s third NFL season, he will finish it with 861 rushing yards on 192 carries and 4 touchdowns in 11 games. You wonder how this sort of injury, albeit not a torn knee or Achilles, might impact likely contract extension talks coming in the offseason (Taylor has one more year left on his rookie contract).
-Injury Report: The following Colts were INACTIVE on Sunday: WR-Mike Strachan (concussion), CB-Kenny Moore (ankle), CB-Brandon Facyson (illness), DE-Ben Banogu, OL-Wesley French, DT-Chris Williams. These Colts got hurt on Saturday and did not return: RB-Jonathan Taylor (ankle)
–Key Stat: Saturday was the first time in Colts franchise history they scored a touchdown in a game on offense, defense and special teams.
–What’s Next: The Colts (4-9-1) will be back on Monday Night Football in Week 16, hosting the Chargers on 12/26. The Colts have 3 games remaining: Chargers, at Giants, Texans.
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