One play changed everything. Or from the Colts’ perspective, one no-call from an official deprived them of what they thought they had earned.
The Colts were ahead 27-20 and in field-goal range at the Eagles’ 22, but went for the jugular. Andrew Luck’s third-and-9 pass sailed wide as wide receiver T.Y. Hilton was held by Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin, and was intercepted by safety Malcolm Jenkins.
Instead of a two-score lead with 5:08 remaining, the Colts had to make the one-score lead stand, and couldn’t. The Eagles turned to Darren Sproles, whose 51-yard run after a short reception set up the tying score.
After the Colts went three-and-out, Sproles set up the finish with a 17-yard reception. Rookie kicker Cody Parkey drilled a 36-yard field goal as time expired for a 30-27 victory at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Colts could only lament what might have been after seeing a familiar face, a kicker who they had at the start of training camp, seal the deal.
Why wasn’t a flag thrown for pass interference?
Why didn’t the Colts play it safe, run the ball on third down and settle for a field goal instead of trying that pass?
Why couldn’t the Colts finish strong, after leading much of the game, but going three-and-out on their last chance to close it out?
And why, for yet another frustrating game day, couldn’t the Colts contain Sproles, who has victimized this team so many times in the past while with San Diego and New Orleans?
A lot of questions, and the only bottom-line answer is the Eagles are 2-0 and the Colts 0-2 after a game that easily could have had a different outcome. It's the first time the Colts have lost back-to-back games in the regular season in a span of 33 games dating back to the beginning of 2012.
Asked about the contact on his route, which was clearly evident on the replay, Hilton said, “He did grab my arm, but they missed it and we move on.”
Hilton had raised his arms in disgust and glared at the official after no flag was thrown.
Asked if Hilton was held, Colts coach Chuck Pagano said, “I think I had the same view as you did. It sure looked like it on the Jumbotron. We’ll look at the tape.”
A follow-up question prompted Pagano to say, “We knew we had the field goal in the bag, and again, I think everybody saw what happened on the play. The last thing we said to the quarterback was, ‘Take care of the football.’”
But Luck didn’t, even if it wasn’t entirely his fault, throwing a pass to where Hilton might have been instead of where he ended up.
”It doesn’t matter what I think,” Luck said. “It was an interception. At the end of the day, that’s what matters.”
The Colts did so many positive things early. They had a 20-6 lead midway through the third quarter. The Eagles were in trouble.
But Philadelphia rallied with a quick score, then pulled even after Colts running back Trent Richardson fumbled on the next offensive play. Just like that, Sproles burst through the middle for a 19-yard touchdown run. Game tied.
The Colts countered with a 12-play, 80-yard drive as Luck found Ahmad Bradshaw for their second passing score. After the Eagles were stopped, the Colts had their opportunity to finish. Then came the interception, and the Eagles poured it on after the Colts' second critical turnover.
Sproles was just too elusive. The diminutive 5-foot-6, 190-pound back finished with seven catches for 152 yards. He also ran four times for 26 yards with one TD.
The Colts head to Jacksonville (0-2) for a vital AFC South game on Sunday. The unbeaten Eagles host Washington.
“It stinks,” said Luck, who completed 20-of-34 passes for 172 yards with three TDs and the costly interception. “It’s not good. We realize it’s not the end of the season by any means.
“Our minds are now, ‘Hey, onto the next one.’ Whoever it is, we know we’ve got to get in the win column and get moving in the right direction.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.