It shouldn’t have come down to one no-call play changing a much-needed game.
Sure, the Colts got robbed on the no-call. Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton was clearly held by Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin on the third-and-9 pass that sailed wide and was intercepted by Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins.
It boggles the mind to explain how in an NFL day and age when officials are throwing flags left and right to honor the rules of emphasis on defensive holding and pass interference that this one was ignored. It was blatant. It couldn’t have been more obvious. And it did change the game.
All that said, so fans’ complaints are acknowledged about what went wrong, the Colts didn’t respond after that. Bottom line, the Eagles finished. The Colts didn’t.
Colts’ coaches opened themselves up for scrutiny, too. When in field-goal range, with a chance to make it a two-score game, you play it safe. Easy to say after the fact, but the fact is, if you take a chance and it goes wrong, this happens.
Colts coach Chuck Pagano seemed to explain the interception as something beyond his team’s control, although he did tell Luck before the fateful play, “Take care of the football.”
Pagano said, “If a guy gets whatever, gets tackled and dragged down, whatever it was, there was nothing the quarterback or anybody else can do about it. Your thinking is not wrong. Our thinking was the same thing. We’ve got the field goal, take care of the football. It didn’t work out.”
Sorry, but the fact that it didn’t work out makes this a mistake. Plain and simple. And deep down, I suspect Pagano knows it now. He and his team were reminded the hard way — if you put a game in the officials’ hands, you don’t know what’s going to happen. In the NFL, you dictate what happens, not someone else.
Like with any loss, though, the blame can be spread around.
The Colts’ defense couldn’t find Darren Sproles, that little, perpetual pain in the butt who ran all over the place after catching a mind-numbing series of short passes. Seven catches for 152 yards is beyond ridiculous. He went 57 yards on one short pass play, 51 on another. He set-up the game-winning field goal for the 30-27 Eagles win with a 17-yard run after a catch.
After all that went wrong late, the Colts still had the ball in a tie game with 3:25 remaining. And they went three-and-out. Two runs gained 5 yards, then a rushed Luck stepped up in the pocket and misfired on a over-the-middle rocket intended for Reggie Wayne.
Because of how the momentum had shifted, it only seemed a matter of time then. The Eagles sprung Sproles once more, and that was basically it. In a game when the Eagles ran for 127 yards on 28 carries with two TDs, it was those short passes that spelled the Colts’ doom.
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles wasn’t sacked. Too often, pocket pressure was non-existent. He completed 21-of-37 passes for 331 yards with one TD and one interception.
In two games without suspended/injured outside linebacker Robert Mathis, the Colts have generated one sack and seven hurries. That’s not going to get it done against the NFL’s better teams.
The Colts’ rushing game showed a lot of life with 169 yards on 38 carries, a 4.4-yard average. But Trent Richardson, for all the positives finally displayed in running for 79 yards on 21 carries, fumbled the football away at a key moment. You just can’t do that.
Once again, it’s worth noting, running back Ahmad Bradshaw was better. He ran for 70 yards on 13 carries, a 5.4-yard average, and caught five passes for 26 yards including two touchdowns.
If the Colts are going to be serious about winning in these next few vitally important weeks, start Bradshaw and sub Richardson. Stop sticking to Richardson to justify the trade of a first-round pick a year ago. It just seems stubborn. Isn’t this about playing the guy who is producing the most?
While NFL percentages since 1990 suggest the Colts have just a 12 percent chance of making the playoffs after this 0-2 start, it’s too early to give up on this team. The Colts failed to gain a measure of confidence after losing to the Broncos and Eagles, two unbeatens who are well on their way to the postseason.
But the Colts have winnable games coming up, games they should win. They have to take care of business and finish, and not let anyone or anything cost them in the end.
These guys are professionals, and they should know that already. If not, they sure learned that lesson the hard way on Monday night.
No way it should have come to this.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.