Whether the score was 33-0 at halftime, 36-36 after four quarters or 39-36 when Greg Joseph connected on a game-winning field goal as overtime ended, the Colts felt like they missed several opportunities on both offense and defense that allowed the Vikings to complete the biggest comeback in NFL history on Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
"When we walked out of halftime, I told them (the Vikings), they've won nine of 10 of their games (that've) been one-score games," interim head coach Jeff Saturday said. "We didn't overlook — we understood how explosive this offense is, how many points they put up. I'm disappointed in how we played in the second half and didn't find a way to close this thing out, but ultimately, I told the guys in there, we didn't make enough plays, and that goes around the entire football team. You gotta look yourself in the mirror and understand when there's opportunities to make and close teams like that out, we gotta make them. And we didn't make them."
While the Colts' lead ballooned to 33 points – which is now the largest deficit any team has overcome to win in NFL history – in the first half, the offense had chances to put Saturday's game even further out of reach. The Colts had four possessions reach the red zone in the first 30 minutes and managed only one touchdown – their lone offensive touchdown of the game.
An Ifeadi Odenigbo blocked punt returned by JoJo Domann for a touchdown and a Julian Blackmon pick-six boosted the Colts' lead in the first half, but drives that ended at the Vikings' 8-, 9- and 10-yard lines all ended in short field goals by kicker Chase McLaughlin. Even though those possessions came in the midst of building massive halftime advantage, turning even one into a touchdown would've forced the Vikings to need to not only score five second-half touchdowns, but convert five two-point tries to tie the game (instead of the one Minnesota needed).
"It's more of the same, when you have your opportunities to finish drives with touchdowns, speaking from the offensive perspective even early in games," quarterback Matt Ryan said. "When you get those chances, you've got to be opportunistic and ultimately we didn't make enough plays to get the job done. We didn't make enough plays at the right time. When you have chances to put people away, we've got to do a better job than we've done up to this point."
The Colts' defense was stifling in the first half, holding the Vikings to 3.2 yards per play and extinguishing any opportunity for Minnesota to spark some momentum in the first 30 minutes. Minnesota had two first downs, averaged a three-and-out per possession and turned the ball over on downs or via a Colts takeaway four times.
But the game flipped in the second half, and the Colts were unable to make the plays they needed on both sides of the ball to slow Minnesota's surge.
The Vikings' offense was able to generate a number of explosive plays – 10 through the air and one on the ground – including a 64-yard screen from Kirk Cousins to Dalvin Cook that set up the game-tying two-point conversion late in the fourth quarter. Cousins completed 28 of 42 passes for 417 yards with four touchdowns after halftime; Justin Jefferson had nine catches for 106 yards and K.J. Osborn had eight catches for 141 yards in the second half, and both Vikings receivers had touchdowns.
"We missed some tackles, they made more plays than we did," defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said. "Simple as that. I can't put my finger on one thing. They made more plays than we did in the second half."
The Vikings also picked up three first downs on penalties after halftime; for the game, the Colts were penalized a season-high 11 times for 103 yards.
"Undisciplined football," Saturday said. "You can't do that, can't keep teams like this in it. We just had too many of those on both sides of the ball. There's plenty of blame to go around."
On offense, the Colts came out of halftime with the mentality to keep their foot on the gas. When the Vikings started to make their comeback on offense, the Colts' offense sought an explosive play or an extended drive to take some oxygen out of Minnesota's fire.
But that play, and those plays, never came. The Colts gained 148 yards on 40 plays (3.7 yards/play) and had seven first downs in the second half and overtime, and Ryan completed 10 of 18 passes for 64 yards (3.6 yards/attempt) in the final 40 minutes of the game.
The Colts, though, had a chance to put the game away with two and a half minutes left. With the ball on the Vikings' 36-yard line and Minnesota out of timeouts, Saturday opted to go for it with Ryan running a quarterback sneak – a play the Colts have successfully used plenty in 2022.
Ryan, though, was stopped short of the line to gain. The next play was Cook's 64-yard rumble that led to the game being tied.
"You can never put the whole game on one play," center Ryan Kelly said, "so for us, we had chances in the second half, and we didn't do it right."
The Colts had a possession in overtime, too, that approached midfield thanks to a couple of snags by wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. But that stalled at the Colts' 44-yard line, and after Matt Haack punted, the Vikings drove for the game-winning field goal.
"It sucks because we're on the wrong side of history," Blackmon said. "I don't want to be remembered as a team who was on the wrong side of history. That's crazy, 33 points spotted and then nothing in the second half but a field goal. We gotta do better. Offense and defense, we gotta do better.
"... As hard as it is, you gotta digest it. Watch the film, see where we can be better because there were a lot of mistakes to be had. Everybody saw it, especially in the second half. We just gotta take this one to the chin and try to move on from there because we still got three games left."
The Colts take on the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.