In the wake of a gutting overtime defeat to the Baltimore Ravens, the Colts were left in the wee hours of Tuesday morning searching for answers and explanations for not only how they squandered a 19-point second half lead, but how to push forward from a 31-25 overtime loss at M&T Bank Stadium.
"That one sucked," running back Jonathan Taylor said. "Not the way you want your Monday night debut to go."
"It sucks. It's very frustrating, especially just giving it your all and coming up short," linebacker Darius Leonard, who said this was his most frustrating loss as a pro, said. "That's the part that hurts the most is when you go out and try to do everything in your will to help your team win and it doesn't happen, especially on the road and knowing that you had an opportunity to win the ballgame and that don't happen, it sucks. It sucks. I don't know what went wrong. I'm just very frustrated."
"Proud of the way our guys fought," head coach Frank Reich said. "We're making progress. That's not good enough in this league to just make progress and lose tough games against good opponents on the road. But there's still a lot of good stuff going on. Players in there, I know we got the right players in there and the right coaches in there. So we just gotta keep fighting to get better, learn from our mistakes, learn how to finish games — coaches and players, we're all in it together. And we gotta do it together."
To be sure, there were plenty of positives. Carson Wentz set a career high with 402 passing yards and the Colts' 513 yards of total offense represent the high-water mark of the Frank Reich era.
The Colts bullied the Ravens for most of the night, too, winning the physical battle on both sides of the ball as their lead ballooned to 22-3 midway late in the third quarter.
There were big plays from Wentz, Jonathan Taylor, Michael Pittman Jr., Parris Campbell, Zach Pascal and Mo Alie-Cox on offense; on defense, guys like Tyquan Lewis, Al-Quadin Muhammad, Darius Leonard and Julian Blackmon made their presence known.
And it's not like the Colts stopped making plays in the fourth quarter. They did. Right after Baltimore cut the score to 25-17 in the fourth quarter, Taylor shed a few tackles and accelerated for a 29-yard reception; a few plays later, his leap over a scrum at the line of scrimmage picked up a critical first down on third-and-1. Those felt like the kind of plays the Colts needed to win.
But Rodrigo Blankenship's 43-yard field goal was blocked by Baltimore's Calais Campbell, and Lamar Jackson swiftly marched the Ravens downfield for a game-tying touchdown and two-point conversion, both on passes to tight end Mark Andrews.
The Colts countered, though, with Wentz connecting with Campbell for a 23-yard completion on the first play of the ensuring drive. A 15-yard Wentz-to-Pascal completion then got the Colts in field goal range. Those were big, massive, clutch plays.
Rodrigo Blankenship's 47-yard field goal with time expiring went wide left, though, sending the game into overtime. The Ravens won the coin toss and Jackson continued his aerial assault, needing nine plays before finding Hollywood Brown for a five-yard, game-winning touchdown.
Jackson completed 29 of 32 passes for 335 yards with four touchdowns after halftime.
And the Colts were left feeling like they didn't unearth a killer instinct when the Ravens were furiously putting together a comeback.
"That goes for me, that goes for all of us," Wentz said. "We gotta be able to finish teams and put them away when we got them on the ropes like that. And that's a good football team. In a hostile environment, for us to come out swinging the way we did, we just can't let up. We gotta finish games better."
Blankenship was gritting through a hip injury that felt a sharp, intense stabbing pain every time he cocked his leg back to wind up for a kick. The issue cropped up in pregame warmups and affected the second-year kicker all night; he and special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone figured he had an optimal distance of about 45 yards but didn't flinch when presented with an opportunity for a game-winning kick slightly beyond that.
Blankenship, though, missed a PAT, had a field goal blocked that would've put the Colts up by 11 and then missed what would've been a walk-off, game-winning kick.
"Pretty much throughout the duration of the kick I was feeling pain," Blankenship said. He added he'll have an MRI on his hip Tuesday.
(Blankenship also said he didn't feel like his injury had anything to do with the blocked kick.)
"Obviously it affected him, but I give him credit for fighting through it," Reich said. "We didn't have any other answer."
The Colts, too, had to manage a depleted secondary that at one point in the fourth quarter had reserves at both outside cornerback spots (BoPete Keyes, Anthony Chesley) and both safety spots (George Odum, Andrew Sendejo).
But whatever the reason why the Colts didn't hang on to their lead on Monday night, the fact of the matter is it happened and there's little time to wallow in the shock and disappointment of the loss. The Colts play again in six days when the Houston Texans come to Lucas Oil Stadium, and there's no time to think bigger than anything beyond the granular day-to-day grind leading up to Week 6.
"Shoot, we got a home division game," Reich said. "We gotta flush this thing out really quick and get ready to go, there's a lot of football left. But we're not talking about any, hey, we gotta get a run going or a streak going. We just gotta take it one practice at a time, one game at a time."