INDIANAPOLIS —First and Goal from the 1-yard line.
It doesn't get much sweeter than that for an NFL offense: three chances to push ahead just one yard and put six points on the board.
The Indianapolis Colts faced that scenario early in the second quarter of Sunday's game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Thanks to an interception by safety Malik Hooker on the previous Jets drive, the Colts had prime field position, starting at the New York 35-yard line, and eventually, a six-yard run by Marlon Mack to the 1-yard line, moving the chains, set them up with three opportunities to take their first lead of the game.
On first down, Mack was stuffed by nose tackle Steve McLendon.
On second down, head coach Frank Reich called for a quick pass in the flat to tight end Eric Ebron. Nothing doing; another loss of one yard.
On 3rd and Goal from the 3, it seemed like the Colts finally broke through, as Andrew Luck found a small window to connect with running back Nyheim Hines, who was wide open in the front of the end zone. Hines turned around to face Luck, jumped in the air and … dropped the ball.
A prime opportunity wasted. Adam Vinatieri connected on a 21-yard field goal to tie the game at 10 with 13:27 left in the second quarter.
It seemed as if this scenario would be a microcosm for the Colts' issues for the rest of the game, as Indy just couldn't figure out a way to play consistent, solid, sound football on either side of the ball — the drops, penalties and turnovers certainly didn't help — and the Colts would drop their fourth straight game, 42-34, to fall to 1-5 on the season.
It's certainly been a tough stretch for this Colts team, which hasn't really been out of any game it has played this season, yet continues to make similar mistakes week in and week out that keeps itself just out of reach of being able to reverse its fortunes.
And, no, the team isn't making any excuses. Youth, injuries — you name it, the Colts have likely faced it so far. But that doesn't make the losses, and the way the they are occurring, any better.
"Before we can learn how to win, we have to learn how not to lose," quarterback Andrew Luck said after Sunday's game. "We have to take that step."
If three games can represent a theme, then the Colts have certainly been consistent with their formula in recent losses to the Houston Texans (Week 4), the New England Patriots (Week 5) and on Sunday to the Jets (Week 6). Falling behind and facing double-digit deficits heading into halftime in each of those games, this scrappy Indy team will scratch and claw its way back in the second half to get to within at least one touchdown of tying the score ... before the issues that plagued them in the first two quarters start rearing their ugly head again.
Against the Texans, the Colts were down 21-10 at halftime and then 28-10 more than halfway through the third quarter before Indy mounted an impressive comeback to eventually tie the game at 31 and force overtime. Houston would eventually escape with a game-winning field goal as time expired, however.
The Patriots, meanwhile, took a 24-3 lead going into halftime before the Colts started charging back, getting to within a touchdown, 24-17, early in the fourth quarter. But New England would stand firm from there, winning 38-24 thanks to some ill-timed mistakes on offense and defense.
Same deal, different day against the Jets on Sunday. Indianapolis had a brief 13-10 lead with 11:24 left in the second quarter — but 11 minutes and 24 seconds later, the Jets were going into halftime with a 23-13 lead. The Colts, again, fought to trim the deficit to six points, 33-27, with 14:52 left in the fourth quarter, but, like the Patriots, the Jets would do what they needed to do down the stretch on both sides of the ball to earn the win.
Reich admitted after Sunday's game that it does get difficult when it seems the same issues rear their ugly head week after week.
Yet by continuing to build, continuing to do the little things in the days leading up to the games the right way, Reich remains confident that his team can begin to turn it around.
The Colts get their next opportunity to begin to do just that this Sunday, when they welcome the Buffalo Bills (2-4) to Lucas Oil Stadium.
"We've talked a lot about conviction and belief, and it is going to get tested. It is going to get tested for each one of us, and I really believe that as much as that hurts, if we are who we say we are, then there is good that will come out of it, and that's what I believe is going to happen," Reich said. "I am very confident that will happen. When, I don't know, but I believe that will happen because I believe we're doing things the right way. I believe that the players are, we have guys that are all in, and I just think right now we're just not hitting on all cylinders, and that (is not) resulting in wins, but I still will not waiver in the belief of what we are doing."