INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts entered Sunday's Week 4 matchup against the Oakland Raiders one of the more disciplined teams in the National Football League.
The Raiders, meanwhile, came to Indianapolis reeling after two straight blowout losses.
But the first two quarters of Sunday's game were proof of the week-to-week nature of the NFL, as the Raiders seemingly did everything right, while the Colts couldn't get out of their own way. Indy's second-half comeback attempt wouldn't be enough, and the Colts ended the first quarter of their season with a disappointing 31-24 loss to even their record at 2-2.
"Tough loss here at home," said head coach Frank Reich, whose Colts saw their seven-game home winning streak snapped. "We had a little momentum going into this game; really were looking forward to carrying that momentum, and we did not do that."
The Raiders (2-2) set the tone from the start, easily going 75 yards in 10 plays on their opening drive, which ended with an 18-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Derek Carr to tight end Foster Moreau.
The Colts, meanwhile, couldn't punch back, going three-and-out on their opening drive.
And Oakland made them pay.
On their very first play of their second drive, wide receiver Trevor Davis took an end-around handoff 60 yards to the house, putting the Raiders up 14-0 not even halfway through the first quarter.
In all, the Raiders ran for 188 yards on the day Sunday, averaging 5.9 yards per carry. Of those 188 rushing yards allowed, 110 came in the first half.
"That's the most disappointing thing to me," Reich said. "That's the most disappointing thing, because I've always felt like last year, and then going into this year, teams can't run the ball on us. We don't let teams run the ball. So we've gotta look at that and see what we can do better as coaches and players to have a better run defense."
The Colts, who went three-and-out on their second drive, did eventually catch a break, as defensive end Justin Houston recovered a Derek Carr fumble at the Oakland 22-yard line, leading to a five-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jacoby Brissett to tight end Jack Doyle three plays later to make it 14-7. But the Raiders, again, fought back on the ensuing drive, going 76 yards in 11 plays — and converting two crucial third downs — to get in the end zone once again, this time on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Carr to Tyrell Williams.
After an Adam Vinatieri field goal on the Colts' next drive, their defense started to go to work, forcing a three-and-out for a second straight stop; but Indy's momentum would quickly be halted, as wide receiver Parris Campbell fumbled the ball at the Oakland 15-yard line, which was recovered by the Raiders' Karl Joseph.
The Colts went into halftime trailing 21-10. Over the course of the first two quarters, Indy — which came into the matchup having committed the second-fewest penalties in the NFL — had four accepted penalties for 30 yards, it had a crucial turnover in the red zone and the team's receivers unofficially dropped five passes.
The Raiders' offense, meanwhile, had 217 yards of offense in the first half.
"We could not have gotten off to a much worse start than we did today," Reich said. "We were three-and-out, they were scoring touchdowns, and it was a poor start.
"It's hard to explain," Reich continued. "I mean, that has not been indicative of our offense. We've had very few drops, very few penalties, and today it was hard to swallow. And I don't know what it is — we've been doing a good job at that; we just have to fight to eliminate those."
The Colts were able to make things interesting in the second half. They outgained the Raiders 202-160 and committed just one penalty over the final two quarters, and got to within seven points at the 5:27 mark of the fourth quarter, as Brissett led a 14-play, 90-yard drive that culminated in a four-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Chester Rogers.
But the crucial mistakes reared their ugly head one more time for Indy. After the Colts' defense forced a Raiders punt on the ensuing drive — setting up a potential game-tying drive — Brissett would be picked off by safety Erik Harris, who sprinted 30 yards into the end zone for a touchdown, effectively putting the game out of reach.
"He made a good play," Brissett said of the pick. "It was a dumb decision on my part — uncharacteristic on my part. But he made a great play."
Brissett would find tight end Eric Ebron for a 48-yard touchdown pass six plays later, but it was too little, too late, as the Raiders would get the one first down they needed to go to a knee and escape with a road victory.
The Colts' quarterback credited Oakland with a solid gameplan, but said ultimately Sunday's loss was his team's own doing — and something that can't repeat itself moving forward.
"I mean, I think when you look at the stat sheet it wasn't about them; it was about us," Brissett said. "You know, we had missed assignments — all 11 of us — penalties in crucial situations, and I think that was the deciding factor. Don't get me wrong: they played a great game. They took advantage of some of the things we did and had a great plan for us, but it boiled down to us."