INDIANAPOLIS – Four games. Four chances.
That is the story of the 2016 Indianapolis Colts at the quarter pole.
With each own game unfolding in its own unique way, the Colts have had an opportunity in the final two minutes of every game they've played in this season to earn a victory.
In case you forgot:
- Week One, Detroit: A Jack Doyle touchdown gives the Colts a 35-34 lead with 37 seconds remaining. The Lions then went 50 yards in 5 plays and Matt Prater's 43-yard field goal was the difference in the end. The Colts erased an 18-point deficit in Week One, but couldn't finish off the comeback.
- Week Two, Denver: Playing from behind virtually the entire afternoon, the Colts defense kept the team in it against the defending Super Bowl champions. With 1:51 to play, the Colts took over at their own 25-yard line, down six points. A chance for a game-winning touchdown drive was there, even with no timeouts remaining. However, a Von Miller strip sack on the first play of that drive ended the Colts chance at a 1-1 start to the season.
- Week Three, San Diego: The Colts got off to a great start in Week Three, before the Chargers outscored Indy 19-3. It was up to the offense and defense to finish this one off. T.Y. Hilton's 63-yard touchdown with 1:28 remaining put the Colts ahead, 26-22. Two plays later, Clayton Geathers' forced fumble sealed the first victory of 2016 for the Colts.
- Week Four, Jacksonville: Down 23-6 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Colts' odds were largely stacked against them. But the Colts made things very interesting, very quickly. With Jacksonville leading 30-27 with 2:31 left, the Colts defense gave the offense a chance at forcing overtime or possibly stealing one in regulation. But a failed fourth-and-one attempt from the Jacksonville 49-yard line with 1:42 left gave the Colts their third loss of the season.
The NFL is a bottom line business.
Wins and losses define seasons.
While Chuck Pagano acknowledges the reasons why the Colts currently sit at 1-3, and the need for those to change quick, he also knows just how fine of a line his team has faced this season.
"You look at all these games and a play here or a play there and woulda, shoulda, coulda," Pagano says. "You're in every game and you had an opportunity in the three losses to pull them out at the end. As poorly as you play in different segments of those games, you still had a chance."
"You got to find a way to play better early and then finish."
It's the plays early in games that sometimes get lost in the chaos of crunch time.
What if the Colts made plays earlier in contests (like the early drops against Jacksonville) to avoid such heart-stopping moments near the end of games?
After four weeks of 2015, the NFL has seen 47 games decided by one possession. That's the most at this point of a season in league history.
For the Colts to turn their early season playoff fortunes around, they must re-write the close game scripts we've seen the first four weeks.
"We were in every single game to win at the end of the game," GM Ryan Grigson says. "That's the silver lining in this thing---that we know we can compete with anyone.
"But we just can't put ourselves in the corner every week and that's what we tend to do. We put ourselves in the corner, our backs are to the wall like no other and then we wake up. That's when we find our smelling salts for some reason. We've got to find a way to combat that."