INDIANAPOLIS —The Indianapolis Colts on Sunday fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 20-17, in their Week 10 matchup at Lucas Oil Stadium.
What's top of mind for the Colts after falling to 3-7 on the year?
This one just *feels *different.
The Indianapolis Colts have led at halftime — or at least had a share of the lead — now in eight of their 10 games this season, with the latest example coming Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, as the Colts led, 10-3, after two quarters of play.
But after a 61-yard touchdown pass to Chester Rogers on their opening drive of the second quarter, extending their lead to 14 points, 17-3, the Colts absolutely had the AFC North Division-leading Steelers — with all their dangerous weapons on offense as well as the league's second-ranked defense — on the ropes.
But after that point, the Steelers poked and poked and poked away, taking advantage of some crucial Indianapolis errors as well as making some big plays of their own, and after enough of those types of events, Pittsburgh seized all the momentum and eventually tied the game at 17.
Then, as time expired, Chris Boswell — who had earlier missed a potentially huge field goal — got his revenge, nailing a 33-yard field goal and sending the Steelers home with a comeback win, 20-17.
In all eight games with the lead (or tied) going into halftime, the Colts have eventually let their opponents get back into the game. They're now 3-5 in those contests.
But, again, Sunday's game just feels different. The Colts outplayed arguably the AFC's top team for most of the ballgame, and have been playing their best overall football of the season the last three weeks, even as seemingly key player after key player goes down with a major injury.
There are no moral victories, of course. But, finally heading into their bye week, the Colts could certainly use the away time to recharge their batteries and get some bodies back. If they can keep finding ways to play well in large stretches once they return, then the final six games could potentially show the team — and its fanbase — just what it's made of.
In a series of four plays early in the fourth quarter, one could literally see the tide turning in Sunday's game.
First, the Steelers made a huge play on defense. With 12:59 left in the fourth quarter, on 3rd and 8 from the Indianapolis 13, Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett was pressured and checked down to tight end Jack Doyle in the flat to his right. But the quick pass ricocheted off Doyle's hands, and right into the possession of Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier, who showed some extremely quick hands to secure the interception at the 10-yard line.
Three plays later, the Colts rushed just three up front to provide as much coverage as possible on 3rd and Goal from their own 7-yard line. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, accordingly, had all day to throw, and after several seconds, he was able to find his tight end, Vance McDonald, wide open — I mean, *wide *open — on the right side of the end zone for a touchdown.
After a successful two-point conversion, all of a sudden, the Steelers had tied the ballgame at 17.
PLAY OF THE GAME
The aforementioned touchdown play to Rogers was unquestionably the biggest play of the day for the Colts.
Up 10-3 and getting to the Indianapolis 39-yard line on their opening drive of the third quarter, Brissett and the Colts' offense faced a 1st and 10. Lined up in the shotgun, Brissett, who, on the snap, faked a handoff to running back Frank Gore, had a short dropback before unloading a pass to a wide-open Rogers, who had found a gap in the coverage near the numbers on the right side of the field at the Pittsburgh 30.
Ten yards later, Rogers was able to slip out of the tackle of not one, but two Steelers defenders, and essentially jog the rest of the way from there for his first-career touchdown.
The second-year receiver certainly did his job stepping up with No. 1 receiver T.Y. Hilton nursing a groin injury and No. 2 receiver Kamar Aiken out with a hamstring injury, and put in a career day: six receptions for a game-best 104 yards and a touchdown.
The play put the Colts up 17-3 and, for the time being, put the Steelers on the ropes early in the second half.
With all the weapons the Steelers feature offensively, you knew it was only going to be a matter of time before they took a big shot down the field.
That shot ended up coming on the second play of the game.
After a short five-yard pass to Antonio Brown to begin their first possession, Roethlisberger unleashed a bomb down the ride sideline towards wide receiver Martavis Bryant, who was in one-on-one coverage against Colts cornerback Pierre Desir.
But Desir was ready.
The fourth-year veteran read the pass perfectly, and although Bryant looked like he had a step initially, Desir used his length to his advantage, tracking the ball the whole way, setting his feet around the Indianapolis 29-yard line, jumping in the air with both hands and reaching back to nab the interception — securing the ball as he fell to the ground — at the Colts' 21-yard line.
For Desir, the play represented his very first NFL interception. But after a week in which the team released ninth-year cornerback Vontae Davis — a two-time Pro Bowler during his time in Indianapolis — it was Desir that knew he needed to step in and step up, which is exactly what he did throughout Sunday's game.
Desir finished with eight tackles, the interception and two total passes defensed.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
• The first half went about as well as it could've for the Colts. On offense, the team had 168 total yards, converted half of its tries on third down (4-of-8), Brissett was throwing it well (9-of-13 passing for 131 yards and a touchdown), and Gore was leading the charge on the ground with 44 yards. Defensively, the Colts held the Steelers to just 100 yards, an 0-for-5 effort on third downs and the future Hall of Famer Roethlisberger was held to 7-of-15 passing for 72 yards with an interception, and he was also sacked once. As far as jumping out to an ideal start goes, it was mission accomplished for the Colts on Sunday.
• The Colts would end up holding Le'Veon Bell — one of the league's premiere running backs — to 26 attempts for 80 yards and no scores. While Bell is known for his patience and his ability to make something out of seemingly nothing — and he certainly did that a couple times on Sunday — the Colts' defense, which allowed just 88 rushing yards total on Sunday, did about as well as it could've in keeping Bell from going off.
• Likewise, Antonio Brown, the league's leading receiver entering Sunday's game, was limited to just three receptions for 47 yards. If you would've told Colts fans prior to Sunday's game that Bell and Brown would be held in check like they were, then I'm sure most would've thought the final result would be different.
• The Colts' special teams made another splash play on Sunday, as Margus Hunt broke through and blocked an extra point attempt midway through the third quarter. Hunt, who led the league in blocked kicks a season ago with the Cincinnati Bengals, earned his first of the season in his first year with the Colts, who got their second block of the season. Also on that play, Matthias Farley nearly took the blocked kick back for two points, but he would be tackled inside the Pittsburgh five-yard line.
• With their top two receivers banged up, the Colts' "next-man-up" approach worked on Sunday, as Rogers and Donte Moncrief — who caught a 60-yard touchdown pass — filled in nicely, combining to catch seven passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns.
WHAT WENT WRONG
• For all that went right in the first two quarters — as well as the first drive of the third — the rest of the game wasn't kind for the Colts. Though the Indy defense played well for most of the game, it eventually was on the field for just too long as the third and fourth quarters wore on, and the Steelers took advantage, putting together plays of 44, 32, 20, 19, 13 and 12 yards in the final two quarters alone. The Colts' offense, meanwhile, sputtered after that long touchdown play to Rogers, earning just two first downs on their final five drives, punting four times and throwing an interception on another.
• Brissett was knocked around, particularly in the second half. Though the Steelers finished with just three sacks total, they hit the Colts' quarterback nine times in all. On a couple occasions, Brissett was slow to get up off the turf; the first time, it looked like he was favoring his right hand, and the second time he would be evaluated for a concussion. Though he was eventually cleared by the team and an independent doctor, the team said Brissett developed concussion-like symptoms after the game and he is now in the league's concussion protocol.
• After a strong first half running the ball with 50 total yards, the Colts would run for just 21 yards the rest of the way, averaging 2.4 yards on 29 carries. This, despite having a lead throughout most of the final two quarters and winning the time-of-possession battle, 30:02 to 29:58.
• The Colts had nine accepted penalties for 82 yards. After the yellow flags really hadn't been a factor in recent weeks, they reared their ugly head on Sunday.
The following players were injured during Sunday's game:
• Cornerback Kenny Moore II (concussion)
• Tight end Darrell Daniels (hamstring)
• Inside linebacker Darnell Sankey (hamstring)
Head coach Chuck Pagano had no updates on these injuries in his postgame press conference. The team also announced Brissett, who was evaluated for a concussion and cleared to return during the game, developed concussion symptoms after the game and now is in the league's concussion protocol.
The Colts head into their bye week, and then play host to the Tennessee Titans on Nov. 26 at Lucas Oil Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. ET on CBS.