EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. —The Indianapolis Colts on Sunday afternoon fell to the New York Jets, 42-34, at MetLife Stadium.
What's top of mind for the Colts as they move to 1-5 on the season?
With 11:27 left in the second quarter, Adam Vinatieri knocked in a 31-yard field goal to give the Colts their first lead of the day, 13-10, over the Jets.
At the time, the Indy defense was humming, as it had forced turnovers on two straight New York possessions — both of which turned into Colts field goals.
The visitors couldn't take advantage of the momentum, however.
The Colts would then turn the ball over on their next two possessions — leading to 10 points for the Jets — and New York would go on a 20-0 run heading into the third quarter from which Indy, despite a spirited second-half comeback that saw it get as close as six points heading into the fourth quarter, could not recover.
It's the Colts' fourth straight loss. Now they hope to get any sense of momentum in their two games left heading into the bye week.
In a game in which mental and physical mistakes — dropped passes, missed assignments and untimely turnovers — would haunt the Colts, particularly in the first half, it was yet another one of these issues that pretty much sealed the game for the Jets.
After Indianapolis was able to cut the Jets' lead to just six, 33-27, the home team responded with yet another Jason Myers field goal, this time from 45 yards out, to get its lead back up to nine, 36-27, with 9:44 left in the fourth quarter.
At that point of the game, that was a win for the Colts' defense; a touchdown could be potentially crippling, but there's still plenty of enough time, with the Jets field goal, for Indy to continue making this thing interesting. So the Colts took the field hoping to continue cutting into that lead.
Then it happened. Again.
On 3rd and 5 from the Indy 45, quarterback Andrew Luck telegraphed a pass intended for Chester Rogers across the middle of the field, and linebacker Darron Lee was all over it. Lee jumped the route and picked off the pass — Luck's third interception of the day — and took it all the way to the Colts' 25-yard line.
Myers would earn his 20th point of the day four plays later, knocking in a 37-yard field goal to give his team a 37-29 lead, and the Colts, officially, weren't going to be able to come back in this one.
A turnover on downs on the ensuing Indy drive, giving the ball back to the Jets in Colts' territory, was the final nail in the coffin on this afternoon.
PLAY OF THE GAME
The Ballhawk is back.
Some thought second-year safety Malik Hooker was having a "quiet" start to his season — truth be told, opposing offenses just weren't really throwing much in his direction the first five games of the year — but he finally got a prime opportunity on Sunday.
With just more than a minute left in the first quarter, and the Jets leading by three, 10-7, New York faced a 3rd and 4 from its own 33-yard line.
Quarterback Sam Darnold, lined up in the shotgun, faced heavy, heavy pressure from defensive end Jabaal Sheard, who absolutely obliterated the lineman in front of him off the snap to get into the face of the rookie QB.
That led to a rushed — and underthrown — pass attempt towards wide receiver Robby Anderson.
Hooker read the play the whole way, sprinting across the field and picking off the pass for his fourth-career interception.
The Colts' offense would eventually turn that into a 1st and Goal from the Jets' 1-yard line — but couldn't punch it in. Two straight one-yard losses and an incomplete pass in the end zone would lead to an Adam Vinatieri field goal to tie the game at 10.
Welcome back, Darius Leonard.
The Colts rookie phenom missed the team's Week 5 matchup against the New England Patriots with an ankle injury, but still remained the NFL's leading tackler heading into Sunday's game against the Jets.
Leonard was able to get right back into his NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month form, particularly in the first half, against New York, however. In the first two quarters, Leonard tallied eight total tackles (five solo), but his theme of making momentum-changing plays continued, as well.
After that Hooker interception that eventually led to the Colts tying the game at 10, the Jets were set up with a 1st and 10 from their own 25-yard line.
On the very first play of the drive, Darnold, lined up in shotgun, found wide receiver Quincy Enunwa, who flashed some speed to get nine yards. Great first play, right?
Wrong. Leonard came sprinting from seemingly out of nowhere to punch the ball out of Enunwa's hands from behind, and defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad recovered the ball at the Jets' 41-yard line.
Six plays later, Vinatieri knocked in a 31-yard field goal to give the Colts their first, and only, lead of the game, 13-10, with 11:27 left in the second quarter.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
• After Luck had attempted the second-most passes in NFL history over the span of two games — and the most within a five-day span — the Colts were laser focused on getting better balance in the run game on Sunday. And that plan didn't change heading into halftime, when Indy was down 10, 23-13. Running back Marlon Mack, playing in just his second game of the season, and his first since Week 2, due to a nagging hamstring injury, caught fire a bit over the final two quarters, and finished with 12 carries for 89 yards — an average of 7.4 yards per carry. Mack was especially effective between the tackles, and the Colts ran for 127 yards and a 5.5 yards-per-carry average on the day, which is an encouraging sign up front and for the offense in general moving forward.
• Eric Ebron was already well on pace for a career year prior this Jets game, but the fifth-year tight end cemented that fact on Sunday. Ebron in the third quarter had an 18-yard touchdown reception from Luck, bringing the Colts to within 10 again, 30-20, which was his sixth receiving touchdown of the year — already a single-season career-best. What a mismatch, and what a nightmare for this Indy offense to utilize. Ebron finished his day with four receptions for 71 yards and that aforementioned score. Ebron now has 30 receptions for 326 yards and an NFL tight end-leading six touchdowns on the year.
• With another solid outing on Sunday, Adam Vinatieri is well within striking distance of yet another all-time NFL record. Vinatieri hit two field goals — from 31 and 21 yards — and also connected on all four extra-point attempts to finish with 10 points on the day, and now sits just 10 points away from breaking Morten Andersen's all-time league scoring record (2,544). Look for Vinatieri — who's already now the league's all-time leader in field goals made — to surpass Andersen either next Sunday against the Buffalo Bills or in two weeks against the Oakland Raiders.
• Another brand new lineup up front did a terrific job protecting Luck on Sunday. Anthony Castonzo, making his 2018 debut, was at left tackle, rookie Quenton Nelson was at left guard, Ryan Kelly was at center, Mark Glowinski was making his first start of the season at right guard and rookie Braden Smith was making his second straight start at right tackle, and that combination did not allow a single sack of Luck on the day, and just three quarterback hits overall. The Jets came into the game tied for 10th in the league with 14 sacks, but really weren't given many opportunities to add to that total on Sunday.
WHAT WENT WRONG:
• Mistake after mistake once again doomed the Colts on Sunday. Whether it was dropped passes (and there were a few), bad penalties, missed assignments or poor execution, Indy just, at times, couldn't get out of its own way. And the blame could be passed all-around — it's not just one position group, not just one individual player making these mistakes time after time. And despite all this, for a third straight game, the Colts were somehow able to bring themselves to within at least one touchdown of the lead in the second half. Perhaps Luck said it best in his postgame press conference: the Colts can't learn how to win close ballgames until they learn not to lose them.
• On the defensive side of the ball, credit goes to the unit for a mostly-terrific first half, which led to two takeaways that gave the offensive prime opportunities to put points on the board. But something started clicking for the Jets from that point — and Indy could do little, if any, to stop them. The Jets would earn at least a field goal on eight straight drives at one point, and even when the Colts looked like they were making it a ballgame again at a couple junctures of the second half, New York's consistency won over in the end. The Colts' defense has got to figure out a way to get at least a couple stops in the second half — and by stops, that means a three-and-out, a big sack or a turnover that does not lead, at the very least, to a field goal for the opposing team.
• The Colts struggled on third downs — particularly in the first half — as well as on fourth down, in the red zone (again, in the first half) and on goal-to-go scenarios. Over the first two quarters, Indy — which came into the game leading the NFL in third-down conversation rate — converted just 2-of-9 (29 percent) of its third-down attempts, was 0-for-1 punching the ball into the end zone on goal-to-goal scenarios, and was 0-for-2 in the red zone overall. The Colts had been much better in these areas the last couple weeks — and improved a little bit with it in the second half against the Jets — but these are the specific areas coaching staffs can oftentimes point to and distinguish between winning and losing football.
— Three Colts players left Sunday's game with injuries and didn't return: wide receiver Ryan Grant (ankle), running back Robert Turbin (shoulder) and wide receiver Marcus Johnson, who was carted off in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury. Head coach Frank Reich had no immediate updates on these players after the game, but is scheduled to hold a conference call with reporters on Monday.
The Colts move on to next Sunday's home matchup against the Buffalo Bills at Lucas Oil Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. The Bills today fell to 2-4 on the season with a 20-13 loss to the Houston Texans. Buffalo was down 10-0 at halftime and actually went ahead, 13-10, early into the fourth quarter, but a Houston field goal and then interception return for a touchdown was all she wrote.