INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts fell to 6-7 on the season Sunday with their 38-35 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their 2019 Week 14 matchup at Raymond James Stadium.
In an entertaining back-and-forth affair, the Colts got off to a fast start, leading 10-0 early in the first quarter, but the Buccaneers (6-7) weren't in a mood to quit, eventually heading into the second quarter up 14-10.
The Colts were the better team in the second and third quarters, and even got out to a 14-point lead, 35-21, with about four minutes left in the third quarter. But it was all Buccaneers from there, as they would score 17 unanswered points the rest of the way for yet another frustrating end for head coach Frank Reich's team.
"Tough loss," Reich said. "Come on the road, against what we knew was an explosive team on offense and a real stingy team on defense. Tough-fought battle. It hurts. You know, we said in the locker room we've been in a little bit of a rut not making the plays to finish games. You know, this is a few games in a row now that we've had a lead in the second half and not able to sustain that, so we all gotta get that corrected."
Here are the FIVE THINGS LEARNED from Sunday's loss to the Buccaneers:
» CAN'T HOLD ON — AGAIN: The Colts got off to a 5-2 start earlier this season largely due to the fact they were effective at doing what needed to be done in crunch time to close out tight ballgames. But that hasn't been the case of late. The last three games, specifically, have all featured disappointing second-half woes, as Indy led 17-10 Week 12 against the Houston Texans, led 17-7 Week 13 against the Tennessee Titans and led 35-21 on Sunday against the Buccaneers, yet lost all three games. Both Reich and quarterback Jacoby Brissett said after Sunday's game that there hasn't really been a common theme in terms of the recent second-half troubles, and that it simply comes down to not executing when it matters most. "Obviously we think we're a better team than that, but the reality of it is that's our record," Brissett said about being 6-7 on the year. "So, you know, we've gotta do things to change that; do things necessary to make the plays in the most critical times of the game. And I think we've got the right guys in the locker room to do it, so we've just gotta continue to strive to get better and keep working to do it."
» OPPORTUNISTIC, BUT…: The Buccaneers' offense has proven all year that it can get yards and score points in big chunks, but it will also give the opposing defense gifts at several junctures throughout the game. That's exactly what ended up happening Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, as the Indy defense was able to collect four takeaways — three interceptions and a fumble recovery — but quarterback Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay offense never let the mistakes get to them. Instead, the Buccaneers collected 542 yards of total offense, including 456 through the air to Winston, who had four touchdown passes on the day. "They were throwing the ball and catching it deep. We gave up too many big plays down the field," said safety Malik Hooker, who had one of the Colts' four interceptions on the day. "Obviously, big credit to (Winston), him reading where we made mistakes and capitalizing on them. That's all that was; mistakes on our end. Guys running free and us playing bad, bad football."
» DARIUS DOMINATES: Darius Leonard continues doing things at a rate never before seen in the NFL. On Sunday against the Buccaneers, Leonard not only had another nine tackles, but he had his first-career two-interception game, one of which he returned 80 yards for a touchdown — also a career-first. "As soon as I got it. I was already in stride that way," Leonard said of that pick-six. "I kind of knew I had a shot to take it to the end zone. I had some great blocks and I kind of took it from there." The second-year linebacker out of South Carolina State now has 92 total tackles (six for a loss) with five sacks, four interceptions and two forced fumbles on the year — remember, he missed three games earlier this season with a concussion — and he's the first player in league history since at least 1982, when sacks became an official NFL statistic, to record at least 10 sacks and five interceptions in his first 25 games.
» STEPPING UP: The Colts have been hit hard by injuries at the wide receiver position throughout the 2019 season; Devin Funchess and Chester Rogers are on injured reserve, and T.Y. Hilton and Parris Campbell have missed a significant amount of time with their respective injuries. But a couple other receivers, specifically, have been able to step in and step up in those players' absence in recent weeks, which was apparent once again Sunday against the Buccaneers: Zach Pascal and Marcus Johnson. Pascal had five receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown, while Johnson had three receptions for a career-best 105 yards and a touchdown of his own. Included in Johnson's day were a 46-yard reception (his touchdown) and a career-long 50-yard reception late in the second quarter; he also drew a defensive pass interference call that net the offense 45 yards in the fourth quarter. "We thought we could scheme some things up to take shots. We wanted to be aggressive throwing it down there, so we were able to get that today," Reich said. "Marcus Johnson, obviously, made a couple huge plays down the field and then he drew an interference down the field so that's as good as a catch in our book. That's something very positive to build off."
» NOTES OF INTEREST:
— In his first career game as a member of the Colts, kicker Chase McLaughlin converted 2-of-3 field goals and all three extra point attempts for nine points against the Buccaneers.
— See more stats and notes from Sunday's game by clicking here.
See all the action on the field at Raymond James Stadium as the Indianapolis Colts take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week 14 of the 2019 regular season.