INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts had a prime opportunity to get the ball in the end zone for a game-winning touchdown late in Sunday's road matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Just four yards from the end zone — or three yards from getting to the 1-yard line and earning a fresh set of downs — the Colts had an incomplete pass on third down, and then saw quarterback Andrew Luck sacked on fourth down, however.
The Eagles would hang on from there for a narrow 20-16 victory at Lincoln Financial Field.
Those two plays from four yards out played in Colts head coach Frank Reich's mind a few times after the game. But after getting the chance to watch the film, Reich on Monday explained what the options were on third and fourth down — and what ended up playing out.
In his weekly appearance on Monday on 1070 The Fan's "Colts Roundtable Live," a fan asked Reich: "It's easy to be an armchair coach, but the last drive on the goal line, I thought we should've been in a shotgun set with an RPO. What did you think of the calls on third and fourth down, down by four, near the goal line?"
» Reich, on the third down call (3rd and 3 from the 4-yard line), said:
"Yeah, the third down call was an RPO, so we did have a run option on that call where we could hand it up the middle, or we could throw the little fade route to T.Y. And we chose to throw the fade route, and just barely, just barely, missed it. That's a play we ran in practice several times during the week and we hit T.Y. perfectly — felt really good and confident about it."
Hilton, in one-on-one coverage against Ronald Darby off to the left side, did have his foot stepped on by the cornerback while running the route, and just barely saw the ball glance off his fingertips. Hilton later said his shoe coming off didn't affect the end result, however.
"That didn't have anything to do with it," Hilton said."He stepped on my foot but, that didn't have anything to do with the play as I had him. It was just a pitch and catch that we always hit but, we just didn't hit it today, that's all."
» Reich, on the fourth down call (4th and 3 from the 4-yard line), said:
"Then (on) the fourth down call where we get under center, yeah, I would agree that typically — and I'll be honest with you. After the game, when you think about it and you don't win, as the playcaller you say, 'Did I call the right play?' And I said to myself, 'Well, maybe we should've put him in shotgun (to) let him run around a little bit.' But here was why, to give the guy who asked the question the answer, is we were expecting a blitz zero, so that play was really not about being under center, it was about the protection — this little playaction protection. And it was like a pseudo-playaction protection. It wasn't focused on the playaction — we weren't trying to fool them with the run — we'll just get a gap protection expecting a blitz zero that wads everything up, and then you slip to (the) fullback out in the flat for an easy little touchdown to win the game. Turned out he didn't play blitz zero, even though that was a high tendency of his; he ended up playing three deep zone. We still got other options, but they covered us up pretty well."
The fullback on that play, Ryan Hewitt, did end up being covered up in the flat on the play, as Reich indicated.