FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Privately and publicly, Frank Reich took accountability for the Colts' 26-3 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
"Each person has to go back starting with me," Reich said. "That's what I said in the locker room. I mean, the offensive performance — that's why I was brought here. That's my responsibility. We got the players. We got players that are plenty good enough. I have to do a better job. It starts with me on offense. I have to do a better job getting the guys ready to play, putting guys in good positions to win and having answers when we face problems."
Behind the Colts' 23-point loss were some tough offensive numbers. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger was sacked nine times, the Colts went 0/14 on third down, and the team gained 121 yards on 60 plays (2.02 yards/play).
"We got to do more on offense. That starts with me," Reich said. "We've made the moves that we made. Everybody's responsible, everybody has their role to play, but I'm the leader of the offense, and that's my responsibility."
The Colts managed just 3.2 yards per play on first down and weren't able to get into a flow on offense, which led to the offense needing, on average, 8.9 yards to pick up a first down on third down. On those 14 third downs, Ehlinger was sacked six times and threw a pick-six.
"Everybody's going to look at the nine sacks and think oh, that's on the offensive line. It's on everybody," Ehlinger said. "Route discipline, route spacing, getting the ball out on time, taking check downs when they're there, not holding on too long. I thought there were a handful of them that were on me, and it sucks because they're going to take the heat for that. But it's everybody as an offense."
While Reich shouldered plenty of accountability for the Colts' defeat, his players did, too.
"As a player, I take pride in my performance and ultimately the offense's performance," wide receiver Parris Campbell said. "Obviously Frank calls the plays, but Frank's not out there on the field. It's upon us, we got to go execute, got to get better as a whole. We know we have the players, we know how good we can be. It's going to come down to us getting better, showing that and putting it on tape."
"(Reich) can't go out and play it," center Ryan Kelly said. "Everybody's got a job in this league, start from the top to the bottom — it doesn't matter what your role is, you have to do your job and certainly as an offense we didn't get it done, collectively. We had times where guys were doing it and times where we had a little momentum but it was few and far between. So that hurts.
"It hurts because you let the defense down and let those guys down, who hung in there the entire game and kept us a part of it. We just could never get out of third and long. That sucks, man."
The Colts' defense played well, holding the Patriots to 202 yards on 63 plays (3.3 yards/play); New England averaged just 2.5 yards per carry and quarterback Mac Jones averaged a tick under five yards per attempt. Linebacker Bobby Okereke forced and recovered a fumble with an impressive punch-out on wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, while defensive tackle DeForest Buckner notched his 50th career sack and defensive end Kwity Paye got a sack not only in his return from an ankle injury, but in front of his mom and family.
And the Patriots' lone touchdown on offense came after Matt Haack's punt was blocked and recovered by New England at the Colts' three-yard line.
"We have to protect better, we need to run the ball better," left guard Quenton Nelson said. "We need to perform better offensively, especially going from week to week, just hearing the defensive players say hey, we got your back, we got your back, and they've had our back what sees like every week, holding teams to field goals, getting turnovers, especially in the last two games — and you just feel like s––t not helping them and having their back too. Just need to figure it out offensively and it starts with watching the film, learning from it, detail-oriented and holding each other accountable, holding yourself accountable. That's it."
The Colts will get back to work at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center on Monday with a quickly dwindling timeframe to fix the issues that've led to their 3-5-1 record. Reich and Colts players pointed to the team's history of pulling out of in-season ruts over the last few years, and collectively there's a belief they can do the same in 2022.
"It's all about urgency," Nelson said. "We want to get this s––t corrected immediately. It's not, oh, it's only week nine or we're 3-4-1, it's like, no, we gotta get this s––t done now and have that urgency around the building."
And Reich, while accepting responsibility for Sunday's loss and the Colts' issues on offense, isn't throwing in the towel on the fight to get things right.
"My experience tells me — and I know this doesn't carry any weight out there — but you're never as far off as you think," Reich said. "I don't care what anybody says. I've been around it too long. So you start play by play, coach by coach, player by player trying to make the right decisions, trying to make the right adjustments, trying to find ways to get better.
"I've been doing this a long time, and I've been through some rough seasons before as a player and as a coach. I believe there are answers out there. That's why as as coaches and players we do what we do. You always have to — the competitor in you knows there's answers, knows that it's not that far off. So you keep fighting and scratching."