Hard Knocks In Season Episode 9 Recap: The End Of The Climb

The ninth episode of "Hard Knocks In Season: The Indianapolis Colts" takes viewers behind the scenes of how a promising season came to a screeching halt on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

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Darius Leonard was in disbelief as he knelt next to a few teammates and processed what he was in the middle of on Sunday in Jacksonville.

"I can't believe this, man," Leonard said in a moment aired by "Hard Knocks." "I can't believe it, bro. We had it right here. We had everything we wanted right here. And we ain't get the job done, bro. Whole offseason, battling through injuries, trying to be the best version of yourself and you still come up short, that s—t hurt, man."

The final episode of "Hard Knocks In Season: The Indianapolis Colts" takes us behind the scenes as the Colts' season comes to an unexpected, shocking end with Week 18's 26-11 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Knowing the final result, the clips leading up to gameday are a little tough to watch.

There's Colts Owner and CEO Jim Irsay saying: "You cannot get distracted from the game that's in front of you because it's the only game that matters. ... You never want to underestimate your opponent. They're dangerous. One punch, they can knock you out."

Head coach Frank Reich tells his team: "If we don't prepare out best this week, we can get beat."

And defensive line coach Brian Baker makes it clear: "I am 100 percent anticipating this being a frickin' fistfight. A fistfight.

"These guys coming out saying F-U, if we gotta go home, you gotta go home. You gotta go home. That's what I'm anticipating. So if you put yourself in the mindset of that, then we're going to win because we got better fistfighters. If you put yourself in the mindset of okay, let's just get through this one, get ready for the playoffs, guys we're going to get punched in the mouth and get knocked out."

The Colts felt well-prepared for Sunday's game. But as the afternoon went on, the Colts expressed more and more concern with what was transpiring.

"It's early," Irsay says after the Jaguars scored on their first drive, "but you don't want this start."

"We gotta get off on third down," defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, who was limited in the game with a knee injury, says. "Two third and longs. Two third and longs we gotta get off."

Carson Wentz goes to the huddle to call a play on a critical fourth and one and tells his teammates "We need one frickin' yard, let's go." Jonathan Taylor is stuffed short of the line to gain.

"Don't like it," Irsay says.

At halftime, Leonard tells to Kenny Moore II as they jog off the field: "We let them dictate the whole tempo."

Things aren't better after halftime, as Wentz loses a fumble and throws an interception as the Jaguars' lead doubles from 10 to 20 points.

Moore's mom, Angela Carter, sums it up best from the stands: "This is the worst game ever."

***

In the aftermath of the loss, Reich addresses a stunned Colts locker room.

"The love and respect that we have for each other, don't let anything ever take that away," Reich said. "You're on a continual journey. We climb the mountain, we shoot to climb it every year, it's a continual question. And that never stops. And there's an element of this business where we're always going on to get better for the long haul but then we gotta live with the short-term results.

"And the short-term results right now sting. They sting. The thing that can only make that worse is if we don't learn from it and use it for next year. We gotta know that, we gotta believe that because that's the truth. We all know it's the truth that we can get better from this year. So we gotta ask ourselves, every one of us, did I take something from this year that will help us next year get back to where we want to get. I know everybody in here can say yes. I know everybody in here can say yes because I know the kind of guys we got, the kind of team we have.

"We'll get there, men. We'll get there. Believe that. This is just the the way it goes in this league. It's tough. It's tough climbing the mountain. It's a journey that's tough. But we got the right stuff to do it, just might not have been our year this year."

The next day, Reich again addresses his team one last time before they go their separate ways – and turn their focus to making sure a loss like the one the Colts suffered in Week 18.

"Of all the ways we pictured this was going to end, this was not one of them," Reich says. "This was the unimaginable of how it's ended. It was unimaginable. You just want to say, give me one more shot at this but we know that's not life, that's not the way it works. It's not the way it's supposed to work.

"We failed to finish in the last two weeks, and that's on all of us. It can't be undone. It's permanently on our records, on my record, on each of our records. This is what we did in 2021.

"And so the image that came to my mind, it's a scar. And we all probably have scars we can look at on our body and remember when that happened, how it happened. This ending just left a scar on our football soul. It's going to be there, it's going to be something we can't remove, can't get cosmetic surgery nor do we want to, right? It's there for the rest of our coaching and playing careers and the rest of our lives. But we look at it and also realize that scars have motivated each of us to overcome.

"We have a championship culture in this building. Championship culture produces championships. And that's what we're going to do. We're going to produce championships. We're not here just collecting paychecks. We're here to produce championships. Anything less is unacceptable. Anything less is unacceptable.

"2021, men, it's over. We came up short. Even though the way this ended was ugly, we all know that to go from here to here is not only possible, but is very doable. And the reason it's doable is because of the people we got in this building. So that's what we're going to set about doing starting today. Can this be the beginning of an epic story? That's what we're going to find out."

***

There are certainly some lighter moments to the final episode of "Hard Knocks In Season: The Indianapolis Colts" like:

  • Brian Baker almost fainting when Kwity Paye tells him he has a $12,000 pair of shoes. ""That's like half my annual salary at one point in my life," Baker says.
  • Jonathan Taylor giving his offensive linemen gifts – "Little kid from Salem, New Jersey and you guys allow me to lead the league in rushing," he says.
  • Those gifts are Louis Vuitton bags. "JT, I never fancied myself as being a Louis Vuitton guy, but I am," center Ryan Kelly says.

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