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Five Things Learned

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5 Things Learned, Colts vs. Vikings Week 15

The Colts lost to the Minnesota Vikings, 39-36, to fall to 4-9-1 on the season. Here are five things we learned Saturday afternoon at U.S. Bank Stadium. 

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1. Jeff Saturday's process in going for it on 4th and 1 was sound.

Let's re-rack the critical situation facing the Colts late in the fourth quarter:

  • Ball on Vikings' 36-yard line
  • Up by 8
  • 2:30 left
  • 4th and 1
  • Vikings have no timeouts left

Interim head coach Jeff Saturday elected to try to pick up the first down instead of having kicker Chase McLaughlin attempt a 53-yard field goal. The call was for Matt Ryan to attempt a quarterback sneak. 

Ryan, as we know, was stopped short of the line to gain; on the next play, Vikings running back Dalvin Cook rumbled 64 yards on a screen for a touchdown, which set up the game-tying two-point conversion. 

But Saturday's thought process was sound, and one big reason why: Ryan was three for three in converting fourth-and-one quarterback sneaks into first downs this season, two of which came with Saturday as interim head coach. 

If Ryan converts that sneak into a first down – the play was blown dead before he could make a final lunge across the line to gain – the Colts have a fresh set of downs with the Vikings holding no timeouts. 

"The game is over if we get fourth-and-inches," Saturday said. "I'll never back down from that call, I can assure you. I loved where we were. I felt like that was how we were going to close the game out, and unfortunately, we didn't do it."

2. Jonathan Taylor sustained an ankle injury.

Taylor left the game with an ankle injury early in the first quarter, and Saturday said it's the same ankle that's nagged the third-year running back all season.

As of Sunday afternoon, Saturday said he and the Colts' training staff hadn't yet huddled to determine what's next for Taylor, who has 861 yards and four touchdowns on 192 carries (4.5 yards/attempt) in 2022.

"We'll do whatever is in the best interest of JT and his health and that's for every player," Saturday said. "It doesn't matter who it is or what time of year it is. It's whatever is the best for those guys and for them. That's the direction we'll go."

With Taylor out, Zack Moss – who was acquired from the Buffalo Bills along with a conditional sixth-round pick for Nyheim Hines last month – carried 24 times for 81 yards, and Deon Jackson gained 55 yards on 13 attempts.

3. Missed tackles hurt the Colts' defense.

According to Pro Football Focus, the Colts' defense combined to miss nine tackles after halftime – more than Gus Bradley's group has missed in nine full games this season.

That was one part of how the Colts allowed the Vikings to score 39 points in the final 40 minutes of the game. Quarterback Kirk Cousins completed 28 of 42 passes for 417 yards with four touchdowns after halftime, and the Vikings turned all four of their trips to the red zone into touchdowns in the second half and overtime.

"We missed some tackles, they made more plays than we did," defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said. "Simple as that. I can't put my finger on one thing. They made more plays than we did in the second half."

The Colts take on the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.

4. Missed opportunities in the red zone early came back to haunt the Colts late.

Despite scoring 36 points, the Colts managed only one offensive touchdown on Saturday. But it wasn't for a lack of opportunity – the Colts had four drives reach the red zone against the Vikings and converted only one into a touchdown, when Ryan found running back Deon Jackson for a one-yard score in the first quarter.

The other three drives ended with short field goals of 26, 26 and 27 yards. And while it may not have felt like those would matter much at halftime – when the Colts held a 33-0 lead – those were missed opportunities, and they wound up keeping the door cracked open for the Vikings just enough.

"It's more of the same, when you have your opportunities to finish drives with touchdowns, speaking from the offensive perspective even early in games," Ryan said. "When you get those chances, you've got to be opportunistic and ultimately we didn't make enough plays to get the job done. We didn't make enough plays at the right time. When you have chances to put people away, we've got to do a better job than we've done up to this point."

5. The Colts might've found something with Dallis Flowers as a kick returner.

One bright spot to close this out: Flowers, the undrafted free agent rookie from Pittsburg State, returned five kicks for 175 yards – an average of 35 yards per return. He had returns of 48 and 49 yards, In Week 12, Flowers had an 89-yard kick return – the fourth-longest kick return in 2022 – and way back in August, he had a 53-yard return against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Colts' final preseason game. Flowers possesses explosive speed and good vision, and has an impressive feel for where and how to attack opposing kick coverage units.

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