INDIANAPOLIS — If there was a "totally different feel" for the Indianapolis Colts last week after their last-minute victory against the Chicago Bears, then take that feeling and turn it back around 180 degrees.
The Colts on Sunday had a prime opportunity to take early control of the AFC South Division by going into Houston and defeating the Texans. And, for 3 1/2 quarters at NRG Stadium, Indianapolis looked like it was going to fly home having done just that, leading by two scores and playing quality ball in all three phases.
But, just like that, the Texans came alive, tying the game by the end of regulation. And, after the Colts failed to score to open the overtime period, Houston's Nick Novak connected on a 33-yard field goal to give the Texans an improbable 26-23 victory.
What the heck happened?
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson discussed just that with host Bob Lamey on Monday in their weekly appearances on Colts Roundtable Live on 1070 The Fan.
"The guys prepared, they were ready to play, they came out ready to play. There's no question about that," Pagano said. "It just comes down to being efficient and executing in those critical moments."
Indianapolis (2-4) seemed as if victory was all but certain early in the fourth quarter, when quarterback Andrew Luck scored on a 14-yard touchdown run to push the Colts' lead to 20-9. An Adam Vinatieri field goal — his third of the night — pushed that lead to 23-9.
But that's when the Texans got things going. Running back Lamar Miller — who ran 24 times for 149 yards on the night — caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Brock Osweiler, and then Houston tied it up with a 26-yard pass from Osweiler to tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz to tie the game at 23 late in the fourth quarter.
By that time, the Colts' offense couldn't find any sort of consistency, and the defense — which had been playing the best it had all season — appeared gassed and unable to stop basic Texans plays.
"We got reeling a little bit. And they got the momentum," Pagano said. "This game is crazy, and when that momentum turns like that, it's awful hard to stop.
"It comes down to making plays in critical, critical situations. And we played a lot of good football, but when it mattered most, we couldn't get the job done."
By the time of Monday's show, both Pagano and Grigson had no choice but to absorb the lessons from the game film and move on, because another AFC South showdown, on the road, looms this Sunday against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville.
"These guys care, these guys prepare, they practice and they'll fight, and they care and they want to win," Pagano said. "And you just got to break it down and say, 'OK, these are the things that need to get corrected.' And we can't be a three-quarter team; we've got to be a four-quarter team. And we've got to find a way to get that figured out."
Here's some other highlights from Monday's show, including some calls and questions from fans fielded by Grigson.————————————Colts general manager Ryan Grigson:On how you forget about a loss like the one against the Texans:
"I think that's where leadership comes into play. I think Coach (Pagano) is resilient like that, that you've gotta strip this one off. I mean, your human nature is to sit there and to sulk in it and sit in it and writhe in it. And it does sting like heck, because there was an opportunity for so much to be gained and to build up so many positives. But, you know, it's not 3 1/2 quarters, like Coach talked about earlier. It's not about three and three-quarters, it's not about three and seven-eights — it's about four quarters of football, and we didn't do it."On the injury report — you don't know right now, but generally speaking, it wasn't good Sunday night:
"No. We had a lot of guys go down, and we're still getting the particulars, and hopefully we'll have some finality in terms of knowing what we can and cannot do with these guys. Maybe some are going to be out for an extended period of time. Not sure if anyone needs to go on IR yet. Hopefully not. But it presents a whole host of issues from a roster mechanic standpoint. But it's not like we haven't been here before. You know, we've lost three running backs in a game before; we've been decimated this year with three corners going to the cut-down. So it's not like it's uncharted territory, and that's where I lean on a great scouting staff that I have, and I trust those guys and I trust these coaches to get everyone ready to play, no matter who we bring, whether it be Rashaan Melvin or Darryl Morris or whoever we're going to bring in this week. So I have full confidence in this team, and we're going to keep trudging along and trying to get a win — and trying to shore up that little bit of football that we just seem to not be able to get from Point A to Point B in, and that's causing us some real grief."**
And that's not a simple thing, because you don't just look at a piece of paper and say, 'OK, we're going to go do this, and it will automatically solve all the problems.' That's not it, because you're dealing with human beings — young human beings, who make mistakes once in a while:** "Yeah, we have a blend of players on this team — old, young, some in the middle. But a lot of young. And typically they're going to make more mistakes than the veterans. The veterans can't make those sins — self-inflicted negatives, as Coach (Pagano) calls them — and those self-inflicted wounds. We've got to be able to count on those guys not to make those kinds of mistakes, because then it just snowballs, because the young guys see it, and all heck kind of can break loose. But I think we've cleaned that up. I think that, again, we're going to have to stay the course, and hopefully we get this righted here, because there's still a lot of football left to be played, and, again, I don't even know what the point differential is in games this year — I have no idea — but I just know we were in all of them to win them, and at the end of the day, we all know that, and that's why we have faith in this team, because we know we've been able to play with anyone. No one's just kicked out butt. Now, we've had situations where we've had it handed to us in a quarter or so, and where we haven't showed up at certain points, but as a whole, we've played with anyone we've got on the field with. So we've just got to find a way to finish — Coach said it, and will keep saying it."Twelve games left. This season is not over. You can still win this division and make the playoffs: "I mean, it was all out in front of us yesterday. It really was. And now we're going to have to dig ourselves out of a hole a little bit. But again, there is still a lot of football to be played, and we know that we can play with anybody, in or out of the division that we face this year. So we're always a team that, I feel like, bounces back. We always have bounced back since I've been here and Coach (Pagano) has been here. And we're going to have to do that again. We've always dealt with adversity for the last four years very well, and I expect us to do the same."You don't know about the injury list, but you do know about injured players. Do you have a plan right now, "OK, if X happens or Y happens…:" "Of course. Of course. I've got scouts with me — at the game, I've got them getting on the phone with agents at different points in the game, during the game, to talk to agents about getting guys in. We've done that since I've been here. We're always very proactive and we stay on the offensive in the scouting department. And sometimes we'll have guys in and bring them on a visit because we're not necessarily able to say with certainty that we're going to be able to sign the guy, because we just don't know what the actual injury is until we get the MRI. So you just want to be able to have as many fallback plans as possible. I think we do a really good job with that. We've always have got Rashaan Melvins — since 2012, we've always got guys that we feel have a chance to play winning football for us that no one else wants. That's something we take a lot of pride in."There's still football ahead. There's still a chance to get this season back within grasp: "There was last week; there was the week before. We've got, what, 10 games left to play? It's a ton of football left, but we've got to take advantage of this time. We've got to take advantage of this. And guys have to, when their head hits the pillow at night, when their feet hit the floor in the morning, they've got to remember what it takes to win, and that they have to finish, and we've got to execute. It's all those things that are being said to them on a daily basis. And we've just got to own that so that (when) we move forward here, we start getting more games in the other column."Tweet from Brian, asking why the Colts' offensive line having such a hard time protecting Andrew Luck: Grigson: "You know, we finished watching the film earlier, and I feel the exact opposite. I feel it's going in the right direction. You know, we gave up one sack through three quarters. Everybody at home knows what the fourth quarter looked like for us on both sides of the ball. But the flashes from that O-line have been positive. I think Joe (Haeg) and Denzelle (Good) are settling in nice in there. We're making good progress, and, heck, Frank had 106 yards. Again, if there was a victory, we'd be talking about all of the great things that came out of this game, and unfortunately it's not. So we're still going to have to build off those positives regardless — and we will. And I know our coach will be disciplined in that, because there was a lot of good. But we just didn't get it done and finish, and it's kind of been the story this year.Inbox question from Tyrone, asking why the Colts not kick a field goal to go up by seven in the fourth quarter? Instead they went for it on fourth down and did not make it: Grigson: "You know, I'm going to support coach. Those are coaching decisions, what we do schematically and play calling and so forth, and these guys won't spend the hours they do away from their families and here late nights to call plays that don't work. We'd be having a different conversation if that ends up in seven points. So everyone's going to have a different perspective on Monday morning like any call that's made that doesn't work in a game like that. Again, hindsight's 20-20, and I think we have a lot of, again, positives in the run game that are working in our favor now. So, again, that's kind of not my area."Follow-up question: Vontae Davis ended up getting the interception on the ensuing drive and the Colts ended up scoring a touchdown anyway. So then there might be the argument, "Well, if you kick the field goal, then they move the ball down the field, why didn't you go for the touchdown?:" Grigson: "You know, it's just you're chasing your tail if you go back. That stuff's in the rear-view. Like I said, even teams that win Super Bowls, you're going to be able to go back and go through the film and say, 'I wish I would've done this; I wish I would've done that, because maybe this would've worked.' But you're never really going to know because it didn't happen. So we just have to, again, build off the positives and shake this one off and have the right mindset going down to Tennessee."Inbox question from Anthony, on why the Colts have such a hard time stopping backs like Jordan Howard and Lamar Miller: Grigson: "You know, run defense is extremely important to us. You know, I thought (the) way this game started out, we were much better in that regard. But those guys are in the NFL for a reason. Some of those big backs, they're hard to bring down. Miller had a heck of a game. He's a hell of a back, and they went out and paid what they did for him because of that. So we're still a work in progress, and again, three quarters, we were doing a lot of really good things on defense."Follow up comment: I think you maybe need to consider that Frank Gore is a heck of a back, and he's been doing a good job — finally he gets over 100 yards — and it looked like it was going to be good enough to get us a W for a while: Grigson: "That's the thing, is just kind of the perspective. Frank doesn't want to hear congratulations for 106 yards. He doesn't want to hear that. He just wants to win, like all of us do. And that's what this is all about, is about winning. And sometimes you can have a lot less positives that we had and get a W. But that's how this league is, and, again, we just have to find a way to win and finish."Inbox question from Scott, on what are the biggest things contributing to the Colts' losses in Grigson's mind? Grigson: "I think it's easy. I think it's staring everybody in the face — our coach speaks on it. It's just not playing a full 60 minutes. Even at halftime, someone said something to me at halftime of the game yesterday lauding our performance, and all I kept thinking was, 'It's got to be 60 minutes. It's a full 60 minutes.' Because we've been on the other side of it, like we've talked about. We've been on the other side of this so many times it's a little foreign to us when someone comes back on us. But we know we have the talent to get it done, and Coach (Pagano) believes in this team, I believe in this team. Again, it's a game of inches, and like Jim Irsay always says, those inches can turn into miles if you're not doing your job and doing what you're expected to do to get those things done and fulfilling your responsibilities, which sometimes, to that question, is just tackling — something as simple as tackling — or catching or not jumping offsides. And that's really, in a nutshell — you can get into all the extraneous things about scheme and all the deep-rooted issues of that part of it — but it really is never more than right below the surface when it comes down to fundamentals, and I think that that's what's gotten us a lot of times this year is just not executing fundamentals. You know, if we tackle better yesterday, we put ourselves in a lot better position to win that game.Inbox question, on if the offense changed or did anything differently after it was up 14 points in the fourth quarter? Grigson: "I think we stayed with the run. I'm trying to remember. … We just didn't finish, again. I think that we had some of the protections — we didn't protect as well in the end there, in the fourth quarter. And I think Coach (Pagano) spoke on it: we just didn't execute in the fourth quarter on any side of the ball. I think it comes down to that. But as far as changing the offense: no. I just think it's a lot simpler than that."Follow-up question: In that range, when the Colts are up 14 points, there was one drive where (Houston) had three first downs. They never even got to second down. All of the sudden they got some confidence, I think, in the fourth quarter: Grigson: "You know, as long as we've been playing this game, coaches have always told me there's ebbs and flows in football and momentum swings. And you saw it happen. And we had to do something to stop it, and a lot of times you say, 'Somebody's got to make a play.' And we didn't. And so here we are. But again, we have no choice but to shake this off. We've got to shake it off and stay positive. And I know Coach (Pagano), when he has that team meeting, is going to get this behind us, because, again, it doesn't do you any good to carry this down with you to Tennessee — heck, you can't look forward, and you can't look back in this league. You've got to stay on task with that opponent that's coming up this week."Caller Pete: It seems like the Colts' fundamentals were hurting pretty bad against the Texans, specifically on a play where Lamar Miller scored, the Colts were over-running tackles and not putting a solid hit on him. Do you think that the lack of hitting and the lack of contact in the preseason and the OTAs is causing some of the lack of fundamentals?
Grigson: "I think any coach league-wide would tell you that it contributes to it. I still think at the end of the day it's an excuse, though, because we've all played football here for eons. These guys have been playing for a long time. They know how to tackle, they know how to take the right pursuit angles, they know where their help is and so forth. It comes down to fundamentals in so many different aspects, and Coach (Pagano) has been harping on it from Day 1 since the season started, and at the end of the day it's up to those guys on the field to follow through with what he is preaching, and getting guys to the ground. And we didn't do a good job of that at a critical juncture yesterday, and we have no choice but to be better at it. I really don't know what else to say than we've got to be better."