CARSON, Calif. — A couple mistakes here and there might be expected in a season opener.
But when the Indianapolis Colts made several miscues in all three phases — and then saw the Los Angeles Chargers take advantage time and time again — those are the plays Frank Reich and his team wish they can get back, especially when their furious second-half rally went for naught in their heartbreaking 30-24 overtime loss Sunday at Dignity Health Sports Park.
“There were times where, in all three phases, that we just weren’t as sharp as we needed to be,” Reich, the Colts’ second-year head coach, said after the game. “And we gave them second chances, and that’s what was hard — you can’t give a good team second chances, in all three phases. And every time they made us pay.”
The offensive miscues for the Colts on Sunday might not have been as catastrophic as others, but there are plenty of teaching points nonetheless. For example: Indianapolis (0-1) had no turnovers on the afternoon, but quarterback Jacoby Brissett fumbled a snap on 1st and 10 from the Colts’ 25-yard line, right after the Chargers scored to go up 14-6 midway through the second quarter.
The loss of one yard on the play parlayed into a three-and-out for the Colts’ offense, and Los Angeles would proceed to drive down the field and connect on a 40-yard Ty Long field goal to put the Chargers up 17-6 going into halftime.
“It was all us,” Brissett said of the self-inflicted issues. “From me dropping the snap — I could probably catch a snap with one hand right now, you know what I’m saying? — but just certain things like that vs. a good football team like the Chargers, you can’t do that. At all. And this is the result when things like that happen.”
Defensively, while the Colts had several highlights on Sunday, their inability to stop the run or get stops on a couple critical third downs led to some big plays for Philip Rivers and the Chargers’ offense.
Los Angeles (1-0) had 435 total yards on the day, including 125 on the ground. While that paled in comparison to Indianapolis’ 203 rushing yards, the Chargers made their 21 carries count, averaging six yards per rushing attempt, as Indy struggled at times with its tackling, which was a strong suit a season ago.
Included in the Chargers’ total were run plays of 24, 23 and 19 yards; that 19-yard run came on Los Angeles’ fourth play in overtime and got the Chargers to the Indianapolis 18-yard line. They’d win the game four plays later on a seven-yard rushing touchdown by Austin Ekeler.
The Chargers also converted 7-of-11 (64 percent) of their third-down attempts on the day. One of those conversions was on 3rd and 13 from the Indianapolis 28-yard line, as Rivers was able to buy time, step up in the pocket and loft a pass to the front of the end zone to Keenan Allen, who came down with the catch against rookie cornerback Rock-Ya Sin for the touchdown to put L.A. up 14-6 midway through the second quarter.
“That’s what I said to Philip Rivers after the game,” Reich said. “I mean, he didn’t mess one of those opportunities up.”
The special teams miscues were perhaps most notable for the Colts on Sunday — and they started from the opening kickoff, which was returned 43 yards by the Chargers.
Then Adam Vinatieri missed two field goal attempts and an extra-point try. There was an unncessary roughness call on a Los Angeles field goal attempt gave the Chargers a first down, which led to a touchdown two plays later. And there was also a blocked Colts punt.
All told, the special teams issues wiped seven points off the board for the Colts, and added four points to the Chargers’ total.
For his part, Vinatieri — who did connect on one field goal and one extra-point attempt Sunday — took full ownership of his uncharacteristically tough day.
“There’s no excuses — I just didn’t kick well,” he said after the game. “I mean, there’s a few things that didn’t go our way, but a majority of them were my lousy kicking. So, yeah, I totally let them down.”
Asked about Vinatieri’s performance, though, Reich was sure to back up his veteran kicker.
“You know, it was a tough day, but he’s the one guy I’m not worried about right here,” Reich said. “We have the greatest kicker of all-time. And he didn’t have a good day. But there were a lot of guys who didn’t have a good (day) — we all own it. We all own what we put out there. And that’s what we talked about in (the locker room), that in every phase we’re going to look at it and say we all missed a play or two that cost us. And that’s just the way it is when you go against a good football team.”