The Colts scored a touchdown on their opening drive for the first time since Christmas 2021 and became the first team in 2022 to hold the high-flying Philadelphia Eagles to under 20 points in a game.
But despite a fast start and a generally-stifling defensive effort, a handful of mistakes and missed opportunities allowed Philadelphia to hang around and ultimately doomed the Colts in a 17-16 loss to the Eagles on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"We had everything in front of us," interim head coach Jeff Saturday said. "We didn't execute enough to get the win."
Ultimately, center Ryan Kelly said, games are "lost, not won in the NFL." And the Colts exited downtown Indianapolis on Sunday feeling like miscues of their own doing were why they lost to the Eagles, who are 9-1 and look to be cruising toward a first-round bye in the NFL.
A few examples:
- The Colts committed nine penalties, costing them 90 yards.
- On offense, the Colts had nine negative plays; after their first drive, every time the offense reached Eagles territory it had to settle for a field goal.
- The Colts' defense allowed two touchdowns in the final 15 minutes.
- Kicker Chase McLaughlin missed a 50-yard field goal attempt late in the third quarter (in fairness to McLaughlin, he also connected on field goals of 51, 36 and 37 yards).
No missed opportunity loomed larger, though, than the Colts having to settle for a field goal after getting a first-and-goal set of downs at the Eagles' five-yard line with just under six minutes remaining. The Colts took over possession at their own 34-yard line when linebacker Zaire Franklin punched out a fumble recovered by defensive tackle Eric Johnson II.
Critical third down completions by Matt Ryan to Alec Pierce (for 17 yards on third-and-11) and Parris Campbell (for 31 yards on third-and-3) put the Colts on the Eagles' doorstep with an opportunity to go up by 10 with time bleeding off the clock. But the next three plays proved pivotal, as running back Jonathan Taylor was stopped by defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh for no gain, and then Ryan was forced to rifle a pass out of the end zone with the Eagles applying tight coverage and steady pressure.
On third down, Ryan was sacked by linebacker Hasson Reddick for a loss of 14, which eliminated any chance for Saturday to get aggressive on fourth down.
"You've got to make the plays, and when you have your opportunities to finish games against really good football teams, you have to finish them," Ryan said. "And, unfortunately, we didn't do that."
The Eagles still had life after the Colts settled for a McLaughin field goal to extend their lead to 16-10 with with about four and a half minutes remaining. And Philadelphia took advantage of their opportunity, picking up 39 yards on a Franklin pass interference penalty on a third-and-two three plays into the possession.
Franklin ran into running back Miles Sanders on that play, taking the approach of doing whatever he could to prevent a touchdown while hoping he'd break the pass up, or worst-case giving the Colts' defense a chance to make a late-game stop (as they did in wins over the Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders).
"Worst-case scenario I liked us being able to line up and play against them anywhere," Franklin said, "and knowing that we had to defend a touchdown, we had already stopped them before, I felt good about it."
The Eagles, though, quickly marched from the Colts' 28 deep into the red zone, where a fourth-and-two scramble by quarterback Jalen Hurts picked up a first down inside the 10-yard line right after the two-minute warning. Then, facing a third-and-goal from the seven-yard line, the Eagles called for a quarterback draw Hurts jogged in for the go-ahead, game-winning touchdown.
"You just can't play a team that good and give them that many opportunities," Saturday said. "We just left them in the game. And ultimately (they) made one more play than we did."
The Colts' offense wasn't able to put together another late-game comeback after Ryan was sacked and a Will Fries false start put them in a do-or-die fourth-and-21 with 38 seconds left. Ryan was forced into a short completion to running back Deon Jackson, who wound up 16 yards short of the line to gain for a game-ending turnover on downs.
"Whenever you're playing from behind with one minute left, your chances aren't great and eventually those odds are going to get you," wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. said. "They got us today."
The Colts will head back to the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center on Monday with a 4-6-1 record and a directive to avoid costly mistakes and execute better in critical situations. And the sting of Sunday's one-point loss to one of the best teams in the NFL was made only more painful by the feeling the Colts had that, again, this was a game they should've won.
"It's not one thing. I think throughout the course of the year, we've all taken our turns," Ryan said. "We just have to execute. It's boring, but we have to execute better than we have. And it's like, the devil's in the details. It's over and over and over and over. When the margin of error is small, when you're playing against really good football teams, the margin of error is small. And we've shown, you can go toe to toe with them, but you can't make the mistakes that we made today if you expect to win."
View the game action unfold as the Colts take on the Philadelphia Eagles at Lucas Oil Stadium during Week 11.