Nick Foles threw three interceptions and was sacked seven times, and the Colts' offense didn't convert any of their 10 third down tries in Monday night's 20-3 Week 16 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers at Lucas Oil Stadium.
For a Colts offense that entered Week 16 with the NFL's highest turnover total, third-lowest scoring average, sixth-highest sack rate and seventh-lowest third down conversion percentage, it was unfortunately more of the same even with a different quarterback taking the snaps.
"We had a really good week of practice," Foles said. "Obviously, the execution wasn't at the level that we needed to win this game and that's unfortunate. This would have been – we haven't done a good enough job this year and this one was a tough one. You know, the guys are fighting every single play, giving everything they have and we just fell short."
Interim head coach Jeff Saturday hoped inserting Foles as the Colts' starting quarterback would lead to more downfield shots, which would not only pick up explosive yardage through the air but also would alleviate some of the pressure on the team's run game, which entered Monday 26th in the NFL with an average of 4.0 yards per carry. Foles did take some shots early – he had three passes travel 20 or more yards beyond the line of scrimmage in the first quarter – but was unable to complete any of those throws, and was intercepted on one of them.
Foles threw his second interception later in the first quarter, and the Colts were forced to back off some of those downfield throws as the game progressed.
"I thought we had some shots early," Saturday said. "Obviously, the turnovers hurt you. And they kind of dissuade you from continuing to challenge it."
The Colts' offense also frequently found itself in difficult situations on third down – of the team's 10 third down tries, they needed on average 9.5 yards to pick up a first down, and only one of those attempts came within five yards of the line to gain. While the Colts did convert a fourth down try into a first down in the first quarter, those issues on third down – coupled with the Chargers converting eight of 18 third downs – greatly contributed to the final score.
"Just too many mistakes," wide receiver Parris Campbell said. "That's just kind of been the name of our season, not being able to take care of the ball, shooting ourselves in the foot."
Foles finished his first start – and first regular-season action with the Colts – with 17 completions on 29 attempts for 143 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions. Saturday said he didn't consider putting Sam Ehlinger in the game; if there was a bright spot offensively, it was the tough running of running back Zack Moss, who carried 12 times for 65 yards (5.4 yards/carry).
Defensively, the Colts battled to keep a lid on Justin Herbert and the Chargers' downfield passing attack. The Chargers averaged just 4.7 yards per play – about a half-yard lower than their season average – but were able to stay on the field with a handful of critical third down conversions, which resulted in two touchdowns and two field goals.
"I thought we came out and fought the whole game," linebacker Bobby Okereke said. "Obviously some things on offense didn't go our way, but to the last snap defensively, we fought. And that speaks to the character of the guys in the room. We got a lot of vets, a lot of prideful guys. We're gonna fight to the last whistle, I thought that's what we did today."
The Colts have now lost five games in a row and sit at 4-10-1 on the season. But after the game, Saturday, Foles and players re-iterated that record, and this losing streak, are not the product of sub-par effort – and that the guys on the coaching staff and in the locker room still are doing what they can to try to close out the 2022 season with a couple of wins.
"Guys at this level, this is what – you know, there are so many kids out there that dream about playing at this level, and you want to believe that guys are going to give it everything they have every day," Foles said. "Because this is something you look forward to as a kid. And it's just unfortunate sometimes you can give it everything you have and the outcome is not what you thought. And that's the hard part of this game.
"But there's also the time where you give everything you have and you win games and then you keep winning. And then you win a lot of games and then you make the playoffs. And I'm just fortunate I've seen both of them. And the biggest thing is, you know, you can be fighting every single down and lose a game like we did. But I've also been on some teams where we fought and we win. So, it's just a unique game. That's why we keep playing. It's hard. It's a very difficult game. But you learn a lot about yourself and the people you play with."
The Colts take on the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday Night Football at Lucas Oil Stadium.