Perhaps Zaire Franklin said it best when summarizing a disappointing end result for the Indianapolis Colts and their defense Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.
While the Eagles boast one of the top offensive units in the league, the Colts' defense, as it has for most of the season, stood tall throughout most of Sunday's contest — forcing several punts, producing third-down stops, earning a key takeaway and limiting the damage on the Colts' side of the field.
But, in the end, the Colts' defense could only hold the line for so long before the Eagles, led by a dynamic, mobile quarterback in Jalen Hurts, would strike back — and, ultimately, steal a come-from-behind 17-16 victory at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Throughout the season, the Colts have leaned heavily on their defense in the second half of close ballgames. It's produced many high-pressure situations for a team continuing to look ways to match its strong defensive output with better offensive consistency—but, as Franklin put it, "That's just the NFL." When it's time to execute late in the game, Franklin said, it doesn't matter what your unit has done up to that point of the contest.
"Most games are decided by one score," Franklin said. "And at the end of the day, that's why they pay the quarterbacks all that money because most of the time, the other team's offense has the ball with a chance to win or tie the game. Either they are going to make a play, or the defense is going to make a play. And unfortunately, we came up on the short side of that."
The Eagles came into Sunday's game with a top-five offensive unit, led by Hurts, who has emerged as an MVP candidate in his third NFL season as a prolific passer and running threat. But the Colts' defense was clearly ready heading into the contest, and through three quarters, Indy had limited Philadelphia to just three points scored and 208 total yards. The Eagles' offense also fell victim to a number of key drive-killing penalties and mistakes, particularly as it entered the Colts' side of 50.
Franklin played a key part in the Colts' defensive success, as he stuffed the stat sheet with a game-best 12 tackles and added a half-sack, a quarterback hit and a forced fumble. Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue also had his best performance in a Colts uniform so far on Sunday with 1.5 sacks, including a strip sack of Hurts on the Eagles' first offensive play from scrimmage in the second half, which was recovered by defensive tackle Grover Stewart.
But the Eagles started to put the pieces together in the fourth quarter. Trailing 13-3, Hurts found wide receiver Quez Watkins for a 22-yard touchdown pass early in the period; and, after an Indy field goal at the 4:37 mark, the Philly offense embarked on an 11-play, 75-yard drive that ended with an eventual game-winning seven-yard touchdown run by Hurts, who finished with a game-high 86 rushing yards on the day.
The Colts certainly had their chances to close the door on that decisive Eagles drive. Philadelphia faced an early 3rd and 2 from its 33-yard line when Hurts launched a pass deep down the right sideline towards Miles Sanders, who, for a moment, was wide open; it was Franklin who had to sprint all-out to prevent the speedy running back from making a play, drawing a clear pass interference penalty. Six plays later, the game hung in the balance with a 4th-and-2 play from the Indy 9-yard line, but Hurts — after initially trying to draw the Colts' defense offsides and calling a timeout — was able to find six yards on the ground, move the chains, and set up the game-winning touchdown.
It was a disappointing finish to an otherwise standout day for the Colts' defense, which turns its attention to next Monday night's home primetime contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"It's definitely frustrating," defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said. "Because we know we've got the guys who can compete with anybody. At the end of the day, it's the execution part. At different parts of the game, everybody had their mishaps. We just have to pick those things up.
"It's hard," Buckner continued. "It's frustrating, because everybody's giving it their all, but at the end of the day, it's the execution part that got us beat."
View the game action unfold as the Colts take on the Philadelphia Eagles at Lucas Oil Stadium during Week 11.