Frank Reich offers ‘context,’ but sticks with aggressive fourth-down decision

Frank Reich

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Upon further review, Frank Reich still would pull the trigger.

However, the Indianapolis Colts’ aggressive first-year head coach offered a bit of context Monday on his much-debated Sunday decision to have his offense attempt to convert a fourth-and-4 from its own 43-yard line in overtime. Only 27 seconds remained and the Colts and Houston Texans were tied at 34-all.

After the game and after Andrew Luck’s fourth-down pass to Chester Rogers fell incomplete and after the Texans capitalized with Ka’imi Fairbairn’s game-winning 37-yard field goal as time expired, Reich insisted “we’re not playing to tie.

“We’re going for that 10 times out of 10. That’s just the way it’s got to roll.’’

Monday, he offered not an apology, but context for the “10 times out of 10’’ comment.

“It’s probably not a complete absolute as it is a mindset of being aggressive,’’ Reich said. “There’s always a lot of things to consider. To say it’s an absolute . . . it was an emotional, tough loss. The mindset is we’re going to be aggressive.

“That’s probably a better perspective for me to put it into context.’’

Reich admitted he should have had Luck simply run a play rather than initially try to draw the Texans offside. But afforded time to reflect, “there was nothing I would change about that call, especially seeing what they played. They were dropping eight and kinda stacking everybody in the middle. You’re going to be somewhat one-on-one on the outside.

“We’re going to have a high-percentage throw one-on-one on the outside we feel good about.’’

Luck, though, delivered a low pass that gave Rogers little chance.

“I did not give Chester enough of a chance to make a play and I’m sick to my stomach about it,’’ Luck said after the game.

Reich admitted “it was just not perfectly in sync. There’s not a big margin of error. It’s not going to be wide open, so any little miss is gonna be accentuated.’’

It was Luck’s presence that convinced Reich to be so aggressive. He set career highs with 40 completions, 62 attempts and 464 yards; the attempts were a team record. After halftime, Luck was 28-of-38 for 322 yards and three of his four TD passes.

“Andrew Luck was playing lights out,’’ Reich said. “I felt like he could do nothing wrong. I feel like everything we called (late) he was making it work. Even if it wasn’t open, he made it work.

“Anybody who questions anything about (his) arm or throwing the ball down the field, I mean he has consistently answered those questions. He just got it going in a big-time way. He played at a super, super high level and I think we were all feeding off of that confidence in what our franchise quarterback was doing.’’

When it came time to make the clutch call, Reich took Luck’s hot hand, virtually everything into consideration. That included his offense’s third-down efficiency. Including the Texans game, the Colts rank No. 1 (32-of-62, 51.6 percent). This was a fourth-down situation, but the confidence remained.

“I understand the other side of the decision,’’ Reich said. “But in my mind, we’re the best team in the NFL on third down. We’re really good on those. That’s No. 1. Our quarterback was on fire. That’s No. 2.

“I didn’t feel like they could stop us. If we convert it, I’m gonna have to use a timeout, and we’re going to be on (our own) 49 with 23 seconds to go and no timeouts. I just saw (Adam) Vinatieri make a 65-yarder in practice with room to spare, so in my mind we only need 10 more yards. And we’ve got 23 seconds. I got all kinds of options.’’

Ultimately, Luck’s fourth-down pass fell harmlessly to the ground and Reich’s decision resulted in a loss, not a tie.

But no regrets.

“It was a bit risky and a bit aggressive,’’ Reich said. “But I think it was the right call. I feel good about it. Just didn’t feel good about the execution.’’

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