INDIANAPOLIS – Matt Ryan was searching for the words to adequately summarize the Indianapolis Colts’ latest almost-got-it-done moment.
“If, if, if,’’ he finally said.
If this, if that, if something else had occurred Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles or on just about any other Sunday against any other opponent, the Colts wouldn’t be in better position for the April draft (14th overall) than for the playoffs (10th).
In a bottom-line business, here’s the bottom line: the Colts sit at 4-6-1 because of their inability to be better in one-possession games and in execute-or-else situations. They’re a respectable 4-3-1, but the near-misses have been damning.
They’ve held a fourth-quarter lead or been tied in eight of 11 games. In their last two home games, they led the Washington Commanders and Eagles 16-10 late in the fourth quarter . . . and lost 17-16 each time.
The Colts’ eight one-possession games are tied with the New York Giants (7-1 in those games) and Atlanta Falcons (4-4) for second-most in the league. Denver (3-6) has endured nine.
It should come as no surprise the teams setting the pace in the NFC and AFC have been at their best when it’s mattered most.
The 9-1 Eagles are 4-0 in one-possession games. The Minnesota Vikings fell hard to 8-2 in Sunday’s 40-3 loss to Dallas, but that snapped a seven-game winning streak in one-possession games.
The AFC? Top seed and 8-2 Kansas City is 4-2 in one-possession games. No. 2-seed Miami is 5-1 in one-possession games and 7-3 overall. The Tennessee Titans are 7-3 and No. 3, and 5-2 in games decided by 8 points or fewer.
And about those Titans. There’s no secret behind them winning two straight AFC South titles and being well on their way to a third: they’re 18-6 in one-possession games since 2020.
The Colts are 11-11-1, including the playoffs, during that stretch.
“The idea you’re going to go and just walk teams off the NFL field, that’s a pipe dream, right?’’ interim head coach Jeff Saturday said Monday. “You have to understand these are going to be tight games.’’
One of his messages to the team in the days leading up to the Eagles: You’ll have a chance in the fourth quarter to win the game.
The Colts took a 13-3 lead into the final quarter and still led 16-10 with 4:37 remaining on Chase McLaughlin’s 37-yard field goal. But the offense could have essentially closed the door on Philly. It settled for the field goal after facing a first-and-goal at the 5. A TD would have produced a two-score lead.
“It’s whoever executes to finish the game is ultimately going to be the one who walks off victoriously,’’ Saturday said. “They made more plays than we did.’’
After Jalen Hurts gave the Eagles their first lead of the game with a 7-yard TD, the Colts had an opportunity to answer. One minute, 20 seconds remained and Ryan had one timeout at his disposal.
“We’re right there at the cusp,’’ Saturday said. “The facts are, as disappointing as it was to lose the lead, we had a timeout and a buck-20 to go get a field goal. I felt even good up to that point. There was no point in the game where I felt like, ‘This thing is out of our hands.’
“That’s what I told the players: ‘You had the opportunities.’ As a player, that’s all you can ask for – a chance to win at the end.’’
Before the Colts are able to do that with more frequency, they’ve got to clean up their act.
They’re among the league’s worst in a few consequential categories. The Colts have allowed 40 sacks (tied for most) and lead the NFL with 25 fumbles and nine lost fumbles. Their 19 total turnovers are tied for most.
Jonathan Taylor remains the offensive catalyst, but he’s fumbled three times, losing each in critical situations. All have occurred in the second half in short-yardage situations – 3rd-and-1 twice, 2nd and 2 – and one-score games.
Early in the fourth quarter against the Eagles, he had converted a third-and-1, but lost control of the football while fighting for additional yardage. The Colts led 13-10 and had reached the Philly 43.
Offensive tackle Matt Pryor missed Sunday’s game after waking up that morning and feeling ill. The team’s medical staff decided to send him to the hospital for evaluation.
“Was there (Sunday) and then was released and is feeling better,’’ Saturday said.
No o-line changes looming
Despite the struggles of left tackle Bernhard Raimann and right guard Will Fries against the Eagles, Saturday anticipates no changes. Raimann yielded two of the four sacks of Ryan – one each on the Colts’ final two possessions – and was penalized for holding and being downfield on a Ryan completion. Fries was flagged for a false start and holding, and too often allowed penetration.
“We’re going to stick with what we got,’’ Saturday said. “If I see somebody that’s struggling significantly . . . like I tell you, the best 11 are going to play.
“Some of it’s growing pains when you talk about Bernie out at left tackle and Fries at guard. There’s some things that they’re just going to have to learn and you learn by experience. As rough as that sounds, it happens.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.