INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Given a night to sleep on it, Frank Reich’s support for Adam Vinatieri didn’t change.
It seemed to strengthen.
“Obviously Adam didn’t have his best day,’’ Reich said Monday afternoon, “but I just keep putting into context this guy is an elite, elite player. Not just was. I see it every day in practice that he kicks. I see him in pregame.
“No concerns that there’s any deteriorating of anything physically and certainly not mentally. This guy is the toughest mental athlete that I’ve ever been around.
“So no worries.’’
Vinatieri, 46 and in his 24th season, found himself answering for his shortcomings Sunday that contributed to the Colts’ 30-24 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. He missed a PAT wide right and was wide left with 46- and 29-yard field-goal attempts. He did convert a 44-yarder.
It marked the first time in Vinatieri’s 386-game career, including the postseason, he had missed two field goals and a PAT in the same game.
That miserable performance came on the heels of another one in the Colts’ 31-13 second-round playoff loss at Kansas City. Vinatieri missed a PAT and a 23-yard field-goal attempt, the shortest miss of his career.
After Sunday’s game, he shouldered the blame as the Colts lost their sixth straight season-opener.
“I feel lousy. I sucked,’’ he said in the locker room, adding his teammates “played well enough to win and I didn’t help them out at all. Any one of those misses goes through and it’s a different game.
“I mean there’s a few things that didn’t go our way, but a majority of them were my lousy kicking. I totally let ‘em down and it kinda sucks.’’
There are times when a player is struggling it’s incumbent on a coach to approach him and gauge his demeanor, perhaps lift his spirits. Reich downplayed that option with Vinatieri.
“In this particular instance with Adam there’s not a whole lot of detail to go into,’’ he said. “It was more like, walk by him, ‘Hey, you good?’ ‘Yeah, I’m good. Let’s go. Let’s move on and get the next one.’
“Just gotta keep things in perspective on who we’re talking about. That’s just my opinion.’’
In retrospect, Sunday’s outing against the Chargers was a textbook example of a theory embraced by Reich and so many others: more games are lost than won.
“Yes, no question,’’ Reich said. “Chris (Ballard) and I talk about that all the time. We talk about that as a football team.
“Thought we did a lot of things good. We committed only three penalties, we didn’t turn the ball over, we got turnovers and in other areas we were solid. But at the end of the day when you play that kind of team with that kind of quarterback, you’re margin of error is very slim. We made some errors to lose that game and they capitalized on them.’’
As has been noted, special teams were responsible for 14 points either not tacked up or assisted for the Chargers.
And while the Colts were penalized only three times, two were killers. A personal foul on Denico Autry led to the Chargers taking Ty Young’s 22-yard field goal off the scoreboard and replacing it with Philip Rivers’ 1-yard TD pass to Austin Ekeler. And Kemoko Turay’s sack of Rivers’ of Rivers on third-and-8 in the third quarter was erased by an offsides penalty against Justin Houston. After converting a third-and-3, Ekeler took a screen pass from Rivers 55 yards for a TD and a 24-9 lead.
Normally, circumstances were ideal for a Colts’ victory. Including:
- Rushing for 203 yards behind Marlon Mack’s career-high 174 yards. Since 1984, the Colts had been 21-1 when rushing for at least 200 yards. The only other loss was another season-opener – a 27-24 stumble at New England in 2004.
- Not turning the ball over and being a plus-2 in the takeaway battle. Indy had been 62-10 in the regular season when not turning the ball over.
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