INDIANPOLIS (AP) — Jeff Saturday still believes the Indianapolis Colts made the right calls in Saturday’s inexplicable loss at Minnesota.
The interim coach contends they didn’t play too conservatively after taking a 33-0 halftime lead and has no regrets about trying a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-inches that came up short rather than attempting a long field goal to extend their lead late in regulation.
Regardless, the 39-36 overtime loss that capped the NFL’s largest comeback in league history only added one more embarrassing chapter to a season most Colts fans would rather forget.
“I wouldn’t change any of it,” Saturday said of his decisions. “It is what it is, you’ve got to get it. The game is over if we get it. I’ll never back down from that call, I can assure you. I loved where we were. I felt that was how we were going to close the game out and unfortunately, we didn’t.”
That’s certainly the way Saturday the player and his teammates would have approached it during their careers. Of course, back then, Peyton Manning was orchestrating his own comebacks.
But things have changed dramatically for a franchise that has been seeking stability at quarterback since Andrew Luck’s sudden retirement in August 2019 and hasn’t found a solution to their turnover disparity or inability to protect leads.
Now the Colts (4-9-1) find themselves on the edge of becoming the third AFC team to be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs while entering another uncertain offseason after a host of midseason changes.
Plus, the Colts must decide what to do with 37-year-old quarterback Matt Ryan — perhaps sooner rather than later given the circumstances. Saturday says Ryan will continue to start.
But even that will be up for debate after this season. After losing four straight since winning his head coaching debut at Las Vegas in early November, fans are clamoring for more changes and Saturday’s clock management and play-calling have been heavily scrutinized.
And yet, Saturday still wants the job, and his players still want him in the locker room.
“He’s an awesome coach, filling in, doing the best he can,” Pro Bowl center Ryan Kelly said. “I thought the challenges he put out there were awesome, and he’s got our back 100%. I love the guy.”
Pass rush. Despite all the problems, Indy’s defense has generally played well — especially the pass defense. On Saturday, they put Kirk Cousins under constant duress, sacking him seven times to give the Colts 39 and a top-10 ranking this season, pending Monday night’s result.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Finishing. Since Saturday replaced the fired Reich, Indy has blown fourth-quarter leads against Philadelphia and Pittsburgh at home, gave up the second-most fourth-quarter points in an NFL game (33) at Dallas and now has blown a 33-point halftime lead at Minnesota.
Dayo Odeyingbo. Despite committing a key penalty, the second-year defensive end delivered the most productive day of his career. He entered Week 15 with 25 tackles and two sacks in his career. On Saturday he had five tackles, four solos, and matched his previous total for sacks.
Ryan. While he had no giveaways this week, Ryan now holds the distinction of being the quarterback on the wrong side of the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history and the greatest comeback in regular-season history.
Jonathan Taylor, the 2021 NFL rushing champ, didn’t even make it through the first series Saturday before re-injuring his ankle. Had Taylor played, it might have helped Indy ice a victory. Now it appears he could miss the rest of the season with a high ankle sprain.
460 — Even though it was obvious the Vikings would spend most of the second half throwing the ball, the league’s No. 3-ranked pass could stop them. Kirk Cousins wound up throwing for 460 yards and four touchdowns.
After massive collapses in two games, it’s hard to know what to expect next. A sub-.500 record, Taylor’s injury and Ryan’s future are all forcing Indy to search for answers. Wins won’t be enough at this point. Indy needs to start thinking about the future.