INDIANAPOLIS – Matt Ryan gave credit where it was due.
The Philadelphia Eagles, he rightfully noted, were a good football team. A really good football team.
Ryan also pointed an accusing finger where it belonged as the Indianapolis Colts allowed that really good football team – the now 9-1 Eagles – to hang around and hang around, and then exit Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday afternoon with a 17-16 victory.
He pointed at himself and his teammates.
“That’s a tough one to swallow,’’ Ryan said. “We did a lot of really good things. We made too many mistakes along the way.
“Yeah, that one feels like, you know, we let it get away.’’
There was no argument from the Colts’ locker room.
“It just sucks,’’ center Ryan Kelly said. “We knew we were so close to having a chance to win that game. Games are ultimately lost, not won in the NFL.’’
So, this one was lost?
“Yeah,’’ Kelly said. “A lot of woulda, coulda, shouldas, right? But the NFL’s not like that.’’
Coulda won, but didn’t.
Too many penalties: eight, which matched a season-high, for a season-high 90 yards. Thirty-nine came on a crippling interference flag against linebacker Zaire Franklin on the Eagles’ game-winning drive.
Too many negative plays: four sacks of Ryan – two allowed by rookie left tackle Bernhard Raimann, including a crushing one at the hands of Haason Reddick on third-and-goal at the 5 with less than 5 minutes remaining and the Colts in position to make things very, very, very difficult on the Eagles – and seven tackles for loss.
Too many mistakes: The Colts came into the game second in the NFL with 18 turnovers, and only suffered one against the opportunistic Eagles (a league-best 18 takeaways). But it was a doozy. After Philly crept to within 13-10 early in the fourth quarter, Jonathan Taylor lost a fumble at midfield while fighting for a first down and extra yardage. That’s three lost fumbles by Taylor this season.
Too many missed opportunities: 1-for-3 in the red zone, coming away with only Chase McLaughlin’s 36-yard field goal in the third quarter despite three possessions that began at the Philly 22 (McLaughlin’s field goal following Yannick Ngakoue’s sack/forced fumble of Jalen Hurts on the first play of the second half), the Indy 46 (punt) and Indy 45 (a 51-yard McLaughlin field goal that strayed wide right).
And then the absolute killer: first-and-goal at the 5 after Ryan stared down pressure in the pocket and delivered a 31-yard completion to Parris Campbell. Just under 6 minutes remained and the Colts were looking to add cushion to their 13-10 lead. But Jonathan Taylor was stopped for no gain, Ryan found nothing on second down and Raimann was whipped by Riddick on third down.
“We have everything we want,’’ interim coach Jeff Saturday said of the late-game scenario. “Make a great catch down there. Time is on our side. Points on our side.
“Having to settle for a field goal is super disappointing. Just didn’t do enough down there to convert and put them out.’’
Despite doing so much wrong over the course of the game, the Colts earned one last chance to erase the penalties, negative plays and squandered opportunities.
“Yeah, no question,’’ Ryan said. “If, if, if. You’ve gotta make the plays.
“When you have your opportunities to finish games against really good football teams, you have to finish them. Unfortunately, we didn’t do that.’’
McLaughlin’s third field goal of the afternoon – a clean-up 37-yarder – pushed the Colts in front 16-10, but left them vulnerable to Hurts and the Philly offense.
It was eerily similar to the Colts’ previous home game against another NFC East opponent, the Washington Commanders. They led 16-10 with 2:39 remaining, and the defense couldn’t make the definitive stop.
“You were playing with the lead,’’ Franklin said. “All things equal, as a defense you want to be in that moment. You want to be able to defend the lead and win the game.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t do that. I didn’t do that. I’ve just got to be better.’’
Hurts, one of the frontrunners in the MVP discussion, needed 11 plays – and the monster 39-yard interference penalty against Franklin – to chew up 75 yards. He converted a fourth-and-2 at the 9 with a 3-yard keeper, then ran through the heart of the Colts’ defense – it was wide open – for a 7-yard touchdown on third-and-goal.
Coordinator Gus Bradley frequently used a “spy’’ during the game to shadow Hurts, but that wasn’t the case when it mattered the most.
Franklin said the Colts were in their red-zone defense and his responsibility was the tight end to Hurts’ left. Players were wary of Hurts faking a draw, then pulling up and going with a jump pass. That worked to perfection at Houston.
Also, the Eagles generally run a quarterback draw out of an empty backfield. With 1:24 remaining, running back Boston Scott was in the backfield with Hurts.
“Really, just a good call by them,’’ Franklin said.
It was such a great call by Philly that not only was Hurts not touched on the game-winning TD, Scott had no one to block.
“It was a good play call by the offensive coordinator,’’ said defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, “but we still have to make those plays.’’
Make those plays, or suffer the consequences.
Instead of nudging their record to 5-5-1, the Colts did more than enough wrong to slip to 4-6-1. They did what middling teams do.
The defense wasn’t able to make that end-of-game stop as it did last week at Las Vegas, but it limited the Eagles’ No. 4 ranked offense to its third-lowest output of the season (314 yards) and one TD and one field goal over the first 58 minutes. It got to Hurts for three sacks and generated three tackles for loss.
But too many . . .
“You can’t play a team that good and give them that many opportunities,’’ Saturday said. “We just left them in the game and they ultimately made one more play than we did.’’
Ryan realized the Colts let another one slip away.
“We showed we can go toe-to-toe with them,’’ he said. “But you can’t make the mistakes that we made today and expect to win. It’s boring, but we have to execute better than we have.
“Like, the devil is in the details. It’s over and over and over and over. When you’re playing against really good football teams, the margin of error is small.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.