It was a scenario that Colts fans have gotten used to in just 18 regular season games: Andrew Luck with the ball in crunch time, needing a score.
The Colts had just converted on 3rd-and-6 on a perfect pass from Luck to Reggie Wayne, and were set up on the Dolphins 23-yard line with 1:50 left in the fourth quarter, needing a touchdown. At this point, the Colts actually had a 52% chance of winning, despite being down by four points.
But the Colts wouldn't gain another yard, and Luck's attempt at his ninth game-winning drive fell short, prompting fans everywhere to question Luck's "clutchiness" and "it factor."
So besides Luck choking, what contributed to the Colts' sudden halt? To answer that, we look to the film.
On first down, the Colts run a pretty basic "four-verts" play, designed to take advantage of the single-high safety look that Miami had been showing.
The Colts get the matchup they want: Hilton one-on-one with Brent Grimes on the right side, and Luck pulls the trigger.
Unfortunately, Grimes has great position, and Hilton (despite his fantastic catch earlier) simply doesn't have the height to go up over the top of Grimes to make the catch. Grimes' position prevents Hilton from reaching full speed, and he can't quite get to where he needs to be to make this catch.
On second down, the Colts once again are running a play with similar concepts, although Coby Fleener does break to the inside on this one.
Unfortunately, the Dolphins send seven rushers at Luck, and he's forced to get rid of the ball early as Philip Wheeler gets a free run at the quarterback.
I don't buy that this is just an incredibly errant pass from Luck. It's clearly a communiction issue. Luck thinks Fleener is going to continue up field, while Fleener actually breaks inside. No way to know who was in the right on that one.
On third down the Colts ran a play with, you guessed it, four-verts concepts. The difference on this one: the Colts actually give Luck a safety valve as Griff Whalen runs a shallow crossing route.
Luck has time, but nothing is developing downfield (again), so he's forced to go to Whalen underneath. Unfortunately, CB Nolan Carroll decided to make extremely liberal use of the "five yards" of allowed contact, and hold Whalen's left arm throughout the entire route.
How this was not a call is beyond me.
Greg Cowan already covered the referees this week, but this was important enough to note again: an awful no-call from this crew.
On fourth down, we all know what happened:
On final play, not only did Brown whiff on a block, but Thornton did too. To make it worse, Griff was open. pic.twitter.com/7PidMYf847— Josh Wilson (@Coltsfanwilson) September 16, 2013
Luck may have been able to avoid one of the defenders, but not both, and the pressure came far too quickly for him to get a pass off.
Ugly from the Colts. Ugly from the referees. Ugly from Nolan Carroll.
I'm going to stop looking at those pictures now.
In all the comments below, one weird what-if has been lost. 1:50 on the clock... what if the first pass to TY had been a TD? That leaves Miami with the ball and 1:45 or so, just a FG to force OT. What would have made this loss harder--ending the way it did, or getting that ninth comeback only to have Tannehill steal it back? Ouch. Say they run the KO back to the 25. That leaved about 1:40 for them to gain 55 yards for a FG. It's been done many times before, that's for sure.
What I am getting at is what appears to be Pep's irrational approach with all that time, the TOs and Miami's formations/expectations. In the famous 4th and 2 win over NE (11/15/09), Manning had about 2:08 left and 29 yards to go. Did he panic? No. Try for a TD on the first play? Good God, no! Did he allow Brady to get more time on the clock? No. He started with a 15 yard pass to Reggie top put the Pats back on their heels and think he's trying to strike. Then there were a couple runs to Addai, no crazy hurrying (though I recall screaming when Addai gained 12 down to the two--if he had scored, the Pats would have had maybe 30 seconds left for Brady and Moss.)... And then the final pass to Reggie with just 0:13 on the clock.
If the play-caller's head was screwed on right this weekend, he'd have relied on runs and play-action to keep Miami off balance and burn clock--with that much time and that little yardage, the abundance of time is actually the enemy. As the Panthers found out in the 04 super bowl when the Pats came back to score at the end.
Of course since we did NOT score, Pap may not have learned the lesson. Oh please, I hope he doesn't do this again....
C'mon four pass plays with 1:45 left is just crazy. The Fins took Reggie Wayne out of the game in the 2nd half. Thank God for Jacksonville. The game against the 49ers will get ugly fast.
I really think the Colts played much better than the week before and saw sig improvement from some of the key players we've all been hoping for. To me, Pep is the real rookie out there. I know he has prev NFL exp but he appears to be basing the new offense on what worked at Stanford. Not everything that works in college works in the Pros and as he (hopefully) makes these adjustments we'll get better and be a better team (not record) than last year
Something positive to think about: the Colts rank 7 on the offensive hog index. Apparently the offense line might not be as bad as we all think.
apropos nothing did Wayne get hurt on the play done sideline when he subbed off? He did seem a bit slower after that.
The Colts had 2 timeouts at their disposal, and Miami was playing single high safety and man coverage across the field. With that much time remaining, two timeouts in your pocket, and given how the Dolphins were aligned, why not pop a draw play or a run period on any of the first 3 downs?
I don't have an issue with the formation, necessarily, but Bradshaw should have been the back. Agree completely with others who are questioning why the Colts treated this set of downs as end zone or nothing. Too much time left and only on 3rd down do they run a receiver underneath for a shorter throw.
My question is why did they run the same formation 4 times with the apearance that they absolutely had to score from 23 yards out with so much time left on the clock.
Obviously the officials were throwing a perfect game (zero penalties called against the Dolphins) and didn't want to have it broken up in the bottom of the ninth.
(Not calling this was the baseball equivilant of a solid double down the left field line that was ruled foul even though it was clearly a yard inside the foul line.)
I'd like to take a minute say that, ever since the @ColtsAuthority team formed (a la Wonder Twins and/or Super Friends), the Colts analysis and coverage in general not only has been top notch but it continues to get better each week.
Which makes losses like this even harder to swallow. So yeah, thanks...?
/gently closes office door, leans head against the wall and begins quietly sobbing
Woof. Colts played well enough to win, but only barely. A tough loss, now they've got to win one game they have no business winning. They need a Green Bay moment. for sure.
Well said. First, you don't want to score and let them have plenty of time to tie it up. Second, Bradshaw was running well, run on first down. Third, how about play action or bootleg?
I'm still upset about the first series too. 2nd and 1, sure, take a shot. 3r and 1, run the ball! I just hope Pep is learning with every play.
@hankster I hate the Hog Index, personally.
The Colts' ranking in this case is artificially boosted by a high 3rd down % (Which is due to Luck magic, not OL) and a Run YPA boosted by Luck's scrambles.
@codrutc My question as well.
@codrutc Well it would say because it came so darn close to working. Without the hurry and miscue between Fleener and Luck that would have been a touchdown. On 3rd down the only way the Dolphins got coverage was by cheating. And on 4th down Luck had a guy open. Why run when you have the right coverage to pass. I liked all of the calls and I also like the decision over all. At crunch time put the ball in Luck and your receivers hands.
It is series like those that really make be hope Rodgers can work his way from the practice squad to the line up. Having a dominant physical receiver with good hands to line up across from Wayne (and eventually replace Wayne) would be wonderful.
@hankster @codrutc I wonder who doesn't know the playbook very well then, Fleener or Luck. Fleener could have at least told Luck in the huddle, "Hey, I am cutting inside" or whatever their specific language is. The talk between Peyton and Brandon Stokley that led to the record breaker TD back in 2004 comes to my mind. My guess is Coby made a mistake in there.
@Kyle Rodriguez @matt_has @ColtsAuthority Ugh, that's what I have a FATHER for! 3,000 miles away, the only time he ever calls is when the Colts lose a game that is also televised in FL. "Hey, what happened to your boys today...?" I'd cut him some slack because he's 85, but he's been doing this forever, I don't recall, but I'd bet $10 he called to taunt me when Johnny U died. (Just kidding, he loved the old crew cut more than I did)