COLTS

Insider: Colts look sadly familiar in Jeff Saturday's home debut with 17-16 loss to Eagles

Joel A. Erickson
Indianapolis Star
View Comments

INDIANAPOLIS — One week after picking up a win in Jeff Saturday’s debut, the Colts reverted back to the team that sputtered in the first half of the season.

Unable to put up enough points on offense to take advantage of a good day by the defense, Indianapolis lost its lead late in a disheartening 17-16 loss that could have been a huge win for the Colts.

Indianapolis (4-6-1) falls another step outside of the AFC playoff race.

Matt Ryan avoids back-breaking mistake but offensive line fails to give him a chance late

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Ryan (2) walks off the field after the Indianapolis Colts last possession Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, during a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Ryan’s job on Sunday wasn’t flashy.

Not against an Eagles defense that entered the day with 13 interceptions and 29 sacks. Ryan’s most important role was to avoid the sorts of back-breaking mistakes that crippled Indianapolis through his first seven starts.

Ryan didn’t do much to unlock Philadelphia’s secondary until late in the fourth quarter.

But he also didn’t make the big mistake. Ryan completed 23 of 32 passes for 213 yards, did not throw an interception, although he took four sacks — including a couple in Philadelphia territory that ultimately hurt Indianapolis — the veteran avoided a turnover for the second consecutive start.

Ryan also made two critical throws on the Colts’ final scoring drive, hitting Alec Pierce for 17 yards on third-and-long and finding Parris Campbell for 31 to set up a field goal.

The veteran got the ball back with 1:20 left and a chance to win the game, but the offensive line failed to hold up.

Rookie left tackle Bernhard Raimann, who struggled throughout the day, gave up a critical sack to veteran Brandon Graham on third down, Will Fries was flagged for a false start to push the Colts back even further and Ryan was forced out of the pocket on fourth down, forced to take a checkdown to Deon Jackson that came up short.

Depleted Colts pass rush can’t finish great performance

An Indianapolis defense that has been excellent all season long was not at full strength Sunday.

Losing Kwity Paye and Tyquan Lewis has taken some of the teeth out of the pass rush, allowing teams to focus on blocking DeForest Buckner, and there were far too many squeaky-clean pockets for Jalen Hurts.

But this Colts defense has quietly been one of the NFL’s best units all season long, and they did just about everything they could to get Indianapolis the win, despite the lack of pass rush, until the fourth quarter.

Early on, Indianapolis took advantage of a barrage of Philadelphia mistakes — penalties, a snap over the head of Jalen Hurts in the red zone — to keep the Eagles out of the end zone.

Then they started dictating the action. Yannick Ngakoue strip-sacked Hurts to set up a field goal on one drive, and Zaire Franklin punched the ball out of A.J. Brown’s hands for a critical fumble on another, avoiding disaster after a key Jonathan Taylor fumble.

Indianapolis couldn’t hold on forever.

Unable to get pressure on Hurts, the Colts gave up two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, the first on a 22-yard throw from Hurts to Quez Watkins, the second on a 7-yard run by Hurts to give the Eagles the lead with 1:20 left in the game. 

Jonathan Taylor sputters after big start

For one series, it looked like the Colts running game was going to maintain the momentum it built against a woeful Raiders defense in Saturday’s debut.

Jonathan Taylor tore through an Eagles defense that has been susceptible to the run on the opening drive, marching the Colts 75 yards in 10 plays and punching in a touchdown from 1-yard out to give Indianapolis its first points on an opening series of the entire season.

Taylor carried seven times for 49 yards on that drive. 

But the momentum was short-lived.

Philadelphia adjusted, started winning the battle on the line of scrimmage and made life miserable on Taylor the rest of the way. Taylor had just 35 yards on his next 15 carries, and he fumbled the ball away on a fourth-quarter run while fighting for more yardage.

Taylor has now lost three fumbles on the season, as many as he’d lost in his first two seasons combined.

And it’s fair to wonder if the Colts are ever going to be able to consistently spring Taylor free the way they did last season.

View Comments