Colts find positves but lament loss to Bengals

The Sports Xchange

September 11, 2018 at 12:17 am.

INDIANAPOLIS — Upon further review, Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich saw plenty of positives but cited one key deficiency for why his team lost 34-23 to Cincinnati in Sunday’s home opener at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“At the end of the day where we fell short was, we talk about our double positive a lot, the takeaway/giveaway,” Reich said Monday. “Obviously we were even there, but in the explosive plays with our formula we were minus-four and that’s huge. So, in total we were minus-four for the two of them and that’s usually going to end up in a loss.”

While he didn’t divulge the details of that formula, an obvious explosive play that went against the Colts was an 83-yard TD fumble return in the final minute to seal the team’s fate. The Colts had completed a 15-yard pass to the Bengals’ 15 on third-and-15 for what would have been a first down, but tight end Jack Doyle fumbled.

Bengals backup safety Clayton Fejedelem denied the Colts a chance at a go-ahead score when he returned the fumble for a clinching touchdown with 24 seconds remaining.

Another play that stood out was when Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton started his team’s comeback from 23-10 down with a 38-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green in the third quarter.

“Offensively, when we look at our goals, we hit our goals and our completion percentage and on our third downs, (but) other than that we came up short in a lot of other areas on our goals,” Reich said. “Then defensively, we hit our goal as far as number of first downs (allowed), but then some of the other goals that we have defensively we fell just short on some of those.

“This is a brutal league and the losses are tough, especially the first one of the year, because you put so much into it. But at the end of the day, we line up and half the teams in the league are in our same situation and we get ready to fire it up next week.”

Reich, in his first season as Colts head coach after winning a Super Bowl as Philadelphia’s offensive coordinator, calls the plays. Even in a game where the Colts outgained the Bengals 380-330 in total yards and converted 11-of-17 third downs for a 64.7 percentage that was the highest since 2012, Reich still blamed himself for what didn’t work.

“You beat yourself up,” he said. “Any time you lose and you’re the head coach and the play-caller, and you call 82 plays, there are going to be a couple that you wish you had back. I give myself 24 hours. You give yourself 24 hours not to just beat yourself up, but to learn. Really, that’s all that it is, and to get better.”
“So, I look back and it’s not just about beating yourself up, although you certainly do that, it’s really about learning. What did I do right? What did I do wrong? You can’t play all the what ifs and could’ve, should’ves, but you can learn, and you can say, more strategically thinking. You can’t always play it like, ‘Hey, if you call something different.’ There are just so many variables to how that could play out. More than anything else, you sit back and try to evaluate what would I do next time.”
The Bengals scored the game’s final 24 points in the second half. A Colts offense that had dominated early continually misfired during the Bengals. comeback. And the defense committed a couple costly penalties to contribute to the Bengals’ go-ahead touchdown.
Another problem was an inability to contain Bengals running back Joe Mixon, who in addition to providing that go-ahead score on a 1-yard leap over the pile had 95 yards rushing on 17 carries and added 54 yards receiving on five catches.
“Most of the stuff is correctable,” Reich said. “I mean, they have got good players, too. They’re going to win some matchups. I mean, this is (the) NFL. They’ve got good players. Mixon is a good back and he had a couple of explosive runs.

“But it’s all about being gap-sound. It’s all about effort to the ball. By and large, we were able to do that at times, but we have to get better. We still limited them as far as the number of yards they had, we just have to get a little bit better in the yards per carry.”
The Bengals averaged 6.6 yards per play, including five yards per rush.
Reich said the Colts had too many pass attempts (53) and not enough balance (22 rushes). Quarterback Andrew Luck’s 39 pass completions were a career high, but the Colts were one-dimensional in throwing 80 percent of the time in the second half. Reich said a switch in the Bengals scheme dictated throwing more, but that was too much.

–CB Chris Milton left the game with a concussion and is in the league-mandated protocol. His status will be further evaluated later this week.

–RT J’Marcus Webb suffered a hamstring injury on the final fumble return. His status for Sunday’s game at Washington has yet to be determined.

–OT Anthony Castonzo missed Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury and was limited in practice last week. Coach Frank Reich is unsure if Castonzo will be able to fully practice this week.

–RB Marlon Mack did not play Sunday due to a hamstring injury. He was limited in practice last week and it is unclear if Mack can fully practice this week.

–QB Andrew Luck has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 24 consecutive games, the longest streak in the NFL.

–LB Darius Leonard, a second-round pick, played in all 55 defensive snaps and had a team-high nine tackles as well as a fumble recovery.

–TE Eric Ebron finished with four catches for 51 yards Sunday and coach Frank Reich said any increased role for Ebron is contingent on how things evolve in each game. “You see we spread the ball around,” Reich said, referring to Luck completing passes in the mostly quick-strike, short-range offense to nine different targets.

–DE Marqus Hunt recorded both sacks for the Colts in Sunday’s game. A former second-round pick of Cincinnati in 2013, Hunt entered with 2.5 sacks.

–G Sean Harlow was added to the practice squad on Monday. He was waived by the Atlanta Falcons during final cuts on Sept. 1.

–C/G Jamil Douglas was released from the practice squad on Monday. Douglas has appeared in 17 games while playing for the Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins.