Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich took a risk to avoid a tie against the Houston Texans, and his roll of the dice made sure a tie didn’t happen. The problem is that his ill-advised decision handed the Texans an easy, game-winning field goal attempt on a silver platter that they nailed for a 37-34 win.
After the two teams traded field goals in the 10-minute overtime, the Colts got the ball back with less than two minutes and only needed one more field goal to win.
The drive started well enough for Indianapolis with Andrew Luck completing passes of 12 yards and 9 yards on the first two plays. But then Jadeveon Clowney blew things up with a clutch sack that pushed the Colts into a third-and-long.
What Jadeveon Clowney just did to Quenton Nelson is just wrong pic.twitter.com/lxgepYlEB1— Jody Smith (@JodySmithNFL) September 30, 2018
A 17-yard gain on third down put the Colts back near the middle of the field, but it set up Reich to make a decision that proved costly. Indianapolis had a fourth-and-4 at their own 43-yard line with 27 seconds left. The choices were:
- Punt and likely secure a tie
- Go for it and have a chance to win, but risk giving the Texans the ball in position to win
Reich opted for the latter and it blew up in his face.
Unsurprisingly, math says the Colts should’ve punted.
After the play, the Texans were already close to field goal position but locked it up with a 24-yard pass on first down that set up a 37-yard game-winner. Ka’imi Fairbairn drilled it and the Texans got their first win of the year.
There was plenty of reason to second-guess it, but Reich told reporters after the game that it wasn’t a difficult decision at all:
Frank Reich on the 4th down call: “I’ll just address it now. We’re not playing to tie. We’re going for it 10 times out of 10.”— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) September 30, 2018
It didn’t even have regrets on the call:
Reich: Nothing I would change about that call. One-on-one on the outside. Was tight inside. High % throw on the outside.— Mike Chappell (@mchappell51) October 1, 2018
His only regret was calling a timeout after failing to draw the Texans offside:
#Colts coach Frank Reich not backing down on his fourth-down call in OT. Says only change he’d make is go for it the first time, rather than doing the hard count/timeout. Normally a “money route” with T.Y. Hilton, who was out with hamstring injury. Instead went to Chester Rogers. pic.twitter.com/u4Zjwxc4b1— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) September 30, 2018
And Colts players had his back too:
Luck: "We’re not going to play for a tie. And I think everybody in the locker room frickin’ loves that. Loves that."— Andrew Walker (@AWalkerColts) September 30, 2018
Adam Vinatieri “I love the call to go for it on 4th down. Why not? But we’ve got to make the play."— Andrew Walker (@AWalkerColts) September 30, 2018
Support coach no matter what— Robert Turbin (@RobT_33) September 30, 2018
The win for Houston snapped a 10-game losing streak that dated back to November 2017. Reich’s decision let the Texans off the hook for stumbling through the fourth quarter and allowing the Colts back into the game.
The Texans led by double digits for most of the day and carried a 28-17 lead into the fourth quarter. Then the Colts came clawing back with a touchdown with 7:41 to go and then — after a Texans field goal — a game-tying touchdown with 45 seconds left.
The Colts even led in overtime, which is unsurprisingly rare for a losing team.
Colts are 5th team to lose a game after leading in overtime in NFL history.— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) September 30, 2018
They were also the first (2015 Carolina game).
Luck had put together a terrific game, so Reich wanted to ride it, saying Luck was “making it work, even when guys weren’t open”:
But all that mattered at the end was that Reich wanted so badly to avoid a tie that he handed over a gift-wrapped win to the Texans.