The Colts entered their game in Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday with one of the most frightening circumstances a team in the NFL can endure: A battered offensive line, missing two starters and facing Aaron Donald, a perennial all-pro and one of the best defensive game wreckers of the 21st century.
Early on in the Colts’ eventual 29-23 overtime loss, it went poorly for the home team, and it took a long time for it to get better.
With 7:17 remaining in the third quarter, Brett Maher converted his third field goal, and his second from 50 yards. The score was now 23-0 and the Colts were stunned. After the game Anthony Richardson described it perfectly.
“This league, the margin of error is so small, so tight,” Richardson said to reporters.
The Colts needed a spark, or a fire, or an inferno to overcome the deficit and it needed to be done quickly. Head coach Shane Steichen couldn’t think of any better way then to allow Zack Moss to get three straight carries which resulted in rushes of 20 yards, seven yards and 13 yards. But how could the Colts finish the possession? The team had driven the ball earlier in the contest, even getting to Rams 24-yard line before a false start and a missed field goal halted all momentum.
How about an escape through the right side of the pocket by Richardson and a sidearm bullet to allow Mo Alie-Cox to do the rest en route to a 35-yard score?
The poise from Richardson on a four play, 75-yard drive in under two minutes caught the eye of second year receiver Alec Pierce postgame.
“He’s a guy, especially being that young, I’m surprised at just how well he does at staying level headed,” Pierce said.
The Colts needed another play.
This time it started with Dayo Odeyingbo, who put the pressure on Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford on first down, which resulted in Stafford hobbling to the huddle following. The Colts, namely Kenny Moore II, took advantage of the chance they had been given and intercepted Stafford in plus territory.
This time, the drive didn’t deliver the results the team needed. A near turnover on third down, negated by a defensive holding, led to a new set of downs in which the Colts had a rush of three yards and three incomplete passes.
Richardson was right, the margin of error in the NFL is small.
After surviving Brett Maher’s second missed kick of the afternoon, the Colts had another shot. A Will Fries offensive hold halted the momentum. Richardson, however, was not fazed and hit a strike to Alec Pierce down the right sideline for 38 yards, aided by an unnecessary roughness 15-yard penalty. In one play Richardson and Pierce flipped the field and now resided in the Rams redzone. Four plays later the Indy faithful were greeted with Richardson signature 360 spike following his fourth rushing touchdown of the season.
The Gus Bradley led defense did its job against a still-hobbled Stafford and forced a punt. Richardson then delivered possibly the best drive of his young career: a 13-play, 83-yard drive that lasted over five and a half minutes. Moss carried the load early, then Richardson found tight end Andrew Ogletree for 21 yards and again for 22 yards.
Following a 17-yard dart to Kylen Granson, Richardson found Ogletree again for the first touchdown of his career. The uber-important two-point conversion went to Michael Pittman Jr. and the game was tied.
Tie game, 1:56 to play.
Two punts for the Rams and another for the Colts led to overtime — the second overtime game in as many weeks for the Colts. Could Richardson win the game and notch a storybook comeback on his belt early into his career?
Rams head coach Sean McVay, Stafford and the NFL regular-season overtime rules made sure he wouldn’t even get the chance.
Stafford led a cerebral eight-play drive capped off by a Puka Nacua 23-yard touchdown. Nacua set the NFL record for catches (39) and yards (501) for a player in their first four games.
Richardson was forced to watch from the sidelines as his defense battled, but was outlasted in a 29-23 defeat.
“Even though we didn’t get the outcome we wanted, I’m glad they believed in me,” Richardson said postgame.
The rookie QB was able to start and play all the way through without injuries for the first time on Sunday, and he gave Colts fans hope — hope revolving around the ability to overcome a slow start, adversity throughout the game and a resolve to never give up.
The Indianapolis Colts may have found their first QB in over four years who can overcome adversity and shine on the other side.