Colts HC Frank Reich defended his decision to not utilize RB Jonathan Taylor in the second half on Sunday.
The Indianapolis Colts had an excellent chance to further nurture their playoff odds with a win over the reeling Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, and for the first two quarters, it looked like they were going to do just that…in blowout fashion, no less.
Coming out of the halftime break, however, Indy looked like a shell of the team that controlled the game at all three levels and jumped out to a 21-7 lead. After kicking a field goal early in the third quarter to marginally extend their advantage, it was all Steelers, who used controversial officiating and a newfound efficiency through the air to stimulate their comeback efforts.
When the dust settled, the Colts had collapsed to the tune of a 28-24 defeat, leaving their playoff hopes very much in question. After the loss, head coach Frank Reich understandably caught some heat for abandoning the run (and Jonathan Taylor) in the second half and his answer for his in-game crimes won’t exactly ease the minds of fans.
We totally understand fans who want to get on Reich’s case for phasing Taylor out of the offensive game plan. After all, he was virtually unstoppable in the first half, ripping off a handful of bruising runs and capping off two commanding drives with a pair of touchdowns.
However, like Reich said postgame, his hands were kind of tied in the matter. Trusting veteran quarterback Philip Rivers to improvise at the line of scrimmage was probably the right call at the end of the day. Think about it for a few seconds.
A coach as proven and experienced as Mike Tomlin clearly knew the Colts were going to come out and try to chew clock and further mangle his team’s spirit by running the ball, and he responded by loading the box. In many ways, this game came down to a lack of execution from Indianapolis’ passing game.
For context, Rivers finished 9-of-12 for 153 yards and a touchdown in the first half. After the break, he was 13-of-27 (48.1%) for 127 yards (4.4 YPA) and a back-breaking interception. The 38-year-old gunslinger was right to audible out of designed runs. He simply didn’t have any answers after choosing to do so.
On the other side of the spectrum, however, knowing that Rivers was struggling in the face of adversity, Reich was flat-out wrong to keep calling his number. He was also inarguably at fault for assuming that his run calls would’ve gotten blown up at the point of attack.
Seriously, who’s to say that Taylor wouldn’t have steamrolled a few defenders and picked up a couple of potentially game-changing first downs? Maybe he does get bulldozed at the line of scrimmage, but we’ll never know, and it wasn’t comforting to hear Reich make excuses for his pass-heavy second half approach.
The 59-year-old was out-coached in dramatic fashion coming out of the break and Indianapolis paid the ultimate price.