Is Shane Steichen at fault for the 4th-down play call that cost Colts the playoffs?

The Indianapolis Colts lost a win-and-in game to the Houston Texans on Saturday night and the game came down to a failed fourth-down attempt.

Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts
Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts / Michael Hickey/GettyImages
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The Indianapolis Colts were 15 yards and a made extra point away from clinching a playoff spot on Saturday against the Houston Texans. Standing on Houston’s 15-yard line, facing a fourth-and-1, with 1:06 left in the game, rookie head coach Shane Steichen faced his biggest call of the season. With the playoffs on the line, Steichen decided to pass the ball.

Quarterback Gardner Minshew took a quick drop back and threw the ball to running back Tyler Goodson who had ran a swing route. Goodson was wide open for the first down, and the pass, that was behind enough for Goodson to turn around, hit the running back’s hands before falling to the ground. As the pass fell incomplete, Indy’s playoff hopes hit the ground as well.

As everyone watching experienced a ton of different emotions, the next step was to dissect the play call. Was it the right call by Shane Steichen, who has been good all year, or did the first-year head coach make a rookie mistake in the biggest moment?

Did Colts make the right call on fourth down?

Leading up to the fourth-down play, it was a traditional Jonathan Taylor game against the Texans. Taylor had 30 carries for 188 yards and one touchdown in the game. During Indy’s final drive, Steichen elected to hand the ball to Jonathan Taylor on several critical third downs, and he delivered. On the third down before the now infamous fourth down, Taylor got another carry but gained just one yard.

With Taylor averaging 6.3 yards a carry on the night, everyone expected another Taylor run. However, he wasn’t even on the field for the fourth down. Between taking Taylor off the field and passing the ball, a lot of people believe Shane Steichen made the wrong call.

As much sense as it makes for the Colts to give JT the ball in that moment, it’s hard to argue that Steichen made a bad call. For starters, it’s the kind of fourth-down play that has worked for Indianapolis all season, so it wasn’t out of character for the team. More importantly, the play was there; the execution wasn’t. Gardner Minshew could have made a much better pass and Tyler Goodson could’ve caught the ball. If both players do a better job of executing the play, no one is dissecting it.

Steichen will definitely have to answer for why he decided to go with the team’s third-string running back, who didn’t have a touch all game, but that’s the only real question mark. After completing his first season, Steichen certainly has a lot to be pleased with, as this season went much better than anyone outside of the building expected. However, the fourth-down play is definitely something that Steichen and the Colts will think about all season.

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