Poised for a statement victory with a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter Monday night, the Indianapolis Colts instead suffered an epic collapse in a soul-crushing 31-25 overtime loss against the Baltimore Ravens.
The pain was evident in Colts linebacker Darius Leonard’s voice and demeanor as he addressed the media after the defense allowed touchdowns on each of Baltimore’s final four possessions.
“It was a game that I felt like we should have won,” Leonard said. “We had a chance to win the ballgame. We didn’t do enough defensively, especially in the second half. When the game was on the line, the defense didn’t step up, and that was really heartbreaking.
“When you lean on this defense and you don’t step up, you don’t win the game for the Colts organization, as a defender, that sucks. It’s definitely my worst (loss).”
As is always the case in defeat, there was plenty of blame to go around.
Kicker Rodrigo Blankenship began feeling a stabbing pain in his hip during pregame warmups and left seven points on the field including shanking a 47-yard attempt that would have won the game at the end of regulation.
The stabbing sensation began was Blankenship started his backswing and intensified as he brought his leg down to make contact with the ball. He still felt comfortable with field goal tries within 45 yards and connected on a pair of attempts from 37 and 43 yards – the latter giving Indianapolis (1-4) a 25-9 lead with 12 minutes remaining in regulation.
But he also had a late 37-yard attempt blocked by Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell and missed an extra point at the start of the third quarter. Even with those setbacks, Blankenship was confident when he took the field with four seconds left to attempt the would-be game winner.
“I felt like I was gonna make it,” he said. “I feel like I’m gonna make every kick. When I step out on the field, when the coaches call my number, I’m going out with the attitude of I’m going to make this kick regardless of what’s going on. I try to be as prepared as I can be and maintain that confidence in myself and just know that when I step out on the field, I’m the best guy for the job. So I felt like I was gonna make it.”
Blankenship’s struggles increased the scrutiny on one particular play call by Colts head coach Frank Reich. Leading 25-17 and facing third-and-8 at Baltimore’s 15-yard line with 5:19 remaining, Reich went against his normally aggressive nature.
Despite consecutive rushes by Jonathan Taylor that netted just 2 yards, the head coach again called for a third-down run rather than taking a shot through the air. Taylor was dropped for a 4-yard loss, and the ensuing field goal attempt was blocked.
“In hindsight, because it didn’t work, do I wish I would have called a pass? Probably,” Reich said. “But the reason I didn’t was I knew they were pressuring. I didn’t want to get sacked. I didn’t want anything crazy to happen. I thought – I felt good about the opportunity to gain some yards and get a kick. But, in hindsight, it wasn’t the right call.”
Indianapolis wasted a career day from quarterback Carson Wentz, who finished 25-of-35 for 402 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. His passing yards and quarterback rating (128.5) were career highs, and he also averaged a career-high 11.5 yards per attempt.
It was the most yards by a Colts quarterback since Andrew Luck threw for 464 against the Houston Texans in 2018, and the Colts’ total yardage (513) was the highest since Week 3 against the Jacksonville Jaguars (529) in 2014.
It wasn’t enough in large part because of a heroic effort by Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson.
On a night in which the Ravens’ NFL-record tying streak of 43 consecutive games with at least 100 yards rushing came to an end, Jackson was 37-of-43 for 442 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.
After Indianapolis went ahead 22-3 on a 4-yard run by Taylor with 3:06 remaining in the third quarter, Baltimore (4-1) caught fire. Jackson threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Marquise Brown before finding tight end Mark Andrews for touchdowns from 4 and 5 yards out and consecutive 2-point conversions to tie the game with 39 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
A Colts defense that began the game without cornerback Rock Ya-Sin and rookie defensive end Kwity Paye lost cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Isaiah Rodgers during the contest and surrendered 523 yards with 375 coming in the second half and overtime.
After the Ravens won the coin toss to start the extra period, Jackson led a 68-yard drive capped by a 5-yard pass to Brown for the game winner.
“It sucks,” Leonard said. “It’s very frustrating, especially just giving it your all and just coming up short. That’s the part that really hurts the most, when you go out and try to do everything in your will to help this team win and it don’t happen, especially on the road. Just knowing that you had an opportunity to win the ballgame and that don’t happen, it sucks. It sucks really bad, and I don’t know what went wrong.”
Indianapolis now faces a short week before returning home for the first time in a month to face the AFC South rival Texans (1-4) on Sunday.
There’s a danger of allowing this loss to carry over, but Wentz said the Colts must instead quickly learn from the tough lessons Monday night.
“I talked to everybody after the game, and I just said, ‘Hey, we’ve gotta have a killer instinct at the end of the day,’” he said. “And that goes for me and goes for all of us. We’ve gotta be able to finish games and put teams away when we’ve got them on the ropes like that. And that’s a good football team. In a hostile environment, for us to come out swinging the way we did – we just can’t let up. We can’t let up. We’ve gotta finish games better.”